Maroc Telecom internet activation hell


Last time I was in Morocco, I marveled at how easy it was at the Casablanca airport to buy a SIM, get it installed on my phone and activated (by the guy at the shop btw). Voila, for about 24 USD I had unlimited internet, calling and texting for a month. Returning this time, I thought how easy it would be, because I already had the SIM chip. I inserted it, bought  a recharge card for 100 dirham, sent the activation text and received a response. Voila…or so I thought. My problem was that this time, I had no internet. So, I consulted the Google from my hotel where there was wi-fi to try to get an answer. Nothing I tried worked, and it just got worse and worse.

First, it seemed that I didn’t have the APN correct on my phone, and I was advised to send “Config Internet Jawal” to 505, after which I received a response telling me (in French) to use as my APN. I entered it, but nothing, no internet. So I restarted my phone several times, and…nothing.

I thought perhaps I didn’t have enough recharge credit to get internet, so I bought another 100 dirham card hoping it would give me internet. I hurriedly scratched off the silver part to reveal the code, but unfortunately damaged the number and entered it wrong a couple of times, which resulted in an SMS telling me my account was blocked and to call 888 for help.

So I called 888 for service, but the first 50 or so times I tried, it was always busy. This went on for the better part of a day. I noticed a strange thing though. It would ring through sometimes if I was connected to wi-fi. Unfortunately, the phone tree on the other end was in Arabic, and I could not understand anything. After calling about a hundred times and frenetically pushing all buttons, I hit upon a combination that proved useful. Hitting 2, then 2 again after a message change, the messages were suddenly in French. Hallelujah! I was finally able to understand what they were saying. I got through to an operator, who explained to me a couple of things. One, my account was locked by the system for 24 hours, and there was nothing I could do until then. And two (very very important), to activate internet using a recharge card, one needs to send the code FOLLOWED BY *3 to indicate internet activation instead of plain phone activation. I am mostly writing this here in the hopes that it will help some other poor fool traveler like me, who searched and searched in vain and never once saw this CRUCIAL piece of information written ANYWHERE on the internet, and not on the recharge cards themselves.

So, after dutifully waiting 24 hours, and having purchased another recharge card (this time for 50 dirham which would give me 10 days of internet), I tried to enter my new code which I had very carefully and lovingly scraped so as not to damage the fragile card. Unfortunately, I got the same fucking message back about my account being blocked. Once again, I called the (ironically named) service number (this being old hat for me by now) and spoke with an operator who told me to wait 24 hours. When I informed her that I had already waited the 24 hours, she looked at the records and said basically “Oh yeah, that should work by now. Hm.” She then made a note in my file and told me someone would get back to me.

Of course, no one ever did, and I continued to try my code in vain throughout the day, but nothing. Just the same message about my account being locked. So, having completely given up on ever having internet on my phone this trip, I tried my code one last time this morning (48 hours after original lock) and OMG. I now have internet!

Again, this post is mainly a public service by me to help out others who are probably pulling their hair out and eyeing razor blades with longing.