New Continent, Same Tricks

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t strictly follow all road rules when driving in undeveloped countries. Maybe I don’t really follow any of them. Alright, alright, I admit it, I completely ignore them. Driving with the flow of traffic is much safer, and often intersections and speed limits are not signed anyway.

I’m standing on the side of the road with a policeman who is enthusiastically showing me a fantastic photo of the front of my Jeep. It’s in full color and my newly attached front license plate is surprisingly crisp. To be honest, it’s a great photo. Almost magazine worthy. The photo even shows I was driving at 74km/h (45mp/h) when it was taken. That’s cool.

The photo shows the speed because I’m looking at the screen of a fancy new radar gun. Uh-Oh.

He is short and stern, wearing an impeccable uniform with the kind of pomp and flair I imagine of English policemen in the 70s. There are so many stripes, badges and shiny things pinned on it’s difficult to tell what color the fabric is. He has a strip of a mustache that is probably supposed to command respect, but instead brings to mind B-grade movies and shady pool boys.

After waiving me down, he asks to see all my paperwork and checks and re-checks my passport, temporary import for Morocco, drivers license and vehicle insurance. He looks disappointed when he realizes everything is valid. I fumble through in French, betting my lack of it will dissuade further conversation.
He asks me to step out of the Jeep and follow him to his cruiser. Damn.

africa jk mauritania border 720x480

Dan and the Jeep in Morocco

The other officer is sitting in the cruiser smoking a Marlboro Red, not doing much of anything. This must be the boss. Huge reflective aviators cover most of his red round cheeks. I’m disappointed when his cheshire grin reveals not a hint of gold. Still in French they show me the radar gun and explain I was speeding in a 60km/h zone (40mp/h). I try to point out the lack of signs, the truck that was creeping along, and all the other cars that overtook it.
They are not having any of it.

I must pay a fine, I’m told. Everything will be OK. Not to worry. Don’t be afraid. No problem.
Only 600 Dirhams, about $60USD.

I must pay right now. Here. On the side of the road, to these two characters.
The obvious bribe.

With the most concerned look I can possibly muster I gravely nod, accepting my fate.
My voice trembles as I surprise myself with my acting abilities.

“I don’t have any money”.
“Can I pay with VISA?”.

They both grin from ear to ear and the mood lightens up.
“You can go”, says the boss. “Pay attention next time”.

As I hop back in the Jeep it dawns on me I wasn’t the only one playing the game.

He said that in perfect English.


10 Responses

  1. Y-guy says:

    Wow. Is it really safe not to pay bribes in this kind of situations? Those guys seemed friendly, but Im sure not all policeman/border patrolls in Africa are ok with not being bribed. Looking forward to the next update.

    • Dan Grec says:


      Actually, the police and military are some of the safest people I will encounter. They don’t want me to get hurt, that will cause a headache for them. Besides, do you think they’re actually going to physically hurt me for not paying a bribe?


  2. Mike says:

    Great story! I spent quite a bit of time in Morocco, and generally the police were good fellows. The other thing you may mention in the future is that you need to call the U.S. Embassy, we have a great relationship with Morocco, and the local police know they cannot screw that up.


    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Mike,
      Yes, all things considered the Police in Morocco are extremely friendly and accommodating.
      Two problems with calling the US embassy:
      1. I don’t have a phone.
      2. I’m not American :)


  3. Great anecdote and story. Love the “local taste” you’re providing, and letting the rest of us live vicariously through your adventure. Stay safe!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Mike,

      Thanks very much, I’m glad to hear you are appreciating it :)
      If there is anything specific you would like to hear about, ask away and I’ll do my best!


  4. Jordan says:

    Love that you’re rocking your free cargo shorts!

    Also – what’s that red thing on the driver side of the bumper?

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Jordan,

      Haha, I’m wearing them right now, actually !!! Haha
      I put reflective tape on the front and rear bumper – it’s a red strip when seen from the front/back and white on the sides.
      I believe there are a few countries where it’s mandatory, or at least a really good bribery excuse if I don’t have it.
      They tried to bribe me in Central/South America for not having it, and this time I’m trying to shut down as many bribery avenues as I can!


  5. Wesam says:

    Hey Dan,

    Been following you from keep up the great posts and have fun.

    One thing I wanted to mention, I know you left Morocco, but in-fact you do have to pay your tickets in person on the spot, they will give you a receipt for your ticket. If you can’t pay or have no cash, they will take your license and you will have to get the payment settled at a local police station.

    Best of luck on the rest of your trip.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Wesam,

      Thanks for the kind words and advice.
      As a rule, I will never, ever hand cash to a Policeman on the side of the road.
      If it means going to a Police station and do it in front of many witnesses, and a proper receipt and me taking photos, good. I also have a form I make them fill in – their name, rank, their photo, description of what happened, price paid, etc. “For my government”.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>