“Hmar” is the word for a donkey in Darija, the Moroccan dialect. It is often used as an Arabic insult as it is seen as much stronger than any French word. It is the favorite expression of motorists when confronted by idiot drivers… and those parking badly!
On social networks, Arabic dialects are often written in Latin characters and the Arabic letters that are difficult to transcribe, because of pronunciation are replaced by numbers in their spelling. 7mar is written like that as the “7” represents the “ha” letter (“ح”), the first of “Hmar”.
Now 7mar has become a Twitter hashtag – #Alerte7mar – and used, with photographs, to shame those who park badly or inconsiderately.
The hashtag #Alerte7mar was the idea of Issam Benjelloun (IssamBenj with 1600 followers on Twitter), who clearly remembers when the idea occurred to him. He was on holiday in Spain and was in a 2000 place car park when he noticed a car parked across two spaces. The white number plate was Moroccan, with the number 1, indicating the city of Rabat.
“There, I thought. what a Hmar! This incivility filled me with disgust as these parking violations have truly become an everyday concern, in the street or even in the parking lot of my building where residents who have two or more cars try to take the parking places of others.”
The trend of posting photos of badly parked cars caught on and Issam encouraged the tweeters to make sure that in the photographs the number plate is clearly visible.
“I asked that the plate is clearly visible, these are people who invade a common public space and they are told in the face that we think of them. If you park as a simpleton, we show you on the network!”
Looking at the photographs posted it becomes clear that the worst offenders are the well-off with BMWs, 4X4 and Porsche in the majority. Issam explains: “Tow trucks are not equipped to remove automatic transmission cars, the drivers know it and benefit. There are also those who take two places because they have a nice car and don’t want risk a scratch.”
He also points out that in Casablanca a lot of drivers try to have a plate registered “1” in Rabat rather than the “6” Casablanca. They hope they will avoid problems if the parking inspectors think they are protected.”
In Morocco, the rivalry between Rabat and Casablanca is never far away and Issam admits to a certain pleasure to be able to shame the incivility and arrogance of some of the Rabat drivers with their mindset that assumes they can overcome the rules if they are lucky or boosted by their connections.
Some would even go further. On Monday morning on Moroccan radio, a speaker suggested the need to publish the names and photographs of drivers, others proposed to affix “Hmar” stickers on offending vehicles.
“It should not be that it becomes either the jungle, we are a country of law, we are not there to replace the authorities. It is a citizens’ initiative to draw attention to a problem and push governments to adopt solutions,” Issam responded. “In Casablanca, there are real parking problems: local elected representatives must take responsibility and resolve the issue. ”
This article was reprinted with permission from The View From Fez , a blog formed in 2005 to promote an interest and understanding of life and culture in the Medina of Fez and in Morocco.