Monday, July 4, 2011

It's a Minefield Out Here


One overland leg and one more African immigration post to go. I’m up at dawn to catch a four-seat taxi to Dakhla, the first town over in Morocco—some 250 miles away. This time my prissy I-want-the-front-seat scene I plead with the driver is that I’ll get violently sick in the back, and yes, I will pay extra for this seat. My driver and I take off and pick up a few passengers around Nouadhibou. First stop is at a solid metal door down a dirt lane, and a serious looking Muslim dude steps out (I think we woke him up). It seems we’re picking his women up around town. These two women are believers of the forced feeding cult, and I'm immediately grateful I'm the front-seat queen of the day. I can’t figure out the relationships or why they’re going to Dakhla, but I assume they are his wives. Next, a Senegalese guy gets in; he's on his way to Marrakesh.

Off we go, and an hour later, we clear Mauritanian immigration. Now the fun begins. There’s an interesting three-kilometer stretch of no-man’s land between Mauritanian immigration and Moroccan immigration, with landmines on either side of the dirt track—1000s of them. This is not the place for a toilet break in nature. I ask my driver what his nationality is, and he answered Sahrawi—Polisario.” He swerves left and right, following a well-worn path. With one hand, he’s trying to find some Sahrawi music to play for me. One of the songs is in Spanish, with lyrics that go something like “hand to hand, in the streets of Laayoune, we repeat the story, the history, the victory…” I read somewhere that some Bangladeshis were stuck between these two customs posts for months and had to live on food and water handed out by passersby because neither country would let them enter. I look for them, but there’s nobody out here.

Moroccan customs: this takes 2 1/2 hours because of the Senegalese guy. The women in the car need help filling out the form because they can’t read. The taxi also has to go into a special hanger-like building to be scanned for bombs and whatnot. Passports are checked at least six times. We stop for lunch, for prayers, for peeing, for more passport checks, and for some random conversational exchanges with other drivers--obviously buds of my driver .

And if anybody wonders what can equal the decibels of a Who concert, the tinny speakers of any Mauritanian taxi can blow them away.

Anyway, here I am in Dakhla, southern Morocco, and as Huck Finn would say: back in “siviliaztion.” Well, kinda. This is all there is for Africa this time around—until the next trip…

I don't think this Mauritanian tourist office container on the border does a lot of business.

Lot's of camels out in this desert

I have a mosque on the way to my room at this hotel in Dakhla.


  1. This is wonderful! I'm so happy to have run into you at the store. This reminds me of so many stories in India and Saudi...

  2. I didn't realize you were off to Africa again, Pam, on a route I've taken mostly in the reverse. When is your next one, and where will it be?