“It’s like the wild west out here”

“Is there a post office in town?” I asked my host innocently. “I’d like to mail some postcards.”

She laughed for a while before she could answer.

“There is a post office, in a way, but the mail here is not so… reliable” she replied.

So began my introduction to the mysteries of the postal service and other governmental systems in Morocco.

She explained that the post office in this village is a room inside the commune (government building), and that it has one employee, who is paid by the government.

“She is supposed to be open five days, eight hours, you know, like a post office! But you see she has to make tagine or something and she is paid her salary either way, so she goes there only when she feels like it. Go between 11am and 1pm and you will have the better chance to find her.

“It used to be that the post office was outside the commune in the back, but then she was never there. You would go out back and shout her name, and it would go like dominoes — women shouting from window to window through the town ‘Fatima! Where is Fatima!’ and maybe after fifteen, twenty minutes they find her and she comes to open the post for you.

“So they moved the post inside and now she is there a little bit more, but still only sometimes and never at the same times from day to day.

“Also if you go and she is there, can you look in the bin of letters and see if there is one for me? She is supposed to sort and deliver the mail but she doesn’t like to do that unless you bribe her, so she throws all the letters for the town into a bin and you have to look through to see if there are any for you. Sometimes they are eaten by mice, though, and it is too late to read them.

“In the cities it is better – there are mailboxes and your mail is delivered, like in other places. When I have an important letter I have it sent to my cleaning lady; she lives in Agadir and the post is better there. But out here, you know, it is like the wild west!

“Also it is hard for them to deliver mail here; we only got street names in Taghazout in the last couple of years and many villages still have no street names. Last year they changed the number on my house, I don’t know why, there are no new houses on the street. But I just took some paint and painted it back to the old number, because I have my address on file for the taxes, I don’t want to change it for no reason! So now I have the same address as before, they have not come back to change it again, I don’t think they care anyway.”

Yesterday I bought postcards and stamps in a shop, and today I tried the post office at 11am. I couldn’t find it so I asked a man in the commune building. “Excuse me, where is the post?”

He pointed to a door. “There, but she is not here now.” He laughed.

Then he pointed me to a dusty yellow box on the street. “If you have letters to post, you can put them there in the post box.” I thanked him, and did so. Now we’ll just see if they arrive, or if they are eaten by mice or lost in a bin or thrown out due to lack of a bribe, out here in the wild west of Morocco. Fingers crossed!

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