I have long heard terrifying tales of other Liberians of their experience while travelling either from or to Liberia from other parts of the world but for some reason, I felt their tales were a tad exaggerated.
Earlier this year, I had the worst travelling experience ever, while travelling back from the United States to Liberia. Initially, I was booked to return on SN Brussels, but, had to change due to the attack on the Brussels Airport. We got changed to travel back home on “Royal” Air Maroc.
Initially I was simply relieved that my travel dates hadn’t changed and said to myself “I just need to get home”. But little did I know what was in store for me. And others actually.
My first hint of what was to come was when we disembarked in Morocco. We got herded to room where an airport attendant who didn’t seem to speak any English beyond “Hello, Go There” scanned passports at the entrance of a room that seemed at the time after a long flight, the gateway to the Promised Land.
I noticed quickly that some people were allowed into the room, while others were directed to some other vague room down the hall.
When it was my turn at the door, I handed my passport to the security personnel who didn’t open it, just took one look at it and pointed me down the hall and said “Go. There”, pointing down the hall to a place I could not easily understand.
That was when I noticed that those who were being directed down the hall all had one thing in common: Liberian passports.
Those with American passports, Scandinavian passports or British or EU books were being allowed into the “promised land”.
Mind you, I had seen several Liberians whom I knew were all going the same destination as I was- Liberia- being allowed to enter, but because they had the “right book”, gained access.
So I took my weary self down the hall to find out where the other rejects were heading.
That’s when my nightmare really started.
The layover time was 13 hours. 13 long hours. I was tired. Sleepy. Hungry. I was having visions of a shower, nice bed and some sleep till the flight at 9/10pm. I even had illusions of prolong internet access where I could work while I waited the 13 hours away.
Ha! Illusions indeed!
We waited for 45 minutes for the airport attendant to call a shuttle for us. All this time siting on a bench. Like a reject. A prisoner.
In my mind I am still thinking ok, 13 hours, one already gone, we still got 12 more to go, they will take us to a nice hotel where we could rest.
It seems I had serious illusions of grandeur.
We got piled into a shuttle that took us to a building about a minute away. I walked into a large room with chairs and thought “this must be the hotel waiting area”. Little did I know, that this would be my comfortable illustrious waiting place for the next 9 plus hours!
Apparently some of the other Liberians had been on this route and knew the drill, me, “Johnny-Just-Come” was standing, looking around expectantly.
Then I noticed folks scrambling quickly for couches that were placed near electrical outlets and being a quick study (and possessing an immense love and connection to my slowly dying cell phone) I found a couch too, near a socket and sat.
I looked around then I saw others folding their bags near them and curling up to sleep. I looked at the chair, my “resident stopping place” as we say in Liberia which had a chair cover on it. The cover seemed like it hadn’t been near water in awhile. There were some questionable stains on it that had me mentally creeping.
But, it was either that or the floor or sharing a couch with someone else. No one seemed ready to have me share, plus, they all seemed unkempt.
So I spread my shawl (thank God for the forethought to travel with one) on the filthy looking couch and sat.
That’s when I heard the loud conversations (ehn you know us Liberians and loud talking ehn?) from a group near by who started lamenting the way Liberians and other west Africans are treated when travelling through Morocco. Where those (even
blacks) with USA, European or other passports get sent to a nice hotel where they receive meals and have access to internet, etc. but those with west African passports are brought here.
I decided like a few others I had noticed previously, to get on my computer and catch up on emails.
Ha! I worked for like one hour then I noticed that I was not connecting to the internet. That’s when I found out that you only get one hour of internet in the “lounge”.
I was not perturbed and decided to still work on my computer, minus the internet.
That’s when I noticed an influx of new arrivals. Within seconds the place became even noisier. It seemed the new arrivals had a lot of young children with them and the children were cranky from their own long flight I guess and decided to play out the tantrums on their weary mothers. Some of the mothers just allowed them to scream and cry their guts away while they pretended the kids didn’t exist.
One child even puke right there and that mess sat exposed for nearly 30 minutes before a custodian came by to clean it up. The mother was unfazed.
By 1, I saw people standing in line and heard the other Liberians muttering “lunch”.
I was not so hungry because I had had the smarts to travel with lots of nuts and snacks, but I needed to drink. So when I the lines went down a bit, I went up to get a few bottles of water. That’s when I was told oh no. you get one. I asked if I could buy a second bottle and was told No.
I took a glance at the “food” that was being given to the others and it took Jesus, Mary, Joseph and a host of Angels to help me not to puke like that child that threw the tantrum earlier.
When I got back to my now endearing couch, another traveler had encroached on my territory and made himself quite at home, with legs up. Hahaha
Of course I wouldn’t ask him to leave, and so, I had to share the couch with him for the next several hours, with no opportunity to lie back and sleep.
At about 5:00pm, an announcement was made for those travelling on so so and so flight to please go down stairs and get on the shuttle.
By then, I knew not to have any good expectations and I was right.
We got taken to the airport terminal where for a few blessed minutes, I again had access to internet and could quickly send notice to my family and check emails. Then of course, the joy was short-lived.
This time, there was no electrical outlet where I could charge my phone or computer as the one or two I saw around the terminal were being hogged by other travelers who seemed to guard it in a fierce, territorial manner that dared you to be brave enough to approach their sacred charging outlet.
By 7:00, I noticed that those who had been separated from us early in the morning, those with the “right passports” had been brought back in. That’s when I heard the odd “Liberian-American” series and the words I really find condensing and stupid “ Your Liberian people, your hello oh”.
Your Liberian people.
Not long after, boarding call was announced and we all filed into our flights back to Liberia.
The few blissful minutes of internet I had, I sent a picture of the food, the place to a friend and he said, we Liberians always complain, we need do anything about stuff. I told him, “well, I intend not to fly with them again and I will write a blog on my experience. Hopefully that will start an open conversation on how we can start to hold these airlines more responsible to us who are customers and paying same money as those with the “right passports”.
Do you have the right passport or the wrong passport?
Have you experienced the Royal Air Maroc superb hospitality?
Share your thought and stories. Lets start this dialogue.