Sep 1, 2005

The Muqaddim

At the top of the stairs of the old Hotel De Ville, through the main entrance, to the left, is the muqaddim's office. There is no name, no plaque, no official signs whatsoever. The muqaddim knows where everyone lives, sometimes without their knowledge. Everyone knows where the muqaddim works. It's a tall office with tall windows, old fluorescent lights, a wood veneer desk and behind it, the muqaddim himself. A small man for such a large room. He's 40, in gray slacks and a sports shirt. An anonymous figure but no banality of evil and not like the intelligence agent he is supposed to be. It is rumored that every Friday, sometimes more often, he funnels the latest reports to Rabat of who is where and doing what.

The phone is always between his cheek cheek and shoulder. He motions you to sit down. He greets you in a whisper. Meanwhile, others come in. They greet each other, whisper, and walk out. People come and go. Eventually, the muqaddim hangs up the phone. What can he do, he asks. You wish to have une letter d'attestation. It's a shame to bother you over such a small matter, I tell him, but Maroc Telecom needs this letter. Of course, he says. I give my carte. He quickly finds the proper form, pick up the ringing phone, gives me the form, with a pen, and motions me to fill it out. And while I am doing that, he reaches over and stamps first one signature, then another, and another.

He hangs up, takes my paper and goes away. Others come in during his absence. They look over his desk looking, like dogs over the dinner table. Everyone has this question on their face, "is it ready?"

The muqaddim's assistant returns along with a woman, carrying the application. There is a problem. She needs to see a letter of attestation from the university, a proof that I work at the university. But the police have that I say, pointing out that that information is on the carte de sejour. Yes, but we don't have it, the woman says. She's modern looking, wearing slacks, makeup, glasses on her head, a big smile. But all I need is to prove to the phone company that I live at this address. Isn't it duplication? I ask. It may be, she replies, but we need it. The police have it and we have it. But you both work for the same government, yes? Yes, but it is important that all the agencies have the same information. But this is just to get phone service. Yes, she says, I know, but this is the way it is. It's always like this. Everyone must be noted, we must fill out these requirements. It's not our doing.

We have no control, she adds. Don't you see?

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