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this one time, on the Moroccan border, one of us was almost turned away

16 March, 2012

After being reminded of last year’s spring break yesterday, I can’t stop thinking about (and laughing over) the adventure we had crossing back into Morocco from Spain.

There were four in our party, and we were traveling on foot.

I approached the border guard/passport processing window first, and handed the guard my carte de sejour & passport.  He noticed that I lived in Errachidia, and seemed quite surprised about it because he is from there and knows how very far away it is.  We chatted a little, found that we know people in common, and our conversation ended in an invitation to couscous at his mother’s home in Errachidia some day, inch’Allah.

my carte de sejour - fancy!

Two more of my ETA friends followed behind me, repeating the same procedure, minus the chit-chat.

And then came our meskin friend who had no carte de sejour.   These Moroccan identity cards are issued in the town where you live, and her site was not into giving them to foreigners who would only be living in Morocco for the year.  Without a national ID card, foreigners are supposed to leave the country at least once every 90 days to “reset” their tourist visa in the country.

She had worked something out with the local authorities, and they even gave her a fancy stamp in her passport to support this, but for some reason, the border guard between Ceuta and Martil just wasn’t having it.

The three of us were standing on one side of this invisible line while our friend was told she’d have to go back to Spain (about 20 meters away) and get things taken care of.

We watched her walk into an office on the Spanish side, and when she came out, nothing had been resolved.

Neither our Fulbright handbooks nor our three-week orientation in Rabat taught us how to handle this situation.  While we were standing there trying to figure out what to do next, the guard waved at us from the doorway of passport control.

“Hey Errachidia, come here!”

Clearly, he was talking to me.  He told me to come into the small office and have a seat, and I did.

He spent a minute or two asking about what we were doing in Spain, what we bought while we were there, and why we only stayed for half a day.  I then got lectured for another three or four minutes on the importance of all resident foreigners having a carte de sejour, and how I needed to make sure that my friend got one as soon as possible.  And then we spent another ten minutes talking about life in Errachidia.

After that, he said my friend could come back into Morocco, and that we were all free to go.

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