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Welcome to Morocco
Rating: (4.8) (65 Votes)

Fes, Morocco
July 5th, 2004

Pros: Not sure Yet
Cons: The smells!

So we never planned to head to Africa but looking at our options of where to go from Spain, and also our dwindling bank accounts, Morocco seemed like an ideal choice. The guidebook we had made getting into the country by the most traveled route, Algecieras to Tangier by ferry, look extremely trying so we opted for a hopefully less stressful route going from Malaga to Melilla (also by ferry). This took us from Madrid (where I last left off) to Malaga, a town that sounded interesting but that we actually didn't see much of since we were trying to save stuff to do here when we came back here for our flight to London. So, after a brief stopover in Malaga we were off to Melilla and possibly all the way to Fes, depending on how travel in Morocco was.

The ferry was overnight and not all that restful. We arrived bleary-eyed in Melilla, still a Spanish enclave, and stepped off without a single tout (can you tell we were warned about touts?). After a brief wander through town we caught the bus to the border. We were braced, we really were, but this border has to be the craziest crossing we have had to go through (I can't imagine what going through Tangier would've been like). On approach to a wide gated road that is the boarder crossing, we saw what Spanish-Moroccan customs is like. There was a flow of people walking both in and out of Melilla, most carrying large bundles. Other people on the Spanish side were milling about with packages. One of these, a "nice little old lady," motioned that she would like me to carry her bag across - NO WAY! As soon as we passed through the gates and entered the "no man's land" (there was no one on the Spanish side who even glanced in our direction much less checked a passport) everything around us changed: the roads became worse, the smells became more foul (but with a hint of pepper), the seething mass of people seemed impossible for any border to keep track of. We found the line we needed to stand in to get our visa and during that time I watched a suitcase get flung over the 20 ft tall wall of "no man's land" into Morocco proper. I am sure this sight was not exceptional. After finally getting our necessary stamp (just one line of numbers, nothing that even says Morocco in any language) it was checked by several officers on our way out, the last officer giving us a strange look, as if to say "What are you doing here?", he ended up giving us a hearty "Welcome to Morocco." At almost the same time someone pulled along side us just making it through customs in their car and offered us a ride to Nador (the nearest Morocco city). I was suspicious to say the least, but after seeing that they were in fact a Greek/South African couple my suspicions waned. I know that was racial profiling at it's basest but seeing the seedy element that was crossing back and forth across the boarder made me not feel too bad about it.

We caught a ride with our newest saviors all the way to the Nador bus station. They filled us in on the corruption that goes on at the boarder, apparently everyone is in on whatever illegal trade is happening, and gave us lots of advice about how to avoid scams. Once again another entry into a new country made easier.

Our bus ride to Fes was pretty memorable as well. It was extremely hot and cramped which in itself doesn't make it unique. The bus had a bit of wear and tear, also nothing new, except for the most noticeable part of the wear and tear: a large spiderwebbed area of glass on the passenger side windshield. This damaged area looked like it was "taken care of" sufficiently with a huge square of tape about 1 foot by 1 foot. As you probably guessed, the fix didn't exactly work that well. At first everything seemed OK, then at some point along in the ride the glass split a little more (the split was up and down). The various people that worked for the bus company tried various fixes as the windshield began to billow in. First, a piece of wood placed diagonally across one corner of the windshield. Then another piece of wood was added, then a plastic sign to support the spiderwebbed area. In between all of these fixes the windshield continued to billow in to the point where we could feel a small breeze coming in through the edges of the windshield. Finally the bus actually stopped and half of the windshield was pushed out and bent over the more intact half. This made the air in the bus much less hot and stuffy, but quite a bit more dusty. And although we were not sitting on the passenger side of the bus, we were still only about 6 rows back from the front, making us possibly targets for any flying objects that entered the bus. Passengers around us began to laugh with comments about "travel in Africa" being the main part of most jokes. Eventually, some of that piece of tape ripped off and, with broken glass still stuck to it, hit the person sitting in front of Sarah in the head. The bus ride just got less funny. The bus stopped at the next service stations and the "bus guys" taped up a huge piece of see through plastic over the whole passenger side windshield. This fix held, at least for us, and we arrived in Fes unscathed. No touts even. We caught a cab to near our hotel and proceeded to rehydrate and eat.