While there are many things I love about Morocco, the bureaucracy is not one of them. As an oft cited example, the process of getting married.
In 2009, when Hanane and I first became engaged, we looked at the list of requirements and literally cried because of the seeming impossibility. The initial list we were given consisted of about thirty-five documents of which I had zero.
The list was roughly:
Identity card – my Hawaii drivers license had expired several months earlier
Passport and most recent entry visa – okay I had this
Proof of income – I had no job
Original Certified birth certificate less than 90 days old
Attestation de travail – proof of a job
Work contract – more proof of a job
police record less than 90 days old from state most recently resided in
police record from the Ministry of strangers in Rabat
proof of residence – I had no residence
rental contract signed and notarized – again, I had no residence
9 passport photos
Medical certificate by Sefrou doctor
Affidavit of eligibility to marry- consul certified
Affidavit of nationality – consul certified
Consul certified copy of passport
Police check and validation by Sefrou police
Conversion to Islam, signed, stamped, and paid.
medical certificate proving virginity
Sworn affidavit of consent and eligibility to marry by two adult male family members
Police check and validation by Sefrou police
Character reference from local constabulry
All of these documents would need to be certified by the local and national government, stamped, sealed, and delivered. Anything not in Arabic would need to be translated by an official government translator, stamped and sealed. In addition, approval would have to be granted by a family court judge, reviewed by the District Attorney (Aldul), and then approved by the judge a second time. We would need five seperate certified dossiers and would need to pay all fees.
When I realized what I had gotten into, I actually considered calling the whole thing off. The problem is that in Morocco, you can’t just live together. There isn’t any boyfriend and girlfriend situations. You can be single. You can be engaged in which case you are allowed to see each other and you can be married in which case you are allowed the rights of marriage such as travel, staying in the same house or hotel, and not being judged. Otherwise, a woman in Morocco is considered nearly universally to be loose if she is spending time with a ‘boyfriend’. It’s a fucked up, judgmental, and ignorant viewpoint which pervades nearly the entire society.
Frankly, at first, I was rather pleased to have this huge list ahead of us as I wanted us to have time to be sure of our decision. Or as sure as we could be anyway. Over the next year, I accumulated my list of documents and she accumulated hers. In the process of getting the documents I was required more than once to stretch the truth, throw tantrums, beg, and plead. Finally, as I wrote several weeks ago, we had managed to get the entire list of documents.
This involved a trip to the United States, trips to Rabat, Casablanca, and multiple trips to Fez to visit the translator. We finally presented our papers to the family court judge. He pointed out that the translator had transliterated my family name into Arabic differently than the Aldul who I paid to make me Muslim had, so we rushed back to see the translator. Next, the judge told me that since Hawaii uses electronic validation rather than using a good old fashioned ink stamp, that my Hawaii criminal record check was unacceptable, after begging and explaining, he told us he would accept it but we had to go get it translated again. All of this process involved no less than spending the bulk of three days sitting at the courthouse and waiting for a moment to see the judge. Time spent with the judge about 15 minutes total, time spent waiting at least 30 hours of sitting and then trying to cram into his office past all the other people waiting to see him.
The translations each cost about $20 each and required several hours of waiting in the office and usually 24 hours of waiting for the translations to be delivered. The local certifications cost on average three hours of waiting for each batch.
We returned to the judge and waited four hours to see him again and then he read the translation and said it wouldn’t work after all. Hanane begged and he told us to wait four more hours, finally he came back and said, okay, he’d accept it. With a signature we were able to submit the papers to the clerk who told us to wait another day, after this day we submitted the file to a separate clerk who wrote sealed letters to the constabulary and the police. We delivered these to the officials with again about 7 hours of waiting and were told the papers would be ready the next day, four days later the papers were delivered with us spending about 3 hours each day waiting to be told they weren’t ready yet.
With these papers we could finally go back to the family court and deliver them to another clerk. The process should be about done, except that the alduls had gone on strike so we had to wait four more days for their strike to end so that they could give us the certified folder to deliver to the judge again. Lots of waiting in the court house and the aldul’s office to make this process work and finally the fuckers came off strike and we got the folder, took it to the court waited 3 hours to pay 565 dirhams for a necessary receipt, then waited for the judge to sign off on the papers, the judge came after about two hours and told us to wait. Finally we got impatient and went to his office and he told us that we would need to come back the next day since by the time he had gotten around to our file, everyone in the courthouse had gone home. That was yesterday….
Now we go and see him again….and I wonder what sort of hell he will provide for us now. The stress of all of this has caused us to fight, caused us to cuss, caused us to sometimes talk about just giving up….but we haven’t….I still wonder if they will approve this at all….and I think to myself that if ever there was a system that deserves to be destroyed, it is this one. Over a year of preparation and since gathering all the necessary papers, nearly three weeks of waiting, my nerves are destroyed, my hope is nearly gone, and I think of all the people who have probably just given up on love and marriage in Morocco because of how fucked up the system is. Some people I know just gave up, some who had the resources went to other countries to be married, some relationships died under the pressure, and some…well, this one at least, we keep trying and keep going, and keep moving forward.
My thoughts on it are this, I’m not going to let bureaucracy keep me from the life that I want to have.