Crossing a Border on Foot

from my travel journal: 1 may 07
ceuta, spain

Yesterday was one of the craziest days, perhaps of my life. It definitely rates up there with an Egypt day. As the bus (from downtown Ceuta) took us closer to the Moroccan border, the state of buildings, roads, even people declined. When we finally got off, it felt like no man’s land. It was all barbed wire, caged paths, and disorder.

The Berbers ran parallel to us, up on the mountains. Later, Paul said he thought they were going to get shot. So did I. I didn’t realize they were rushing to meet people whom they knew and to get their wares ready to haggle people whom they saw as worthy targets, like us.

The experience also felt sandy, maybe because of all of the beige. And the fact that we could almost make it to the duty-free(?), caged chaos area with Moroccans, then backtrack to the car lanes, then go back to talk to the Spanish officer for questions, and then return to the lanes was completely mystifying and plain crazy. Quite surreal. Finally we got the proper stamps at one of the many booths sandwiched between the car lanes.

I almost died when the Moroccan officer–blocking my admittance by sitting on his stool–looked at my passport and couldn’t find the stamp which we had just ricocheted through lanes and officers to get. (Why do border officers stamp over other ones when there are passport pages of empty space?)

So the guy on his stool, directing the cars through the ramshackle tracks stopped me and wouldn’t let me pass. Thankfully his colleague sauntered out and found the Moroccan stamp, faintly sandwiched on an overused page.

Walking across a border is so political. So refugee-like. Now we may actually take the ferry back from Tangier. That idea emphasizes just how bizarre walking across was. Hustlers sound more palatable and predictable.

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About gwenamon

bookworm, confidante, creative director, cyclist, global wanderer, music lover, shutterbug, shoe shopper, snowboarder, writer, yoga geek. i'm also a very proud mama of a lil mister named james.
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2 Responses to Crossing a Border on Foot

  1. Bennett says:

    That’s very evocative. Joanne and I had a similar experience crossing this border in 2002. We didn’t have the “we’re going to be shot” moment though; instead we had a “we’re going to be deported” moment (actually several minutes) when the man in the booth took both our passports and casually ambled away into a back room. After a very long and uncomfortable pause, he finally returned with the prized stamps. Our relief was bigger than immense.

    After that it was a simple matter of negotiating with the grand taxi driver, in the French that I hadn’t used for 16 years. My French improved quite a lot during our two weeks in Morocco.

    I’m interested to read your thoughts on the Tangier hustlers. ;)

    • gwenamon says:

      well hello bee!

      oh yes, the negotiating…. i had almost forgotten. how, i don’t know. ;) i agree, my french improved immensely too. i handled the french talking and paul was in charge of spanish.

      you know, when we went back through tangier, it wasn’t bad at all. i think its reputation far outweighs its bite.

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