MRE – to some Americans familiar with the military, that stands for "Meals Ready to Eat," the food for soldiers in the field. But we're talking here about the French acronym for Marocains Résidants à l'Etranger, Moroccans living abroad. The travails of MREs in Libya were profiled here in SOS Marocains en détresse, from Info Maroc.
Upwards of 4,000 MREs, including a small number of non-Moroccans, made it back to the port of Tangier-Med today from Libya. The evening TV news showed an impressive array of buses ready to transport them back to their hometowns in Morocco, with the Moroccan Red Crescent, the Fondation Mohammed V (which runs Operation Marhaba all year 'round for MREs returning on vacation), and the Ministry of MRE all deployed to make it as smooth a transition as possible.
I happened to be driving back from my first shopping trip to Ceuta while the second car ferry was offloading its passengers, in what the news said is the biggest ever Moroccan repatriation accomplished. They speak of some 100,000 Moroccans in Libya, of whom 7,000 have already returned home. Home to a much milder form of social protest than what they witnessed in Libya.
In a follow up to the events of February 20, the nightly news also showed small groups of peaceful protesters in Rabat and Casablanca, along with a roundtable organized by a national newspaper, with several of the young protest organizers and members of civil society. Coming back through Tangier, I noted that police had blocked vehicular access to one neighborhood, as well as cordoning off the approaches to the Place des Nations, where previous protests have gathered. News reports later spoke of "unauthorized sit-ins, dispersed non-violently." But there was no news of looting.
My main concern this afternoon was making it alive down the mountain road between Ceuta and Tangier. I should have paid more attention to the menacing black clouds, and at first I thought it was "just" going to be a rather intense lightning storm of hailstones, fog, and horizontal rain.
But I wasn't prepared for the slalom of median-crossing, left-side driving, fording raging torrents that was my Sunday afternoon drive. The picture above, taken through my windshield during a stop on the wrong side of the road, was the most I could manage. Even more spectacular temporary waterfalls, gouging out chunks of road, were seen as I drove white-knuckled down towards Tanger-Med and safety.
Thanks to considerate drivers who stuck together, warning of washouts ahead, and civic-minded bystanders who lifted hefty boulders to allow better water flow, we all managed to navigate downhill, downstream, as they used to say in the Scouts. It usually leads to civilization.
In this case, civilization was a dry highway on flat land. I celebrated by buying an ice cream cone at a roadside stop. The MREs weren't the only people happy to see Tanger-Med today.