Melilla: The story behind the story, part 2

HAFinalAbdelillah (Abdo) Bezza and Houssam Ater are two 24-year-old college graduates from Nador. I caught up with them Saturday night at a plaza in Melilla, where they were playing guitar music and singing.

Abdo, who majored in tourism, took a break from his music and allowed me to interview him about Nador, Moroccan-Spanish border crossings and plans for the future.

What are you doing in Melilla?

I’m from Nador, but am in Melilla for fun because it’s Saturday night. I’m here for music, as I’m a vocalist. I play Arab and Raï music (“Raï” is a type of Algerian Bedouin folk music).

Is life in Melilla similar to life in nearby Moroccan cities?

There is nothing to do in Nador, so we come here. In Nador there are no gardens, no places like this (plazas).

How easy is it for you to cross the Moroccan-Spanish border?

People from Nador can enter Melilla, but not (those) from Oujda because of the Spanish-Moroccan demographics in (Nador). We can’t travel to other places besides Melilla in Spain.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to leave Morocco but have problems getting my visa because I’m not a student anymore.

As Houssam begins playing “Autumn Leaves,” Abdo cracks open a beer on a nearby lamppost and offers me some gum (I’m sure this was a question, not a suggestion, as my dad likes to point out). He accompanies Houssam by tapping his ringed pinky finger against the bottle’s glass before offering to show us around town. We explore Melilla’s old town and fortress, an exquisite rooftop covered in well-written graffiti and a luminous view of Melilla’s harbor.

After saying goodbye, Gi., Gy. and I return to our hotel. The next morning, our search for migrants begins in earnest.

Next time: We make contact.

For more on Melilla, check out Melilla: The story behind the story, part 1.

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