Time passes, the world revolves around the sun, and things expire and must be renewed. Reflecting on this one day, as is our wont, we realized that we needed to renew our passports this year—at least, the kids and I do.

Casablanca street scene

In Morocco, an American citizen can only renew her (or his) passport in Casablanca. Although the embassy is conveniently located right here in Rabat, citizen services are in Casa. In their continuing efforts to provide US citizens with the very best customer service on the planet, it is open from 8:30-9:30 and then again from 1:30 to 3:00. It’s closed on Fridays and weekends, and takes all holidays off—both American and Moroccan. It’s located right downtown in a busy part of a crowded city—in other words, parking is a nightmare. In spite of knowing all these things, we decided to drive down instead of taking the train. The kids all had Wednesday off school, and since they had to physically be there, we decided Wednesday morning was the perfect time to do this. They disagreed, feeling rather strongly that a day off school should, in a just and fair universe, equal a day to sleep in. Ilsa in particular was rather vocal and nasal about it. Poor child; she has many grievances. It comes with being 13.

So today we got up at the crack of dawn—literally, with me standing on the balcony eyeing the pale pink sky and the swifts, waking up with us and already wheeling and turning amongst the thin clouds. We brought a lot of books into the car and drove off to Casa, fearing the morning commute traffic, but finding it not bad.

We got into traffic proper once the autoroute had faded into what we were hoping was the Route El Jedida. We had google maps, but one thing we’ve learned the hard way—in Morocco, even if the streets are marked, they might be marked with a different name than that which is shown on a map, which may be a different name again from what everybody calls it. (Also, do not under any circumstances let a Moroccan draw you a map. I realize how this sounds—like I’m generalizing, like I’m looking down on them, like I’m racist. I’m really not. It’s just that I believe they are looking at space a different way than I am. I’m talking about Moroccan people who are intelligent and well educated and speak a billion languages. Talk to them about world politics or something! Just don’t let them draw you a map. If you have to follow a Moroccan map, try approaching it upside down and backwards.)

We drove on and on, not recognizing anything from the map. Unfortunately (cough!), we’d left a bit late, and the clock was getting closer and closer to 8:30. “At least your make-up looks lovely,” said my husband snidely. The road came to an end at an enormous, clogged roundabout. Unsure, we headed off to the right.

The new road dead-ended so we randomly turned left. We’ve both been in Casa several times so things often looked tantalizingly familiar, but they weren’t actually. The road ended again and we randomly turned right—I thought I might have spotted the famous mosque which was in the same general area as the consulate. We got tangled in traffic again. The clock was approaching 9:00.

We pulled into a gas station to show the attendants our maps. All the attendants gathered round. Soon our maps were being passed hand to hand, as about 9 men crowded round and discussed it in rapid Arabic. I’m not sure, but I think they were discussing how to read the map, if they recognized anything on the map, and who among them spoke French and could explain it to us. Finally an older man, someone who didn’t actually work at the gas station, came up to us and gave us directions.

Success! We finally found the consulate. No roads were marked, so we had to ask 2 other people (a woman selling newspapers and a guy on a scooter) for street names. It took us a long time to get there. By this time, it was 9:10. We drove around and around the area, looking in vain for a parking spot, but there was no spot to be found. Each giant circle, thanks to traffic, took 10 minutes. Finally we found a spot. “It’s too small,” said Donn. “If anyone can do it, you can,” I said heart-warmingly. And I was right! He parallel-parked us in a teeny-tiny spot without even bumping the other two cars. It was 9:29.

We ran the four blocks to the consulate, which is surrounded by enormous blocks of concrete planted with flowers, a mixed message at best. There were lots of guards. The first lot sent us to the second lot, who pointed us across the street to a third. The third guy looked at his watch as we panted up, then at our navy blue passports. “It’s 9:30,” he said accusingly. “Please,” we said. “Parking,” we said, gesturing. “Go!” he told us, speaking into his walkie talkie. So back across the street we went, past the second lot again, and into the consulate itself.

We were told to cut an entire line of non-Americans, which felt sort of rude and sort of fun! We went happily through security (Donn: Ilsa, why on earth did you bring a whole backpack? Ilsa: It has my books in it. Donn: sigh…) and then submitted all our forms successfully, even though we’d forgotten to measure the twins and had to guess at their actual height. Then we had second breakfasts at a little café, and had another, more relaxed, traffic adventure that included someone driving a fork-lift blindly into incoming traffic, as we searched unsuccessfully for the auto-route to bring us home.

And, since it seems every time I mention going to Casa people sigh enthusiastically at how exotic and exciting it all is, I tried to get some snaps of the real Casa, which is crowded, polluted, noisy, and industrial. Oh and the traffic is worse than Rabat!

Yes I did take that from the car window at a red light. How could you tell?

But then I remembered visiting Turin, in Italy. Everyone said it was a horrible industrial city, but we just wandered around the downtown area, totally entranced. We loved it. So maybe there are those who love Casa too. But…which part is enticing and exotic?

Yep, through the windshield. You guys are good!


Typical Casa. I didn’t even take pictures of the industrial area.

Still, if you ever are in Casablanca, perhaps at the US Consulate, and you need to have your hair done, you can always go with the interestingly-named option.

It’s FULL service!

PS from my last post: The “balle” isn’t until the end of school, and all his friends are either going to be out of town or already have dates! I’m still working on him.

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