Nador (الناظور; Berber: Ennador) is a city of 150,000 people, located in the northeastern Rif region of Morocco. It has a Mediterranean port on the Bḥar Ameẓẓyan lagoon and is a major trading center for fish, fruit, and livestock. It’s linked to the Spanish city of Melilla 10 km to the north by a motorway. Nador Province is populated by a Riff-Berber population of more than 600,000. The economy has grown dramatically in recent years, particularly due to the manufacturing sector with the building of a metal processing complex supplied with iron ore from the Rif’s Wiksan mountain, anthracite from Jerada, textiles, chemicals, and electronics. In the summer months, large numbers of Moroccans originating from the area and living in Europe visit the city. The numbers of these annual visitors could easily exceed 250,000 in June, July, and August. Most stay with relatives or buy and rent apartments, rather than staying in Nador’s hotels. These visits give a tremendous boost to the city’s economy. Nador was infamous as a center of smuggling cheap Spanish and Chinese duty-free goods. The smuggling has declined, but is still alive, competing with a constant smuggling stream from Algeria. Many used consumer goods from Europe or China find their way to Morocco and into Africa via Melilla and Nador, both legally and illegally. The goods range from conserved food, clothes, shoes, electric home appliances, up to sophisticated hardware.
Malak Yakoubi, 4, cries while her single mother Maria Yakoubi, 37, cooks lunch in their home in Nador, Morocco. Her sisters Ikram, 16, and Sanah, 13, play with a cell phone in the background. Malak’s father abandoned them before Malak was born, right after Maria discovered she had breast cancer. After her parents in law kicked her and her daughters out of their house, Maria moved to this 35 euros/month apartment with electricity but no water, and started working as a “porteadora” or “mule lady” to make ends meet. Mule ladies carry merchandise from Melilla, Spain, to Nador, Morocco, for 10 euros aprox. per trip. Because of her health Maria can only make one trip per day, sometimes not even that. She describes the border as going to war. “It’s a prison without being a prison”, she said.