We have been in Morocco longer than any other country other than the US! It has been 24 weeks – 168 days.
We were at a campground near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was a good staging point for getting on a ferry to Europe as the port is roughly an hour away. We arrived there a few Thursdays ago after leaving the Rif mountains, hoping to get on a ferry to Seté, France, on the 18th of July. We had purchased a ticket, our third ferry ticket, to exit Morocco.
Morocco has partially opened up its maritime borders (between Seté, France and Genoa, Italy) for Moroccan citizens and residents, and foreigners in Morocco who want to leave the Kingdom. Technically, we will need to exit Morocco before the end of the State of Emergency which is currently set to end, August 10, 2020. The problem is that the US is not on the “safe” country list allowed to enter the EU.
The rumor mill was running in full effect around the campground. The ferry will be cancelled. “Why?” we asked.
- The police commissioner of Seté is requiring a Covid-19 test for all passengers and a doctor on board the ferry.
- Passengers on the incoming ferry tested positive. Morocco, France, and Italy will not allow it to dock.
- Yesterday, a bunch of people left to get on a ferry in Nador, were denied passage, and were finally turned around after waiting for hours without explanation
We didn’t receive anything saying the ferry was cancelled from GNV – the Italian ferry company we had purchased a ticket from. I tried calling the company in the morning, but was unable to reach anyone. With the lack of any “real” information, we decided to pack up and head to the port, fingers crossed. We said our goodbyes to our friends, paid our camping fee, and headed towards the port.
I had given us a 40% chance of getting on the ferry and Ryan gave us a 50% chance. Ryan also gave us a 50% chance of being allowed to enter France since US citizens are not on the “safe” list of countries allowed to enter the EU. Effectively he gave us a 25% chance of stepping foot on European soil.
We stopped at a gas station to fill up and get a car wash. We didn’t want to give customs any reason to reject us. In the past, mud/dirt on our vehicle has been an issue with customs and border control in various countries.
We arrived at the port and joined the queue that was over a half mile long outside the port. I walked along the campers and passenger cars, and said “bonjour” to anyone who was outside their vehicles. Most of the vehicles had French or Moroccan plates with a few Spanish, Italian and German ones sprinkled in. After a few hours of waiting, the Gendarmerie came with sirens blaring and lights flashing to break up the line. Eventually, one spoke a bit of English to say that the ferry was not going and that no ferry will go until the 22nd at the earliest. No other explanation was offered.
We headed back to the campground by way of the Carrefour, a European style supermarket, to stock up on some food and adult beverages.
After what felt like hours of trying to figure out how to re-book our tickets and being on hold with the company for over an hour, the earliest we could re-book was August 1, 2020. Time will tell if that actually happens…
After we returned to the campground, we experienced days of chaos.
The campground was buzzing with “information”:
- The GNV ferry, named “Excellent”, the one we were supposed to be on, was circling in the harbor on the 18th because people tested positive for Covid-19 on board. Morocco, France and Italy didn’t want it to dock at their ports. Morocco had required testing during transit of all passengers. I guess a plan wasn’t in place for what to do if passengers tested positive.
- This is one of our greatest fears. Getting on one of these ferries and being stuck at sea due to circumstances out of our control.
- It turns out the Excellent, isn’t so excellent. A couple of years ago, it ran into a crane in the Barcelona Port which caused a fire.
- France is now requiring a negative Covid-19 (PCR) test for all passengers 72 hours prior to boarding the ferry in Morocco with the destination of Seté, France.
- After a wild goose chase to the local Pasha, to the Health Minister in the area, to the Governor, back to the Health Minister, it was determined that Morocco will not do Covid-19 testing for foreigners. So, how will all the foreign nationals trying to exit Morocco, actually leave?
- People leaving on the 22nd do not need the test as it’s too short notice. But, what about people with tickets for a later date?
- An American and her daughter were detained in Spain and sent back to Morocco. The officials told her that there was a political issue between the US and Spain and they were not allowed to enter.
- It was later determined that people who had tickets for the ferry to Seté, France on the 22nd, did indeed need the test to board. After going to a clinic to get a prescription from a doctor (50 MAD per person), and showing up at the hospital for testing, people had to push to be tested. Finally, after hours of discussions and a call to the “Moroccan Crisis number”, the group of Canadians and Europeans were finally tested for 500 MAD (about 50 USD) per person. The prescription from the doctor they were told was needed, was not actually needed in the end.
- More ferry cancellations were announced. We experienced yelling and banging and throwing of objects around the campground. The overall atmosphere in the campground was pretty toxic. People were hitting their limit after months of being stuck in Morocco. It’s time to get out of this place!
- Our Canadian friends made it on the ferry on the 23rd of July as it was delayed. Time will tell if France lets them in.
Ryan and I made the decision to get a small AirBnB to distance ourselves from the negativity, enjoy a bit of AC since the heat and humidity was really getting to us, and to try to figure out how to get out of Morocco.
Here is Ryan cleaning the fridge. Please note the gas cooktop sitting on top of an electric cooktop.
This AirBnB is compact, but a nice retreat from the heat. We haven’t slept in anything but the van since January.
Time will tell what happens next…