Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED RABAT AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Morocco-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Crime in Morocco is a moderate concern, particularly in major cities and tourist areas. The Moroccan government has not published statistics pertaining to crime; however, in December 2016, the Moroccan National Police (DGSN) issued a public statement indicating that 466,997 people suspected of committing crimes were arrested in 2016. According to the DGSN, this marked a 23% increase from 2015. This information does not specify the types of crimes allegedly committed. Although there is limited available information, this likely indicates that the frequency and intensity of criminal activity remains moderate. Rabat is generally considered safe due to the volume of security forces deployed in the streets. Crime has not affected expatriates to an unusual degree.
The most common crimes tend to be crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, robberies, purse snatching, burglaries, theft from unoccupied vehicles, harassment of women, similar crimes) perpetrated by criminals who primarily operate in high-traffic and high-density areas. One common petty theft scenario is for two assailants on a scooter to approach a victim, where the passenger will snatch valuables from the victim. Pedestrians walking alone in isolated areas, or late at night, are at greater risk for being targeted.
While crime does not pose a significant threat to Americans in Morocco, foreigners are often targeted due to the appearance of affluence. Criminals tend to focus on persons who appear unfamiliar with their surroundings, are dressed in obviously foreign clothing, or otherwise draw attention to themselves. Pickpockets and bag snatchers may target pedestrians, especially in larger urban areas. While street crimes (pickpocketing, robbery, simple assaults) are not uncommon, areas frequented by foreigners are generally less vulnerable since they enjoy a more robust police presence. Visitors are advised to guard their possessions carefully if riding on public transportation or in heavily trafficked tourist areas. Leaving any item of value unattended in a public place or in a vehicle in plain sight can make that item the target of petty theft.
The crime threat is greater in urban and tourist areas. The majority of crimes against tourists and visitors are reported in Marrakech, followed by Casablanca, Tangier, Fez, and Rabat.
Firearms are not common; most armed assailants use edged weapons (knives, razors, daggers).
General theft and residential burglaries are commonplace in low-income neighborhoods and do occasionally occur in more affluent neighborhoods. Since most burglaries are crimes of opportunity, a well-secured home is often enough to deter criminals. Residential break-ins tend to occur during the day when homes are unoccupied, although break-ins while the home is occupied do occur. It is best to lock doors and windows. While it should be assumed criminals are prepared for confrontations, most generally avoid violence. Americans should live in homes that are equipped to prevent unauthorized entry. This generally means having security grilles protecting accessible windows and glass doors; exterior doors should be solidly built and have a minimum of two deadlocks; single-family homes should have a perimeter wall that discourages intruders from entering the premises. Apartment dwellers should consider the possibility of intruders gaining access via adjacent balconies or structures. They should also ensure that there are functional locks or other protection for areas vulnerable to unauthorized entry.
Tourists are advised to travel in pairs/groups, drink in moderation, maintain control over drinks, and never accept drinks from strangers. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.” Visitors should avoid being out alone and during late-night or early morning hours.
ATMs are generally safe to use if normal precautions are observed. 2016 witnessed several documented cases of debit/credit card fraud. In all cases, the victims reported money being withdrawn from their accounts after using their cards at ATMs or being billed for unaccounted charges to their credit cards after using them at local establishments. In 2014, police in Marrakech seized skimming equipment affixed to two ATMs before accounts were compromised. Despite these incidents, debit/credit card fraud is not a widespread problem. If you are with a friend or a colleague, have them watch the surrounding area as you are focused on completing your transaction at an ATM.
Cybercrime remains limited to common scams requesting money upfront for promised services or chances to obtain more money with a down payment.
Other Areas of Concern
Travel to the Western Sahara is possible, though visitors should be aware of the political importance of the area to the government; high-profile visits or visitors may be monitored.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Roads vary from high-speed toll roads to secondary roads, which may be poorly maintained. Speed limits are clearly marked; gendarmerie and police radar speed traps are frequent along highways and toll roads. It is common for police to stand in the road and wave vehicles over. If stopped for speeding, expect a fine. Legitimate fines can be paid on the spot. Traffic enforcement authorities sometimes ask for bribes; valid traffic fines will be accompanied by paperwork, similar to a traffic ticket in the U.S. 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. Checkpoints are common when entering towns or cities. These are in place for security reasons, and foreign visitors are rarely questioned.
Road conditions vary by season. Heavy rains can wash away sections of road and create sink holes large enough to swallow a car. During the winter, heavy snow can close roadways in mountainous areas.
Traffic accidents are a significant hazard. On average, more than 11 Moroccans die in motor vehicle accidents every day; the fatality rate for motor vehicle accidents is approximately twice that of the U.S. Driving practices are very poor and have resulted in serious injuries and fatalities. This is particularly true at dusk during Ramadan, when adherence to traffic regulations is lax, and July-September when the Moroccan diaspora return from Europe by car in large numbers. In the event of a traffic accident, including those 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.
Drivers are erratic and often fail to stop/yield when required. A wide variety of vehicles (bicycles, scooters, donkey carts) share the roads, including freeways. Many cars are older and poorly maintained. Trucks are often overladen and poorly maintained; it is common to see them overturned or broken down along highways. It is common for drivers to execute right turns from the left lane and vice versa. Drivers should exercise extreme caution when driving at night due to poor lighting systems. Traffic signals do not always function and are sometimes difficult to see.
Drivers are only allowed to use cellular phones with hands-free devices. Visitors who self-drive must have their passport and driver’s license with them and will be required to present these documents if stopped by the local police or Royal Gendarmerie. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Public Transportation Conditions
Travelers need to keep an eye on their belongings when using any type of public transport.
Petit taxis are common in most cities and hold up to three people. These taxis often use a meter. Each town has its own particular color for petit taxis; they are red in Casablanca and blue in Rabat. Seatbelts might not work. Petit taxis cannot be used to travel between cities.
Grand taxis are white Mercedes 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.
Due to several recent protests and demonstrations by Casablanca taxi drivers against smartphone-based for-hire vehicle services or online ride-sharing platforms, as well as reported incidents of harassment involving taxi drivers toward smartphone-based for-hire drivers, the Embassy and Consulate recommend caution in the use of urban public transport within Casablanca. There have been no reports of such incidents in Rabat though these platforms are not yet common throughout Morocco.
While public buses and taxis are inexpensive, driving habits are poor, and buses are frequently overcrowded.
Intercity buses are common and range from nice to decrepit. Avoid nighttime travel on buses for traffic safety reasons and use newer buses that seem to be in reasonable mechanical condition.
The train system has a good safety record. Trains, while sometimes crowded, are comfortable and generally on time. Trains are primarily used for transportation between large cities but do not service all cities. Morocco’s train network is extensive. Train destinations and times can be located on the ONCF website, which is in French and Arabic. There has been anecdotal reporting of sexual harassment occurring on the trains though this does not appear to be a rampant problem.
Rabat-Salé area has a new, modern, tram system.
The U.S. DHS Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) assessed the government of Morocco’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation security standards for oversight of Morocco’s air carrier operations.
Rabat-Sale Airport (Rabat’s international airport), which provides international and domestic flights, is located just north of Rabat. The airport adheres to international air safety standards, as do management of flight operations. In 2016, TSA provided training to Moroccan Nationals from the National Police (DGSN), Gendarmerie, ONDA, the Ministry of Transportation on screening, screening equipment and internal security measures. TSA was also invited to participate and served as an observer in the Tangier Airport Hijacking Exercise in December 2016. The government has taken steps to improve airport security and since the terrorist attacks in Brussels Airport in March 2016, there has been a noticeable augmentation of police and security personnel in/around the airport. Moroccan international airports only allow ticketed passengers to enter their airport terminals.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED RABAT AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
In 2016, Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts mitigated the risk of terrorism, although the country continues to face threats, largely from small, independent, violent extremist cells. The majority claim to be inspired by or affiliated with ISIS. While there have been no attacks since 2011, there have been calls for attacks targeting government institutions/personalities and Western interests/soft targets. ISIS continues to call for attacks against the Moroccan monarchy and prominent Moroccan institutions and individuals.
During 2016, authorities reported the disruption of multiple groups with ties to international networks that included ISIS, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Al-Nusra Front). According to local media, Moroccan security forces dismantled 18 terrorist cells and conducted 161 terrorism-related arrests in 2016, including French, Chadian, Algerian, and Italian nationals.
The government remains concerned about the potential return of Moroccan foreign terrorist fighters to conduct attacks at home and Moroccans residing abroad becoming radicalized during their stays in Western Europe. Moroccan authorities reported that 1,622 Moroccan foreign terrorist fighters have been identified.
Regional events that inflame public opinion can incite large demonstrations. If these demonstrations are against Israel, they are often also anti-American. While crowds remain generally peaceful and the vast majority of incidents are not anti-American, Americans should maintain a low profile. Establishments that could be perceived as catering to U.S. or Western visitors or those owned by Western companies could be potential targets for terrorism. Visitors should remain particularly alert and informed during periods of heightened tension in the country and the region.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED RABAT AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco and are typically focused on political or social issues. During periods of heightened regional tension, large demonstrations may occur in major cities. Demonstrations require a government permit, but spontaneous, unauthorized demonstrations, which have greater potential for violence, can occur. Impromptu protests have arisen on university campuses, in city centers, or other locations where there are internationally-affiliated facilities, and they are usually in response to domestic issues. Unions or other groups may organize strikes over an issue or government policy. Unauthorized protests have been tolerated to a greater extent than they have been in the past.
- In October 2016, protests erupted in major cities over the death of a fishmonger, in a dispute with local authorities, in Al Hoceima.
- In March 2016, a large-scale protest occurred in Rabat in response to the former UN Secretary General’s comments on the status of the disputed Western Sahara. While largely peaceful, the sheer size of the demonstration (estimated at 300,000 people) disrupted traffic.
Avoid demonstrations. If caught in one, remain calm and move away as quickly as possible.
Environmental hazards mainly revolve around flooding and the occasional earthquake.
- The rainy season (November-March) often results in flash floods in the mountainous and desert areas. These floods can cause landslides and damage roads, making them impassable. Strong rains can overwhelm drainage systems and cause flooding. Major roadways, including the high-speed toll roads, have been closed for hours and side roads for days due to standing water.
- Morocco does experience earthquakes. Strong earthquakes are relatively rare. There have been damaging earthquakes in the north (near Al Hoceima), and the south (in Agadir). The most recent earthquake occurred in late January 2016 off the coast of Morocco in the Mediterranean Sea.
Few industrial accidents are reported in Morocco. Hazardous chemical spills on highways are a top concern for the government. Aging buildings, especially in the Medina or “old city” of major cities, can be hazardous. Building collapses occur occasionally.
The government of Morocco has made considerable strides in improving its IPR regime, including combatting counterfeit goods. Morocco has signed the multi-national treaty, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). In 2014, Parliament approved an IPR law that streamlines the patent application process and consolidates enforcement of IPR by improving procedures for the destruction of counterfeit goods, enlarging the scope of border investigations, and providing complainants enhanced judicial remedies through civil and criminal courts to defend their rights. Morocco’s capacity to detect and address Internet-based IPR violations remains inadequate in some respects. Counterfeiting of consumer goods is still common, and U.S firms allege that the use of pirated software is widespread. Although Morocco’s IPR legal framework is strong, as Morocco continues to strengthen its enforcement, companies must implement internal control mechanisms to counter this type of threat.
Privacy concerns are not handled in the same way as in the U.S.
Personal Identity Concerns
Harassment of women is somewhat prevalent. Legislation has been enacted to punish any form of sexual harassment; however, the law is new, and authorities are still trying to determine how best to enforce it. Moroccan men will engage in whistling/hissing/staring/yelling and, on occasion, inappropriate physical contact. Attempts to coax women into cars occur with some frequency in smaller cities and rural areas. In 2015 and 2016, there was an uptick in reports of sexual assaults and rapes. Incidents of assaults and harassment typically affect woman who are walking alone at night. However, assaults have also taken place in daylight and at public events with many witnesses though these incidents are rare. Visitors, especially females, should make a concerted effort to travel in pairs and avoid walking alone at night.
LGBT persons may face a great deal of pressure/discrimination. While there is a perceived level of tolerance, homosexuality is illegal, and open displays of affection will attract unwanted attention.
The government places strict controls on religious preaching; Imams have been under close state control. Proselytizing (outside of Islam) is prohibited, and as recently as 2010, proselyting evangelical Christians have been deported.
The drug trade is thoroughly entrenched in Morocco. The primary drugs exported are cannabis derivatives. Most of the drugs produced or transported are destined for European markets. Morocco has become a transit country for cocaine traffickers from South America into sub-Saharan countries and Europe. The government places some effort into fighting narcotics trafficking, and while authorities have been implicated in assisting traffickers, when caught, they are tried and punished. Penalties for possession of narcotics are severe, and suspected traffickers will be dealt with harshly.
Kidnappings are not prevalent in Morocco; however, there have been a number of abductions of Westerners by terrorist organizations in the Sahel, particularly in Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and the southern desert regions of Algeria. In November 2016, Moroccan media reported that an alleged dismantled terrorist cell reportedly kidnapped an unidentified individual in Tangier.
Law enforcement officials are reasonably well trained, with many attending international training programs. The police are understaffed and, in some cases, underequipped. A quick response and the familiarity of the police with the people and area they patrol can result in quick arrests of perpetrators if crimes are reported in a timely manner. In general, however, the police primarily rely on confessions to determine culpability (though efforts are underway to move to an evidenced-based system).
All police officers speak French or Arabic; however, English speakers may not be readily available.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Police harassment of foreign nationals, especially Americans, is very rare. There have been incidents where Americans have been arrested/detained. Any American arrested or experiencing legitimate police harassment should contact American Citizen Services (ACS). ACS can be reached at +212 (0) 522-642-099 from Mon-Fri 0800-1700. If you have an after-hours emergency, please call +212 (0) 661-131-939.
Crime Victim Assistance
The police emergency number is 110. Response is dependable. The 24/7 emergency contact number for the U.S. Embassy in Rabat is +212 (0) 537-637-777. The 24/7 emergency contact number for the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca is +212 (0) 522-642-119.
Some U.S. citizens report that police procedures appear to be less sensitive and responsive to a victim’s concerns, particularly in cases of domestic violence or sexual assault or when the victim and the perpetrator are foreigners, compared to the procedures in the U.S. Few victim assistance resources or battered women’s shelters exist in major urban areas, and they are generally unavailable in rural areas. Investigations of sexual assault crimes are often conducted without female police officers present, and police typically ask about the victim’s sexual history and previous relationships.
The police force is based on the French system, with the National Police (Sûreté Nationale, DGSN) enforcing laws in the urban areas and the Royal Gendarmerie in the rural areas.
- Uniformed DGSN officers are easily identifiable by their navy blue pants, white shirts, blue jackets (in colder months), and blue baseball caps.
- During the winter (November-May), the Gendarmes wear gray uniforms. In the summer (June-October), they wear blue uniforms. Gendarmes who patrol the highways will also wear a white belt around their waist and shoulder.
Morocco has adequate medical services in the larger cities, but the quality of care diminishes elsewhere. The medical facilities and hospitals in Rabat and Casablanca can treat most general illnesses and can provide emergency trauma care. Specialized care is not as easily accessible in Morocco. French and Arabic are widely spoken by medical personnel; English is less common.
Over-the-counter drugs that may be obtained from pharmacies in large cities may be difficult to impossible to find in the smaller cities or rural areas. Specialty prescription medication may be difficult to locate even in Rabat or Casablanca. . For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”
In the event of a medical emergency or serious traffic accident, immediate ambulance services are usually not available.
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
Cheikh Zaïd Hospital
cité Al Irfane, hay Ryad, avenue Allal AlFassi
Director: Pr Elhassani Amine
Military Hospital Mohamed V
Intersection of avenue Al Melia and ave Abderahim Bouabid. Hay Riad.
Medecin chef: DIMOU, M'Barek.
Admin ext: 5505
Clinique Les Nations Unies
Av. des Nations-Unies, rue Ibn Hanbal, Agdal.
# 6 place Talhah, Avenue. Ibn Sina, Agdal.
Director: Dr. Hamdouch Mohamed Zineddine (general surgeon)
Clinique la Capitale
# 46 Avenue du Chellah.
Available Air Ambulance Services
Union Marocaine d’Assistance (Tel: 0522-45-0000) can arrange a variety of medical transport and services within Morocco and air evacuation to Europe. They will need verification of ability to pay up front. English is spoken.
There are other global air evacuation services available.
Travelers should consider informing themselves of insurance and flight options before leaving home.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Morocco.
OSAC Country Council Information
Due to Casablanca’s status as the commercial center of Morocco and the volume of American businesses situated there, the OSAC Country Council resides in Casablanca. The Council tries to meet quarterly. As the Country Council is jointly managed by RSO Rabat and RSO Casablanca, OSAC inquiries, to include joining the Country Council, can be directed to both the RSOs. RSO Rabat can be reached via email or +212 537 637 692 and RSO Casablanca can be reached via email or +212 (0) 522 64 2084. Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Rabat
Km 5.7, Avenue Mohamed VI
Souissi, Rabat 10170 Morocco
Embassy Contact Numbers
U.S. Mission Morocco Duty Officer (after hour emergencies only): +212-661-13-1939
Regional Security Office: +212-537-63-7734
Consulate General Casablanca: http://casablanca.usconsulate.gov/
The Regional Security Offices at the U.S. Embassy in Rabat and at the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca remain the best sources of information for the latest on the security situation in Morocco. Utilize the country specific information on Consular Affairs webpage for additional travel information and for the latest Travel Warnings and Public Announcements regarding the security/safety situation in the country or region. All travelers should enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.