11 Insider Truths about Safety in Morocco in 2023
The question “is Morocco safe ?” is probably one of the most searched questions about the country, which I completely understand. In fact, even if Morocco is a pretty popular travel destination, in many people’s heads, it gets mixed up with countries with civil wars and high terrorist activities. Luckily, there is nothing of that to be found.
I grew up in Morocco and still spend a lot of time there. I won’t lie to you, I am crazy about Morocco! It is completely safe, as much as any country in the world, right? Instead, I will detail the different aspects of typical security in Morocco to help you have a complete insider overview.
Is It Safe To Travel To Morocco?
To understand safety in Morocco, it is essential to understand some historical, social, and cultural factors. Terrorism, crimes, health matters, driving style, and women’s rights are some of the fundamental aspects to learn about before traveling to Morocco.
In response to your questions about the earthquake that hit Marrakech (High Atlas Mountains) on September 8th, 2023
The death toll from the 6.8 magnitude quake that hit in the High Atlas Mountains on Friday, 8th, 2023, rose to 2901, and the number of injured people is approximately 5500.
Marrakech region doesn’t have a highly active seismic activity. The probability of the earthquake hitting Marrakech again is much lower than in other destinations worldwide. And the thing with nature is that you never know where and when a catastrophic event will strike.
Suppose you are worried about how the city will look. In that case, I’m in touch with many riad owners and artisans in the area, and although there is some rubble in places, life in Marrakech is recovering quickly. You would be impressed at the efforts and progress locals and local authorities make. Some walls collapsed in the Medina (old section of the city), but the cleanup is very effective, and the rubble in these areas shouldn’t be a problem in a few days.
Jamaa El Fna and the Souk – Marrakech main sites – are all fine. This applies to all other key sites, including the Koutoubia Mosque and Jardin Majorelle. The only exceptions are the Bahia and Badi palaces, which are currently closed and awaiting structural checks. If they get the green light from authorities, they will be open on Monday, 18th September.
The airport of Marrakech is operating as usual – if you already booked your flight, it shouldn’t be impacted. Roads also usually operate, so taking a taxi or renting a car is possible. You can reach me here if you have any questions or want to help earthquake victims.
Terrorism in Morocco
The last terrorist attack suffered by Morocco occurred in 2011. It targeted a café in Marrakech, killing 15 people, tourists and locals. This terrorist attack was the first after the 2003 attack on a mall in Casablanca, targeting locals.
There are several reasons that might explain the fact that Morocco has been rarely targeted by terrorists. However, a subtle yet very important reason is that Moroccan society is rather gossipy. In fact, there is a funny saying in Morocco, which states that gossiping is Morocco’s national sport.
If you have the chance to travel to Morocco, you will notice that cafés are everywhere. In fact, men spend most of their free time drinking coffee while gossiping and catching up. Women also gossip while at home, in souks (local grocery stores) or the Hammams (traditional Moroccan spas). So if there is somebody who, let’s say, had changed their habits or started paying interest to some controversial subject, chances are high that the information will quickly spread and reach local law enforcement.
Gossiping is one reason, but there are obviously others. If you are interested in the subject and want to dig deeper, here is a great article that explains what makes Morocco less of a terrorist target than other countries.
This subject saddens me a lot. I was living in Paris when terrorist attacks happened in Morocco in 2011, and I was devastated. I also witnessed the terrorist attacks in France in Le Bataclan, café terraces, and the Stade de France, all on the same evening on November 13th, 2015. I was in France too when Charlie Hebdo was attacked. Each time it was terrible, unfair, and unpredictable, leaving us all in extreme shock and infinite sadness.
On December 20th, 2018, three men killed two Scandinavian female hikers in the Toubkal Mountain of Morocco. The three men appeared to be mentally imbalanced. While they said they were IS supporters, IS hasn’t yet confirmed being behind the killings.
That being said, and as detailed in the Washington Post, it was an isolated and unplanned act that had happened in an isolated place. Months later, the Moroccan court sentenced the three killers to death.
Personally, as a woman and for the reasons detailed in this post, I would never think of spending the night alone or with my girlfriends (or even male friends) in the mountains. Sadly, the two Scandinavian women were a little too adventurous and enthusiastic despite their local guide’s warnings. May their souls rest in peace and may this be a reminder to always stay safe.
It is clear that no one can predict future events or guarantee safety. No one can give us the assurance we are looking for. Fortunately, the facts and history of Morocco clearly highlight that we can worry less about terrorism when we travel there than when we travel to other tourist spots.
Crime in Morocco
Crime in Morocco is a moderate concern. In fact, the U.S. Department of State classified Morocco as a level 2 threat risk, the maximum level risk being 4. The most common crimes in Morocco are pickpocketing, robberies, and purse snatching. Violent crimes like murders and rapes are less frequent but must be taken seriously in some neighborhoods.
In Morocco, high-traffic tourist areas are mostly the target of pickpocketing and purse snatching. So keep your precious items hidden, even if no one is around you. Some assailants hide and use a scooter to quickly come and snatch your purse or handbag. Neck Wallets are recommended as they are discreet and impossible to snatch.
Purse snapping is very frequent in highly touristic areas
More aggressive, dangerous crimes can happen in some neighborhoods known for their hostility, even for locals. But this isn’t something specific to Morocco. Paris, New York, L.A., and nearly all big cities have those types of neighborhoods, where you don’t feel safe if you don’t blend in.
Fortunately, in Morocco, places like these are rare. The picture below shows an example of what how these neighborhoods look like. These neighborhoods are mainly an agglomeration of old houses and small traditional grocery shops with no tourist attractions.
Safety in non-touristy areas
So, if you don’t get very adventurous and stick to Morocco’s main tourist attractions, there is no way you will probably never end up in places like these, believe me!
Morocco Vaccine Requirements
Morocco doesn’t require special vaccinations and remains a safe country as regards health matters, unlike many African countries where vaccinations prior to the trip might be mandatory,
In 2018, a tourist died of rabies after a cat bite in Morocco. While this is really rare, it’s better to stay away from crazy-looking/dirty dogs and cats. If you get bitten, head to the closest hospital and get yourself checked. Rabies can be easily taken care of if treated quickly.
Other general safety measures apply. Don’t forget your drugs and prescriptions if you have any. ring your emergency kit, mosquito repellent products, sunscreen, and if possible, get typhoid and Hepatitis A (and even Hepatitis B) vaccines. Some essential oils can also be of great help in treating some travel inconveniences.
Other general safety measures can apply. Don’t forget your medicines and prescriptions if you have any, bring your emergency quit, mosquitoes repellents products, sunscreen and if possible, get Typhoid and Hepatitis A (and even Hepatitis B) vaccines. Essential oils can also be of great help to treat some travel inconveniences.
Another frequent travel inconvenience is the turista, a digestive discomfort that can occur during our trips either because of tiredness or a diet change.
Morocco is not a country at high risk of turista, but it is always better to be prepared. No one wants to spend their vacation in the bathroom, right? Here are my recommendations to avoid turista during your trip:
- Wash fruits thoroughly and peel them before you eat them.
- Switch to bottled water if possible, especially if you are in small cities or villages.
- Eat yogurt once a day to support your stomach with probiotics. Oh, and why not try the local Raïb? A Moroccan version of yogurt that is very tasteful and creamy.
- Use lemon essential oil throughout your trip to strengthen your immune system.
Driving in Morocco
If you are planning on driving in Morocco, I will start by giving you two pieces of advice as I drive in Morocco pretty frequently: 1-Be careful, 2- Be zen.
Driving in Morocco varies a lot from one city to another. Casablanca and Marrakech, for example, are by far one of the most stressful, messy and confusing places to drive in. If you’re bold enough to go on the road, you’ll be surprised by how rude people can be. A piece of general advice would be to avoid driving in Morocco except when really obliged to. Cabs are cheap and very convenient.
When I drive in Morocco, I am either amused or angry, depending upon my mood. The difference is enormous compared to the other places I lived in, such as France and the US. Moroccan people drive fast and don’t always respect the road signs. In a nutshell, it is a bit of anarchy at play. If you are used to driving in a straight line, one car behind the other, well, in Morocco, most people don’t do that. It’s like drivers have their own unwritten manual of road signs. So, don’t be surprised if the drivers unrightfully overtake your car from the right and the left. Really. Oh, and if you are in the front line and the traffic light has just turned green, either don’t waste your time and start the car immediately, or be prepared to be honked at furiously.
Here are my recommendations for a safe drive in Morocco:
- Focus and follow road signs. Above all, drive carefully.
- Don’t get distracted by honks and get pressured to do something rash. For example, if you are not ready to make a turn, don’t. Take the appropriate time to make your maneuvers.
- Stay zen.
- In town, cabs are your friends. They are cheap and very convenient.
Morocco and the LGBTQI Community
If you are part of the LGBT community, of course, you can visit Morocco and have a beautiful vacation, but on one condition: To be very discreet about your sexual orientation.
In fact, Morocco, due to its religious background, is not tolerant of any sexual manifestation in public spaces. For example, a man and woman, even married, cannot show affection in public, especially in small and conservative cities. Some places are more tolerant, so you might see couples holding hands, but not everywhere.
For LGBTQI people, showing affection or anything about one’s sexual preference can be dangerous as it is illegal. So discretion and this also applies to how you dress.
Women in Morocco
Women in Morocco and female safety is a subject very dear to my heart. In fact, women’s safety in Morocco is one of my battle horses. That’s why I developed an online platform to help Moroccan women enjoy safer choices when going for outdoor activities, entertainment, places to visit or dine at, etc. I am going to talk about that in a future article.
Although women’s safety in Morocco is above average, I find that Moroccan women don’t enjoy the same level of freedom and choices as men do overall. This applies especially to local Moroccan women who permanently live in the country. Fortunately, this doesn’t apply to female tourists who stick to tourist places. And guess what? These tourist places are the ones local women frequent whenever they want to go out and enjoy their freedom with safety.
In contrast, Moroccan men are the champions of catcalling. So, if you are a woman and experience such behavior, ignore the catcall, avoid eye contact, and keep walking. If you happen to interact with a man, try to stay neutral. No touching, laughing or flirting unless you want things to go further, as Moroccan men will misinterpret your signals.
If you get aggressively harassed (although it happens quite rarely in tourist places), yelling, screaming, and calling for help will intimidate the harasser and draw other men’s attention to hurry over to help you. But as I have said, this is quite an unlikely scenario.
My other recommendation for women would be to avoid wearing sexy clothes and showing a lot of skin. Unless you are with a local guide and he tells you it is going to be fine, Exposed décolletés, shorts, or mini skirts will draw catcallers’ attention. Make sure you pack your clothes smartly, and if you get catcalled, please don’t get offended. I know that such behaviors can make us very angry. But remember that you’ve made it all the way to Morocco to enjoy your time. So, just ignore anyone annoying you and have fun!
Useful Phone Numbers and Ressources to Stay Safe in Morocco
I highly recommend to US residents to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages as well as make it easier to locate you in an emergency. This applies to any location your travel to and is a general travel best practise.
The main emergency phone numbers in Morocco are:
Police: 19 (city) or 177 (outside of city : Royal Gendarmerie)
Ambulance and Fire Fighters: 15
Medical Assistance for US Citizens
Any American citizen who requires medical assistance or hospitalization may contact the U.S. Consulate (contact information below). The consulate will provide a list of several doctors and medical centers from which to choose.
U.S. Consulate General Casablanca Contact Information
8 Boulevard Moulay Youssef,
Telephone: +(212) (522) 642-099
Emergency: +(212)(661) 13-19-39
Fax: +(212) (522) 29-77-01
Website: U.S. Consulate General Casablanca
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