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Country Reports

Morocco Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

The majority of trips to Morocco (population 34 million) take place without major incident. However, individuals planning to visit Morocco are advised to consider extant security threats, which arise from both the country's domestic politics and regional geopolitical environment prior to travel.

TERRORISM

The country faces an elevated threat of terrorism. While no attacks have been perpetrated since 2011, extremist groups continue to operate clandestinely in the country. In the summer of 2014, Moroccan authorities increased the threat level due to the number of Moroccan nationals that had left to join the Islamic State (IS). As of mid-2017, around 1600 Moroccans had reportedly traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight for IS and there are fears that they could return to Morocco to carry out attacks following IS's major territorial losses in Iraq and Syria.

Despite the presence of several terrorist groups - specifically IS cells and Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - Morocco is relatively safe compared to its neighbors as national security has been a priority for the monarchy; in recent years, the authorities have broken up several terrorist cells suspected of planning attacks. Moroccan authorities have also tightened border controls, particularly at airports and land border crossings.

REGIONS TO AVOID

Travel to the vast Western Sahara region (266,000 km²; population 520,000), situated between Morocco and Mauritania, is ill-advised. Thousands of unexploded landmines are present throughout the region, which is claimed by both Morocco and Mauritania. The Polisario Front - a rebel group composed mostly of Sahrawi tribes that oppose Moroccan control over the Western Sahara - is present in the region. Pro-independence protests in Western Sahara are common, and are often violently dispersed by Moroccan security forces.

The entire Moroccan-Algerian land border is closed and crossing is forbidden.

SOCIAL UNREST

Popular protest movements of significant scale occur on a regular basis. Major demonstrations generally occur in urban areas. Though most protests take place peacefully, clashes between security forces and demonstrators cannot be ruled out. By law, all demonstrations require a government permit from the local police. However, spontaneous unauthorized demonstrations, which have greater potential for violence, can occur frequently: for example on university campuses or in city centers.

Protests have become particularly common in the Rif region since October 2016, notably in its capital Al-Hoceima, and regularly lead to clashes between protesters and security forces as well as arrests. These protests are organized by the grassroots "Popular Movement," which demands economic development to address unemployment. Sympathy demonstrations are also held in cities outside the Rif region, including Rabat and Casablanca. In the second half of 2017, authorities have cracked down on these protests and arrested scores of demonstrators, including the movement's leader Nasser Zefzafi, leading to increased tensions. These protests are likely to continue until demands are met.

It is advised to keep a safe distance from any gathering.

On October 7, 2016, legislative elections took place amid high tensions. However, the elections took place without significant eruptions of violence and resulted in the ruling Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD) remaining in power. The next legislative elections are expected to be held in 2021.

CRIME

Petty crime is common in high-traffic and high-density regions, such as the cities of Marrakesh, Casablanca, Tangier, Fes, and Rabat. Typical crimes include pickpocketing, bag snatching, and drive-by motorcycle theft of visible jewelry and handbags. Burglaries are relatively rare in affluent neighborhoods, but fairly common in low-income areas.

Incidents of violent crime occasionally occur. There have been incidents involving the use of knives against tourists in street thefts in the major cities and along beaches. Cases of harassment against women have also been reported. 

TRANSPORTATION

Traffic accidents are a major concern. Morocco has a record of poor road safety, partly due to local driving habits (e.g. poor-quality vehicles, high speed driving, disobeying driving laws, etc.). Poor street lighting and harsh weather conditions also contribute to the high rate of accidents.

"Petits taxis" - smaller taxis that are commonly found in most cities - hold up to three passengers. Most such taxis are metered. Some petits taxis will pick up additional passengers traveling the same route, at which point the fare will be divided. Each town features its own particular color for petits taxis; for example, they are red in Casablanca and blue in Rabat. Petits taxis are generally recommended for use rather than public transportation within cities. "Grands taxis" are usually white Mercedes cars that use fixed urban or interurban routes. They can be crowded and uncomfortable. These are generally not recommended for use by visitors except in rural areas where there are no other transportation options.

Buses may be used to travel between certain cities. Comfort and safety may vary according to the chosen company.

Train networks are poorly maintained and delays are common.

Moroccan international airports adhere to international air safety standards. Security personnel are present and the government has taken steps to improve airport security, especially since the terrorist attacks in Paris of November 2015.

NATURAL RISKS

Morocco is situated in an active seismic region; an earthquake struck near Al-Hoceima in February 2004 (northeast), leaving 300 people dead. In July 2017, two more earthquakes struck Al-Hoceima (magnitude 4.0) and Saidia (magnitude 4.9), leaving minor damage.

Furthermore, significant flooding in the High Atlas valley can also take place during the rainy season (November to March). Torrential rains may sporadically damage roads and result in landslides. Localized flooding is generally due to poor water discharge systems.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Telecommunications networks are good in major cities, with available internet access and developed 4G networks. However, access to telecommunications networks is limited in rural areas.

OTHER

Travelers should respect local traditions and customs, especially those linked to Islam. Do not eat, drink, or smoke in public during Ramadan (from mid-May to mid-June in 2018) and avoid public displays of affection (particularly near religious places). Entering mosques or other Muslim religious sites is prohibited for non-Muslims, except for designated tourist sites.

More generally, avoid drawing attention to yourself (dress modestly, do not speak of political/religious topics, do not criticize the royal family, etc.). Drinking alcohol in public is allowed only in licensed restaurants and bars.

Homosexuality is illegal in Morocco. Sexual relations outside marriage and prostitution are prohibited by law.  

HEALTH

Health services are usually of acceptable quality in large cities but are more limited in rural areas. All travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to departure.

There is a risk of leishmaniasis due to the presence of sandflies in both rural and urban areas. To avoid getting bitten by sandflies and contracting the disease, wear clothes that cover your skin. Leishmaniasis has two distinct forms: the cutaneous form that causes skin sores and visceral leishmaniasis that affects the body's internal organs.

To avoid contracting traveler's diarrhea or other digestive issues - common ailments for visitors to the country - wash hands regularly, drink only bottled or purified water, and avoid eating raw or undercooked foods and any foods that cannot be disinfected (berries, ice cream, etc.).

The risk of bilharziosis exists in the Anti-Atlas and High-Atlas mountain ranges, coastal areas, oases, and irrigated regions. Due to the risk of this and other parasitic infections, travelers are advised to avoid bathing, drinking, and washing clothes in in bodies of fresh water (lakes, rivers), and should not walk barefoot outdoors.

Rates of HIV/AIDS, although lower relative to other African countries, are rapidly increasing, particularly in large cities, areas popular with tourists, and the city of Agadir.

According to health authorities, there are also more than 300 cases of animal rabies reported per year, resulting in about 20 human fatalities. The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact with street dogs and other potentially infected mammals. If you are scratched or bitten, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Climate

The climate in Morocco varies by elevation and by region, with Mediterranean conditions in the north, more temperate conditions in the west, and arid conditions in the south.

The climate along the coast is temperate; between May and October the region experiences pleasant temperatures and sunny days. Winters are cooler but still sunny. The ocean remains cool throughout the year on the Atlantic coast. The Sirocco and Chergui, hot and dry winds from the Sahara, sometimes sweep through the country and significantly raise temperatures, particularly inland. In the mountainous regions conditions are cold and damp during the winter months with snow falling in the Atlas Mountains.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +212 Police-Emergency (inside agglomerations): 19 Royal Gendarmerie (outside agglomerations): 177 Fire Dept., Ambulance: 15

Electricity

Voltage: 127/220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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