January 05, 2004

Suburbs and Muppets

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon.. I hope to get my visa for Mauritania.
Things started badly yesterday afternoon, when I arrived in Casablanca and realised I seemed to have lost all the passport photos I had brought with me. So after a brief wander around the centre of town to no avail, I hear that there is a passport photo machine at the new bus station. Off I trot, and it's only 4km away. But 4km is enough to be off any Lonely Planet map, and needless to say I got totally lost, and ended up wandering around some dirty, crap suburb. Panic and tiredness sets in, so I get a taxi.
The walk back was altogether more sucessful, and passed through quite pleasant suburbs.
So today, armed and ready with photos, photocopy of my passport, and about 7 quid, I got up especially early, and took a taxi to the Mauritanian Embassy, which is in a suburb which seemed to be called 'Oasis'. Oasis it was not, but some parts were pretty posh. I got to know the area quite well, as I spent ALL DAY there.
The first man encountered at the embassy, let's call him 'Muppet 1', arrived 10 minutes after the embassy was supposed to open, and then went round the people waiting outside (about 10, mostly French), and told us how to fill in the form, made them get more pages photocopied, and generally picked fault with the way people were filling in the forms. Then he made us all stand exactly single file in a neat line along the pavement, and beckoned us in, two at a time.
When I say 'in', I don't mean 'in the embassy', because Muppet 1 preferred to sit inside by an open window, and have us pass the forms through, whereby he took the money, and then passed them to someone else, let's call him 'Muppet 2'.
We were told to return at about 1.30pm ....
By 2pm, there was a crowd of angry Frenchmen (well, not very angry really), and me outside the embassy. The Frenchmen wanted to drive off today, so they were in a hurry. Muppet 1 appeared and handed back a few rejected forms, and then told everyone to come back at 4pm. After some murmours of disapproval, a few people wandered off. Those remaining were told by Muppet 1 not to loiter on the pavement outside the embassy.
And so 4pm rolls around, and by now we are joined by more people, including English, Japanese and Italians. There is a 40 strong mob outside the embassy.
Muppet 1 appears, and smokes a cigarette for a while, then he tells everyone to come back at 5.30pm, except for Moroccans, who can come back tomorrow.
He tells all the Frenchmen to go and wait in their cars instead of in front of the embassy.
By this time, I've had mint tea and coffee in just about every cafe in the area, and by 5.30pm I'm riddled with caffeine.
Muppet 2 appears. He has passports in his hand. We all stand in a huddle around him as he calls out our names to return our passports. It is vaguely reminiscent of a school register. He gets to the end, and as I watch the Frenchmen drive off into the distance, I enquire about MY passport.
Muppet 2 looks puzzled, and goes back twice to look for it. The third time he comes out, he says he has found it. He says it was very busy today. He says it has not been processed yet. He says come back tomorrow at 10am.
I ask him why they can't just quickly do it now. He says the man who does it has left. Muppet 2 is friendly and apologetic at least, not like Muppet 1, the glorified doorman who doesn't like people outside the embassy.
I set off back to town, about 5km. The first km I spent happily swearing at the Muppets, then I calmed down, and realised I had found the affluent shopping suburb. It was full of designer shops, and posh clean streets, and people wearing smart suits. I had coffee in a swanky coffee shop, which actually had women in it, a bit of a novelty for Morocco.
Tomorrow I must go back to Oasis Suburb, and deal once more with the Muppets...

Posted by paul at January 5, 2004 08:06 PM