Monday 7th ~ Mauritania Visa hell
The whole point of arriving in Rabat on a Sunday is to get to the Mauritanian embassy first thing on a monday morning. To get the visa required by Tuesday afternoon. Ask anyone that’s done this and the reaction is much swearing, cursing, and comments that do nothing to improve the tourists image of Mauritania.
Oh yes, there are many tourists to that place. Or at least through that place.
If you plan on passing through Mauri I now feel qualified to advise on Rabat.
- Leave your hotel early.
- Get fleeced by a taxi driver – we paid the standard going rate of twice what it should have been. This is about right, but he did take the scenic route, so he sort of earned it (?!).
- Arrive at the embassy and curse the already bulging queue. The visa costs 340 Dirhams (about €34) have this ready, exact amount, no change given. (they dont take Scottish bank notes – dont ask).
- Fill out the form twice – nobody ticks all the right boxes first time.The form is in French so of course very few actually understand wtf they’re doing, so…
- Curse and swear while trying to obtain the second form as no fecker will let you squeeze into the concrete kiosk that passes for the visa ‘office’ to get another one.
- Engage the services of a Spanish Moto-Tour guide that just happens to be there. He can actually read legalese French – he didn’t charge us / just laughed – told us we were insane to attempt to cross Mauri on Bikes with such a low top speed as we only had enough power to get into trouble and not out of it.
- Sweat a lot. Wish you’d brought something to eat and a bottle of water or be glad you didn’t as there’s no toilet you can get at.
- Worry intensely as to whether you need two passport photos or none at all, (I still dont know) and do a runner up the road following very vague instructions as to where you can get pictures taken (get more forms photocopied while you’re there – I swear you could sell them back at the embassy to frustrated wannabe travellers).
- Listen to others who had never done the trans Sahara trip / but know all the things that could go wrong and all the tales of kidnapped westerners and ransoms and other charming, confidence instilling tales.
- Finally get to the head of the queue in the concrete kiosk, while doing a ‘How-many-people-can-you-fit-into-a-concrete-sweatbox-the-size-of-phonebox’ impression.
I must point out now that tempers do fray, people do push in, queue jump and generally chance their arm. Inevitably someone loses the head and on this day – one suprised Arab gentleman found out that if you keep on pushing a certain young man with a U.K. passport – he will throw you against the wall. A good trick given the small space available. Myself – it took an unspecified but definite threat to the individual behind me that “if you push me one more time – I promise you it will be the last”.
- Now present your completed form, your 340Dirhams, your photos (or not) to the clerk that’s safely locked into his ticket office like box, smile sweetly and ensure he’s filled out the receipt properly – after all, he does have your passport in his hands now.
Seriously though – as we finally exited, I nearly fainted. Had to sit on the ground for a few minutes before I could stand up or even talk. I gratefully took the bottle of water and a mars bar offered me. I was exhausted, it was nearly noon. I felt like we’d done a days work this morning.
The plan was to return tomorrow at lunchtime and hopefully get the visas by mid afternoon.
We made our way back to the town centre as we’d arrived – in fractured groups.