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SafetyTravel Safety: Africa: Morocco

Morocco: Kingdom of Morocco
Capital: Rabat
Population: 31,167,783
Currency: Moroccan dirham (MAD)
Languages: Arabic (official), Berber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy
Religions: Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%
Borders: Algeria 1,559 km, Western Sahara 443 km, Spain (Ceuta) 6.3 km, Spain (Melilla) 9.6 km

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION ^
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with a Parliament and an independent judiciary. Ultimate authority rests with the king. The capital is Rabat. Morocco has an economy based largely on agriculture, fishing, light industry, phosphate mining, tourism and remittances from citizens working abroad. Modern tourist facilities and means of transportation are widely available, but they may vary in quality depending on price and location. The workweek in Morocco is Monday through Friday.

SECURITY AND SAFETY ^
A series of terrorist bombings took place in Casablanca on May 16, 2003. However, additional attacks have been thwarted by the vigorous efforts of Moroccan law enforcement since then. Although U.S. Government facilities were not the target of the Casablanca attacks (and no Americans were killed or injured), the potential for violence against American interests and citizens remains high in Morocco. Establishments which are readily identifiable with the United States are potential targets for attacks. These may include facilities where US citizens and other foreigners congregate, including clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels, movie theaters and 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.

While in Morocco it is important to be vigilant to one�s surroundings, and to maintain a low profile. All U.S. citizens are urged to consider seriously their personal security and to take those measures they deem appropriate to ensure their well-being. Report any suspicious incidents or problems immediately to Moroccan authorities and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco and usually center on local domestic issues. During periods of heightened regional tension, large demonstrations may take place in the major cities. All demonstrations require a government permit, but on occasion small, unauthorized demonstrations may occur. Travelers should be cognizant of the current levels of tension in the region and remain alert to their surroundings. Avoid demonstrations if at all possible. If caught in a demonstration get off the street immediately and seek a safer area such as a police station, firehouse, hospital, government building, shop, etc.

Although rare, security personnel in Morocco may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. As a general rule, travelers should not photograph diplomatic missions, government buildings or other sensitive facilities and, when in doubt, they should ask for permission from the appropriate Moroccan authorities.

The sparsely settled Western Sahara was long the site of armed conflict between government forces and the PolisarioFront, which had demanded independence. A cease-fire has been in effect since 1991 in the U.N. administered area. There are thousands of unexploded mines in the Western Sahara and in areas of Mauritania adjacent to the Western Sahara border. Exploding mines are occasionally reported, and they have caused death and injury. Transit to the Western Sahara remains restricted; persons planning to travel in the region may obtain information on clearance requirements from the Moroccan Embassy.

CRIME ^
Morocco has a moderately high crime rate in urban areas. Criminals have targeted tourists for robberies, assaults, muggings, thefts, purse snatchings, pick pocketing, and scams of all types. Most of the petty crime occurs in the Medina/market areas, transportation centers, parks and beaches. Commonly reported crimes include falsifying credit card vouchers and shipping inferior rugs as a substitute for the rugs purchased by the traveler. The U.S. Embassy and Consulate have also received reports of thefts occurring in the vicinity of ATM machines. Aggressive panhandling is common.

Some travelers have been befriended by persons of various nationalities, who have offered them food, drink, or cigarettes, which are drugged. Harassment of tourists by unemployed Moroccans posing as "guides" is a common problem. Prudent travelers hire only official tour guides through hotels and travel agencies. Thieves sometimes bump cars from behind and rob their victims when they get out of the car to inspect the damage. Taxis and trains in Morocco are generally crime-free; buses are not. Traveling alone in the Rif mountain area is risky because tourists have fallen victim to schemes involving the purchase and/or trafficking of hashish. Unescorted women in any area of Morocco may experience verbal abuse. The best course of action is to ignore such abuse. Some women who have responded have come under physical attack.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES ^
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offences. Persons violating Moroccan laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Morocco are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent.

PROSELYTIZING  ^
Islam is the state religion of Morocco. The Moroccan government does not interfere with public worship by the country's Christian or Jewish minorities. However, while Christians are allowed to practice freely, some activities, such as proselytizing or encouraging conversion to the Christian faith -- both considered to be legally incompatible with Islam -- are prohibited. It is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. In the past, American citizens have been detained or arrested and expelled for discussing or trying to engage Moroccans in debate about Christianity.

MEDICAL FACILITIES ^
Adequate medical care is available in Morocco�s largest cities, particularly in Rabat and Casablanca, although not all facilities meet high quality 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. 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 car accidents involving injuries, immediate ambulance service usually is not available.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS ^
Morocco is a moderately earthquake-prone country. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at: http://www.fema.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS ^
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens 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 it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Traffic accidents are a significant hazard in Morocco. Driving practices are poor, and they have resulted in serious injuries and fatalities to 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. Traffic signals do not always function, and they are sometimes difficult to see. Modern freeways link the cities of Tangier, Rabat, Fez and Casablanca. 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. 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. This procedure may take several hours.

While public buses and taxis are inexpensive, drivers typically exhibit poor driving habits, and the buses are frequently overcrowded.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at: http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Moroccan driving permits, vehicle inspection and mandatory insurance, please contact: Moroccan National Tourist Board, P.O. Box 22663, Lake Bella Vista, FL 32830, tel.: 407-827-5337, fax: 407-827-0146, website: http://www.tourism-in-morocco.com/.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT ^
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Morocco�s civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Morocco�s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation from within the United States at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA�s website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618) 256-4801.

TRAIN TRANSPORTATION ^
Train service in Morocco is fair to good. The trains are air-conditioned, comfortable and generally on time. Second-class cars are usually crowded, and passengers are not guaranteed a seat. First-class, which costs only slightly more than second-class, is less crowded, but it is not available on every train or in every region.

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Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

May 25, 2004

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