Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free For All

*I re-write this post in my head on a daily basis

**I realize that my "driving common sense" is colored by America and the Moroccans probably think my driving is crazy.

There is one thing you can always trust when it comes to Moroccan drivers: they are NOT to be trusted!  Yes, everything looks similar to North America roads (signals, etc.) but the function is completely different.  Because Morocco's middle class has only come about in recent years, most Moroccans (as a society) have only been driving for about 30 years.  That may seem like a long time, but I'm guessing most of these drivers haven't taken Driver's Ed.  I haven't figured out how to organize all my thoughts into a post that flows so instead you're going to get a list.  Enjoy.

On driving in Morocco:

- I promise you, if a typical Moroccan driver flew to the states and rented a car, they would be pulled over before they ever made it out of the parking lot.

-Whenever I see a driver not only use their turn signals, but use them correctly, I find myself silently congratulating them.

-I was shocked the other day when I needed to change lanes at the last minute and the driver behind me actually waved me in.  After I moved over I waved my thanks and he waved back (like you would in the states, or at least in Texas).  I thought to myself,"Wow! I can't believe that just happened on Moroccan streets."  But then the car passed me a minute later and I saw the license plate was from France.  So no, that did not just happen.

-The city planners are big fans of the "lane and a half".  This is just as good of an idea as it sounds.

-There are many bicycles and motor-scooters.  These guys (always guys, never girls) are way too confident that I will not hit them the way they dash in front of and around me.  They usually drive on the far right, but their vehicles don't have enough power to keep up with traffic so everyone swerves around them...into the next lane, whether there is an extra lane or oncoming traffic.

-Much of the driving here depends on your status in society and how nice your car is.  If you are driving a Mercedes and waiting at the back of the line at a stop light it is perfectly acceptable to pull into oncoming traffic and move to the front of the line.

-At a stop in the States if someone flashes their lights at you it usually means they want you to go ahead as a courtesy.  Here, if someone flashes their lights it means "GET THE HECK OUT OF THE WAY BEFORE I RUN OVER YOU."

-My new pastime while driving is Ambassador spotting.  The license plate of the car indicates that it is the Ambassador's (usually with a driver) and their country.  So I crane my neck trying to see into the back seat for a glimpse.  It's all extremely safe.

-Street cleaners: Did you know that the best time to clean the street is during rush hour?  Yep.  And make sure your cart is out in the middle of the road and not on the huge sidewalk adjoining it.  These guys are normally sweeping on the side of the road with no regard to their personal safety.  If I was standing on the side of one of these roads, I would be looking over my shoulder like a paranoid schizophrenic to make sure I didn't get hit.   

-I can't decide if my biggest pet peeve on the roads is when a car just hangs out in the middle of two lanes, often for a mile at a time, or when I am stopped at a stop sign, waiting to turn left, and another driver passes me on the right to turn also, thereby cutting me off.

-This past weekend I was in conversation with one of the embassy's top officials' wife (get that?) and driving in Morocco came up.  She mentioned that she frequently uses her middle finger when out and about.  I probably won't go that far, but my kids do hear a lot of,"Wow!"  "Really?!"  "Good grief" and "Geez".

-There is not as much honking here as I anticipated.  The things that American drivers would honk at (stopping in the middle of a busy street to talk to a friend, turning right from the far left hand lane, cutting someone off) are tolerated beautifully.  But, KATIE BAR THE DOOR, if you are not halfway across the intersection when the light turns green.  This means that while the light for the cross street is still yellow you are expected to get moving.  Of course this makes perfect sense, as we all know that the safest time to be out in an intersection is during the yellow light.

-Car seats: fuggetaboutit. Most children ride standing up in the back seat or leaning between the two front seats.

Upon arrival, embassy officials tell you that you WILL get in a wreck at sometime during your stay here and to be prepared.  So encouraging! Fingers crossed my friends, fingers crossed.


  1. oh it could be the glass of wine i just finished but i swear this is so dang funny. and potentially universal? africa is so stinking AFRICAN. so glad we're not the only ones dodging street cleaners and gawking at loose toddlers in other cars.

  2. Oh, this post made me laugh so hard. Thanks and good luck!