Until the early 2000s, Morocco was a safe and comfortable country to visit. The post-September 11, 2001 environment requires visitors to prepare themselves before arriving and to take more care when traveling.
The 2003 Casablanca Attacks
In May 2003, suicide bombers killed 45 people, including 12 of the bombers, in Casablanca. No Jews were killed, but three of the five bombings targeted symbols of Morocco’s Jewish presence: a cemetery, a community center and a Jewish-owned restaurant. In September 2003, two Jewish men were murdered, one stabbed on his way to synagogue, the other shot point-blank by masked assailants.
The events of 2003 were a great tragedy for both Jews and Muslims in Morocco. While the loss of life was small compared to that experienced by Jews and Muslims in Israel and Palestine, it was a great shock to the Moroccan population. Most Moroccans experienced nothing like this in their lifetime. While no one should mistake the actions of the bombers with the sentiments of the Muslim population toward the Jews, it is understandable that Moroccan Jews felt a much greater sense of unease.
In response, the leaders of the Moroccan Jewish community reemphasized that Morocco has been an extremely hospitable and welcoming home for Jews. The Moroccan Government did likewise and increased security for Jewish institutions.
The 2011 Marrakesh Attack
In April 2011, another bombing took place in Marrakesh’s Jemaa el-Fnaa square, a popular tourist spot. It killed 17 people and injured at least 20. An Israeli-Canadian woman and a former writer for London’s The Jewish Chronicle, were among those killed. Most of the dead were tourists, including a group of French students.
US Department of State Security Guidance
Visitors must always inform themselves of the security environment and take precautions. In November 2020, the US Department of State recommends that potential visitors to the country reconsider traveling, due to COVID-19. In addition, its general advice notes:
“All countries in the region remain vulnerable to attacks from transnational terrorist organizations or individuals inspired by extremist ideology with little or no warning. The potential for terrorist violence against U.S. interests and citizens exists in Morocco. Long an important counterterrorism partner with the United States, Morocco’s capable security services have taken robust actions to guard against terrorist attacks.
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. Nevertheless, credible information indicates terrorist groups continue to plot potential attacks in the region, including Morocco. Lone wolf attacks are difficult to detect and disrupt and can occur without warning.
In December 2018, two Scandinavian tourists were murdered by three Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) supporters in the Imlil Mountains near Marrakesh. U.S. citizens are reminded to remain vigilant with regards to their personal security.
Establishments that are 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. U.S. citizen campers should camp in guarded campgrounds rather than isolated campsites.”
“Demonstrations occur frequently in Morocco, are typically focused on political or social issues, and are only rarely confrontational or violent.
- During periods of heightened regional tension, large demonstrations may take place in major cities.
- 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 aware of current events 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.
- Exercise increased vigilance in areas that attract large crowds, such as sporting events.”
“Crime in Morocco is a serious concern, particularly in major cities and tourist areas.
- Use common sense and the same personal security measures you would normally use in a large U.S. city or tourist destination.
- Do not leave bags unattended. Keep them in sight and avoid placing passports, cash, cell phones, or other valuables in the outer pockets of backpacks or purses, or on tables in public places. Do not leave bags slung over the backs of chairs, on hotel or store counters, on top of your suitcase or larger travel bag, or out of your physical control in hotel lobbies, train stations, restaurants, and other public locations.
- Aggressive panhandling, pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, theft from unoccupied vehicles, and harassment of women are the most frequently reported issues.
- Criminals use weapons, primarily knives, during some street robberies and burglaries. These crimes 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.
- Residential break-ins also occur and have on occasion turned violent, but most criminals look for opportunities based on stealth rather than confrontation.
- Travelers should avoid soccer stadiums and their environs on days of scheduled matches as large groups of team supporters have been known to become unruly and harass and assault bystanders.
- Joggers should be mindful of traffic and remain in more heavily populated areas. It is always best to have a jogging companion, dress modestly, and avoid isolated areas or jogging at night.
- At night and when moving about unfamiliar areas, avoid traveling alone and utilize “petit” taxis which vary by color in the major cities (Casablanca-Red, Rabat-Blue, Marrakech-Tan, etc.).
- Taxis* in Morocco are generally crime-free during day time, 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, please report the incident to the local police and the U.S. Consulate General in Casablanca as soon as possible.
* NOTE: Some popular web-based ride-sharing services have operated in Morocco; however, the French-based company Heetch is currently the only service legally authorized to operate by the Moroccan Government. Media report that drivers of web-based ride-sharing services have been harassed and assaulted by regular taxi drivers in the recent past.“
“The tourism industry is generally regulated in major tourist areas. Hazardous areas/activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. However, outside of these areas, the tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field.
In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.“
Victims of Crime
“U.S. citizen victims of crimes should contact the local police at 19 from a land line or 190 from a mobile phone, and the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca at (212) 522 64 20 99. Remember that the local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes. See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care;
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police;
- with written consent, contact your relatives or friends;
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms;
- provide a list of local attorneys;
- provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the United States;
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution;
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home;
- replace a stolen or lost passport.”