Marriage in Morocco – Turning heaven into hell.

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.

For Hanane
medical certificate proving virginity
Sworn affidavit of consent and eligibility to marry by two adult male family members
Identity card
Police check and validation by Sefrou police
Character reference from local constabulry
9 photos

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.

25 thoughts on “Marriage in Morocco – Turning heaven into hell.”

  1. Hang in there, it seems like you are very close to a solution and it is heartbreaking to read all of the above. I was very lucky when I married my Moroccan wife in that her family agreed for us to be married in the UK (as I reside there and she would join me) rather than marry in Morocco. They let us marry here as it would be easier for us and compared to your story it was a breeze. Sure we had to jump through some hoops, pay some money and wait a while (just 14 weeks actually for the visa to be granted). The imam here acted as representative for her family and everything worked out fine. The only drag is having to always show our marriage certificate when we want to take a hotel. Good luck, inchallah your time is near.

  2. Thanks Abdel Halim!

    Indeed it is now done….still, the bummer of having to show the marriage certificate…but at least now we can.

  3. Well….I guess one could consider it a right of passage….

    Or ‘If you’ll go through all that together, that likely means the next 60 years will be a piece of cake’.

  4. You said u had no job akhi. How were u able to get around this? also what is the ” Attestation de travail” ? I will be in a similar situation next month. Inshaallah everything will go well for me. Please inform

  5. Hi Coop,

    There was no getting around the no job, I ended up getting a job at the American Language Center in Fez as an English Teacher. The attestation de travail is a statement from your employer that confirms you have work and tells how much money you make. Maybe if you already have a job in another country or a lot of money in the bank it can be skipped, for me, I got lucky in finding work here. Good luck man and congratulations.

  6. Thankyou Vago. I am very happy for you!! I imagine u are very busy but when and if you can find the time, could you please tell me anymore information on what I need in terms of work contract information…like what exactly are they looking for in terms of the form? Please feel free to correspond with me at noah0819@gmail.com. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I am trying to be as prepared as I can, as you might imagine. Again, thanks. :) Sincerely,
    Coop

  7. Congrats Vago! I have the opposite problem. My fiancee is trying to get a divorce from an American that he was married to 10 years ago and hasn’t seen (she took off) for over 7 years. Now for us to be married, he has to get a divorce and may have to pay her alimony (we await the final outcome). He is a functioneer for the local government so makes little money. She on the other hand has lots of money but he still may have to pay her money on top of getting the incredibly (for him) expensive divorce. Everything has been finally paid for an filed and we await the outcome. I was able to visit for 2 weeks in spring and I will go again in December (I live in the U.S.. We have known each other a number of years and we aren’t young (50s) so as the clock keeps ticking I have to pay for expensive air tickets and we can’t be together. He already told me about the paperwork “hell” of getting married in Morocco so he will come here. Now there is another paperwork “hell” to deal with and that is a fiance visa to come to the U.S. to get married. So it seems not matter what government you deal with, it can be so difficult to get married. The love between two humans is a simple matter but getting married can be made so difficult by governments. It has taken us two years so far and we are waiting.

  8. Government really should have nothing to do with marriage. Neither should religion. Of course, both of those are just wishful thinking. It’s why I am still rooting for complete collapse of civilization. Stay strong.

    ~Vago

  9. Well Vago I felt sorry for you but it seems you are not a muslim and this is why the laws are so tough for non-muslims trying to marry muslim women which is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN in the relgion of islam and the law was created for the muslim arabs that come from the gulf countries,who exploit women in poverty

    If you are not a truly a muslim it doesnt matter if you write a million contracts.. the Relationship will always be illegitimate and usually someone from the girl’s family will know this and they will talk evil about her and eventually YOU will be gone.

    Arab girls are controlled by there family that’s why you went after that goofy contract.

    She could do anything she wants the government wont put her jail. If you dont accept islam sincerely count your days and get ready to move on.

    Islamic ruling for a woman marrying a disbeliever is that the marriage is invalid and she is fornicating and if any children result from this affair they are considered to be bastard children(illegitimate)
    She can remarry you once you TRULY accept islam

    http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/118098

    I’m western guy like you but I’m MUSLIM and I lived in morocco for quite sometime .

  10. It’s an interesting comment. That’s for sure. I think you should have signed your letter with the name Allah, since you obviously have overriding authority over who is a Muslim and who is not. Are Turks Muslims? Are Indonesians? What about Moroccans who drink or smoke sheesha? Are birds Muslim? What about babies? Sufis? The Moroccan Brotherhoods? Nation of Islam in the USA? What about Sunnis? Shiites?

    In fact, you seem to be full of shit, like every other person who has been spoon fed someone else’s idea of what God is and what it means to submit yourself to the will of God. Did you ever have a single independent thought or question about Islam? Did you ever seek someone who actually had spent time considering the answers they gave you?

    By the way, if you are a western guy like me, why do you make so many errors in your grammar and spelling that are consistent with someone who doesn’t have a Western first language? I don’t buy it, yet another example of you being full of shit. The entire tone of your letter is written from a ‘born into Islam and never thought to question it’ perspective.

    Why don’t you and the fifty or so people who fit your definition of a Muslim go somewhere and pat each other on the back. Then you can all take suicide pills together.

  11. By the way, I should point out that I was Muslim for quite a long time before I met my wife and that the process of paying to become Muslim was only a bureaucratic hurdle which we had to cross. A Palestinian Man in the same situation (wanting to marry) was at the Aldul’s office at the same time I was and we were both offended that we would have to prove that we were Muslims in such a bureaucratic way. I thought I would be asked questions about Islam, questions about Koran, questions about my practices but no, I was only asked for how to spell my name and for money. So actually it was no challenge. It was however, offensive, since the requirements to be Muslim in Koran don’t happen to include paying a fee or having a government official attest to your Muslimness.

    And the fact that you state that ‘she could do anything she wants and the government wouldn’t put her in jail’ only attests further that you are full of shit. She couldn’t even walk through Fes with me without a marriage certificate without the risk of being put in jail.

  12. Salaam, Hey Vago, I was curious if u were staying in Maroc or coming back to the States (I presume U are American)? I got successfully married in Maroc-al humdullilah-and I plan to apply for spousal Visa to US.
    Coop

  13. Hi Coop,

    Mubruk! At the moment we are living in Turkey although I don’t think that will last forever. I think we will go to the States at some point, but I don’t really have a huge desire to ever live there again, so probably just with tourist visa. Let me know how the spousal visa goes. If you want to write a guest post about it, I’m sure it will be interesting for readers here. Again, congratulations. ~v

  14. Vago if you are muslim then there is no problem between me and you. As for my grammar mistakes I was typing fast buddy LOL.

    As for your filthy mouth may Allah heal you,because muslims dont use such vulgar language.

    In islam we have rules and regulations we dont make it up as we go along.

    When I first went to morocco in 2001 I went through the marriage contract nonsense and now it is worse.

    As for the nation of islam they arent muslims and the some of the shee’aa are muslims and some arent we have a strict creed and when someone believes in something other then it, then that person leaves islam.

    I accepted islam 1996 and lived in morocco and became fluent in arabic from the tutelage of my wife and other arabs.

    If you want to discuss islam then come with the facts not a rant of a savage who can only express himself with vulgar street thug language.

    It’s aa’dool not aldul like you typed. It scom from the word adl…it’s ok , we all make mistakes vago

  15. Touche’. (not spelled correctly in French, I know, I transliterate foreign words how they sound). All I can say is congratulations on your Muslimness. Islam is submission to God and you can’t actually leave it even if you want to. We are all born Muslim and if you choose to follow your fitrah or not, well that is your choice, but your blood is still Muslim as is everything else created by God. Ask Kareem Abdul Jabaar if he is a Muslim. Lol.

    That tall motherfucker had more baskets than any other player in the NBA and he prays five times a day and is devoted to his faith – Nation of Islam.

    As to my dirty mouth…it’s a gift from God that has helped me as a street thug more times than it has hindered. Hamdullah!

    Salaam a leycum,

    ~vago

  16. Hey Vago, thank you for such an interesting post. I’m an European and I got married with an Arab girl almost one year ago, after 5000km driving around the country searching for papers, 2 months of crazy stories, 2 trips back home for extra documents, and countless other issues. We finally got married. I had no real problems getting the needed papers since I have my own company and have a house etc, but still, I got really sick and tired of the whole situation and I can’t hear someone talking about papers… any kind of papers… :) big hug from Sahara Desert.

  17. hi vago
    congratulations!!!id like to ask if the papers needed for marriage goes out the same whether you are a male of female foreigner wanting to marry a moroccan national?im a filipina and i wanted to know which documents ill be needing..i hope somebody out there has an idea and can give me an insight on this…
    thanks and good luck!!!

  18. Hi Samira,
    I’m an American but my wife is Moroccan.We had to go through all the process. I’m not sure what a Filipina would need to marry a Moroccan. Probably a paper that said you were eligible for marriage, birth certificate, and police record.

  19. From: Coop
    Salaam Vago, I’m now 4 months into the VISA process as they accepted the papers in Jan. From my understanding it could go 6 months to a year providing no complications. I’d like to have correspondence with you on teaching English in Maroc as an option should things go “south” for me. I understand you taught in Fez? I do not have a bachelor’s degree so I was wondering if I could get by with an ESL certificate? I miss my wife as you might imagine so I’m considering all my options. alhaqq2008@hotmail.com

  20. Hi Coop. So you’re in the states and trying to bring your wife there? I’d love to know how the process has gone for you so far. We haven’t done that yet, did they require you to go live there for a certain time before she could go? You’ll have a hard time finding a good job without a BA, but you can probably find private students or work for the less reputable (and lower paying) local schools. Looking forward to seeing how it all goes with you. – vago@vago****.com

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