Casablanca Airport – Take Note!
The young French student in the Passport Control queue at Casablanca airport just ahead of me asked for the time. When I said 11:40am, he simply shook his head. I sighed. My flight had started boarding five minutes ago and I had been waiting in this queue for a ½ hour…there were still 25 people in front of me to be screened…very, very slowly. “Dis ees a very stressful airport,” the student said with a strong Toulouse accent, obviously having experienced this before. *You ain’t kiddin’* I thought. After leaving the cruise ship at 8:40am, it had taken me and two colleagues, Naomi and Mike, 1 hour to get through the port immigration. Our taxi driver was an affable young man named Adbul who transported us to a large barn-like structure which housed the Port’s Immigration Police. He, helpfully, insisted on filling out our three immigration forms himself. One question caused much confusion; which city our British passports were issued from. UKPA (UK Passport Agency!) wasn’t a place he had heard of. “What city is UKPA?” he asked at least three times. I told him that PA meant Passport Agency. “But where is the Passport Agency?” he retorted starting to look a bit irritated. We had to insist (many times) that we didn’t know where this place was. Eventually…he was appeased! Finally our passports were stamped by the person behind the window (we were all very keen to get a Moroccan stamp so this was a joyous occasion) and we were ready to continue but then discovered we had to have our luggage screened. Back to the car to retrieve our bags, we then went inside and waited for Abdul to find an inspector. Twenty five minutes later, he returned and instructed us ‘not to smile’ when our bags were inspected. We were worried. He then said not to pay them anything either (!). This really had us worried. Finally, a gentleman dressed in Berber clothing appeared. We proffered our luggage and our duly grim expressions must have impressed him. He hurriedly scratched a mark with chalk on our luggage. We were free to go. But the journey to the airport was fraught as well. Many cutbacks and short cuts to avoid the construction of the new tramway were to no avail. Finally, after driving about 45 minutes, and only 4 miles from the airport, we ended up in grid-lock. After another 15 minutes, the knot seemed to loosen and off we went again. Arriving at the clean, modern looking airport, and with 2 hours before departure, we felt quite relieved and relaxed. I noted that the parking lot and the departures area was full of people and Abdul explained that it was a Muslim holiday this week and most were arriving from or going to Mecca. It didn’t take long to find the check –in area and the lines looked reasonably short. But in Morocco, queues obviously mean nothing. One or two people with several passports in their fists, pushed up to the front of the line. Then, an additional six or seven family members appeared out of nowhere and deftly moved around us. Grrrr! It was no better for the people in the other queue. A young man wearing a skullcap was checking in a huge plaid plastic carrier and for some unknown reason was repacking bag after bag of…vegetables! I anticipated a rabbit or goat jumping out at any moment. This process took an unbelievable 10 minutes. After checking in, and enduring the interminable passport control, security was a relatively easy process and we boarded the plane almost immediately. Unbelievably, it had taken us just under four hours to get from port to plane!