What makes Morocco a unique country to travel to?
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament and independent judiciary; historically, the king has been the dominant authority. The population is estimated to be almost 34 million. While Morocco has a developing economy, modern tourist facilities and means of transportation are widely available, though the quality may vary depending on price and location.
Crime in Morocco is a serious concern, particularly in the major cities and tourist areas. Aggressive panhandling, pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, theft from occupied vehicles stopped in traffic, and harassment of women are the most frequently reported issues. Criminals have used weapons, primarily knives, during some street robberies and burglaries. These have occurred at any time of day or night, not only in isolated places or areas less frequented by visitors, but in crowded areas as well. It is always best to have a travel companion and utilize taxis from point to point, particularly at night and when moving about unfamiliar areas. Residential break-ins also occur and have on occasion turned violent, but most criminals look for opportunities based on stealth rather than confrontation.
Women walking alone in certain areas of cities and rural areas are particularly vulnerable to assault by men. Women are advised to travel with a companion or in a group when possible and to ignore any harassment. Responding to verbal harassment can escalate the situation. The best course of action is generally not to respond or make eye contact with the harasser. Travelers should avoid soccer stadiums and environs on days of scheduled matches as large groups of team supporters have been known to become unruly and harass and even assault bystanders.
Joggers should be mindful of traffic and remain in more heavily populated areas. It is always best to have a jogging companion and avoid isolated areas or jogging at night. The use of headphones while jogging is discouraged for personal safety reasons.
Taxis in Morocco are generally crime-free, although city buses are not considered safe. Trains are generally safe, but theft, regardless of the time of day, sometimes occurs. Avoid carrying large sums of cash and be particularly alert when using ATM machines. In the event you are victimized by crime or an attempted crime, or experience any security-related incident during your stay in Morocco, please report the incident to the local police and the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca as soon as possible.
Fraud in Morocco may involve a wide range of situations from financial fraud to relationship fraud for the purpose of obtaining a visa. If you believe you are the victim of a fraudulent scheme, you may wish to consult with an attorney to best determine what your options are under Moroccan law. Since fraud can involve a wide range of circumstances, it is difficult to provide general guidelines on how to pursue criminal charges in these issues.
There have been instances in which a U.S. citizen has met a Moroccan online and come to live with or visit him or her in Morocco and found themselves in financial or otherwise difficult situations while in country. If you are concerned about a family member or friend who is visiting someone he or she met online, you can contact American Citizens Services at the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca at 212-522-26-71-51.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Morocco you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Morocco your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Arrest Notifications in Morocco: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
The official language is Arabic, and the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, called Derija, is the most widely spoken tongue. Derija is quite different from the classical Arabic of the Qur’an (koran), the scriptural text of Islam. Berber is the native language of about 35 % of the population, and it also includes several dialects. Other dialects are Rif, Tamazight and Shluh. French is widely spoken, especially in business, government, and higher education. Spanish can still be heard in the north, which was formerly under Spanish control. English is gaining popularity.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Adequate medical care is available in Morocco’s largest cities, particularly in Rabat and Casablanca, although not all facilities meet Western standards. Specialized care or treatment may not be available. Medical facilities are adequate for non-emergency matters, particularly in the urban areas, but most medical staff will have limited or no English skills. Most ordinary prescription and over-the-counter medicines are widely available. However, specialized prescriptions may be difficult to fill and availability of all medicines in rural areas is unreliable. Travelers should not ask friends or relatives to send medications through the mails or FedEx or UPS since Moroccan customs will impound the delivery and not release it to the recipient. Emergency and specialized care outside the major cities is far below U.S. standards, and in many instances may not be available at all. Travelers planning to drive in the mountains and other remote areas may wish to carry a medical kit and a Moroccan phone card for emergencies.
In the event of vehicle accidents involving injuries, immediate ambulance service usually is not available. The police emergency services telephone number is 190.
Safety and Security
The potential for terrorist violence against U.S. interests and citizens exists in Morocco. Moroccan authorities continue to disrupt groups seeking to attack U.S. or Western-affiliated and Moroccan government targets, arresting numerous individuals associated with international terrorist groups. With indications that such groups still seek to carry out attacks in Morocco, it is important for U.S. citizens to be keenly aware of their surroundings and adhere to prudent security practices such as avoiding predictable travel patterns and maintaining a low profile.
Establishments that are readily identifiable with the United States are potential targets for attacks. These may include facilities where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate, including clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, movie theaters, U.S. brand establishments, and other public areas. Such targets may also include establishments where activities occur that may offend religious sensitivities, such as casinos or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or consumed.
All U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and be vigilant regarding their personal security and report any suspicious incidents or problems immediately to Moroccan authorities and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco and are typically focused on political or social issues. During periods of heightened regional tension, large demonstrations may take place in the major cities. During most of 2011, many large cities in Morocco had weekly demonstrations ranging in size from several hundred to tens of thousands of demonstrators. In September 2012, demonstrations took place near the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca, as well as other cities in response to a YouTube video. By law, all demonstrations require a government permit, but spontaneous unauthorized demonstrations, which have greater potential for violence, can occur. In addition, different unions or groups may organize strikes to protest an emerging issue or government policy. Travelers should be cognizant of the current levels of tension in Morocco and stay informed of regional issues that could resonate in Morocco and create an anti-American response. Avoid demonstrations if at all possible. If caught in a demonstration, remain calm and move away immediately when provided the opportunity.
The Western Sahara is an area where the legal status of the territory and the issue of its sovereignty remain unresolved. The area was long the site of armed conflict between government forces and the POLISARIO Front, which continues to seek independence for the territory. A cease-fire has been fully in effect since 1991 in the UN-administered area. There are thousands of unexploded mines in the Western Sahara and in areas of Mauritania adjacent to the Western Saharan border. Exploding mines are occasionally reported, and they have caused death and injury. There have been sporadic reports of violence in the cities of Laayoune and Dakhla stemming from sporting events and from political demonstrations.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Morocco, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Morocco is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic accidents are a significant hazard in Morocco. Driving practices are very poor and have resulted in serious injuries to and fatalities of U.S. citizens. This is particularly true at dusk during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when adherence to traffic regulations is lax, and from July to September when Moroccans resident abroad return from Europe by car in large numbers.
Congested streets are characteristic of urban driving. Drivers should also exercise extreme caution when driving at night due to poor lighting systems along roads. Traffic signals do not always function, and are sometimes difficult to see. Modern freeways link the cities of Tangier, Rabat, Fez, Casablanca, and Marrakesh. Two-lane highways link other major cities.
Secondary routes in rural areas are often narrow and poorly paved. Roads through the Rif and Atlas mountains are steep, narrow, windy, and dangerous. Maximum caution should be exercised when driving in the mountains. Pedestrians, scooters, and animal-drawn conveyances are common on all roadways, including the freeways, and driving at night should be avoided, if possible. During the rainy season (November - March) flash flooding is frequent and sometimes severe, washing away roads and vehicles in rural areas. Often Moroccan police officers pull over drivers for inspection within the city and on highways. Confiscation of a driver’s license is possible if a violator is unable or unwilling to settle a fine at the time of a traffic stop.
In the event of a traffic accident, including accidents involving injuries, the parties are required to remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the police have arrived and documented all necessary information. The police emergency services telephone number is 190.
While public buses and taxis are inexpensive, drivers typically exhibit poor driving habits, and buses are frequently overcrowded. The train system has a good safety record. Trains, while sometimes crowded, are comfortable and generally on time.
Foreign driver’s licenses are valid for use in Morocco for up to one year. After that, foreign residents must pass the Moroccan driver’s test and obtain a Moroccan driver’s license.