Gendarmerie

 Moroccan police have too much time on their hands. Wearing blue uniforms with white belts and holsters, they stand around intersections and traffic circles. When not talking to one an other, they will occasionally attempt to direct traffic. Unless a friend walks by and they stop their duties, walk over, shake hands and begin to converse. Checkpoints are everywhere. In northern Morocco police would stop cars, trucks and buses and wave us through. Down south, they wave most of the traffic through and stop us. We were warned that this would happen and told that we needed to photocopy our passport on one side and our title on the other. Our visa number stamped on our passport should then be written on the copy.

Our guides said to never give the police anything they didn’t ask for specifically and pretend not to understand them. The Gendamerie Royale would wave us over to one side and ask for our passport and we gave them a photocopy. In the 850 miles from Essouria to Dakhla, we gave out twelve copies. Near Tan Tan, we gave one to the Royale and were stopped 200 meters again by the local police and had to give them one also. Sometimes we were asked our profession and when and where did we enter Morocco. They would ask the make of our bikes and then write down our license plate number.

Sometimes they would speak English and want to visit. When we were traveling in a large group they would occasionally ask the lead bike for info and wave the rest through. Another time they wanted us to go into the guard shack and produce our original passport and answer questions to a non-uniformed man with a gun in a shoulder holster. One guard asked “What do you have for me?” This was a subtle request for a bribe.

Approaching a checkpoint the speed limit signs go 80, 60, 40 and then there is a Halte sign. Past that sign was a line of vehicles and we would pull up and wait our turn. At one checkpoint we did this and when the car in front of us pulled away, the guard asked us why we didn’t stop at the halte sign. I replied that we did stop and then pulled up. The guard informed me that we were to wait at the sign for instructions to proceed. He then explained that the fine for not stopping was 90 dirhams per bike and told me to follow him inside. I did so and tried pleading my case. Ultimately I pulled out a 100d bill and he took it and wished us bon voyage. Five other riders who came in later were all “fined” 100d apiece for not stopping and waiting at the sign.

Most Moroccan vehicles treat stop signs as a request and ignore it. In one town there was a stop sign as we turned onto the main highway. Richard treated it as a request and was stopped 50 meters away and had to pay a 70 Euro (700 dirham) fine on the spot. When he got to our hotel, other travelers told him that they had been fined also. Fortunately, Richard called the other guides and we were warned at lunchtime of the scam. The rest of us stopped and were not fined.

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2 Responses to “Gendarmerie”

  1. Mike Andrew says:

    Thoroughly enjoying the updates!! Stay safe.

    P.S. Your house is still standing, no squatters have taken up residence, yet…… 🙂

  2. Dick Haines says:

    Larry and Cathy, this is the trip of a lifetime. Absolutely fascinating. Your description of Morrocco reminds me of Iraq. It’s a different culture, isn’t it. Travel safely and keep the posts coming. They are a great break from the day-to-day of Atlanta.

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