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Moving to Morocco

Both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea create an extensive coastline along Morocco's northern border, while the interior is mountainous. Morocco's landscape is incredibly diverse, and it is populated by plateaus, luscious valleys and fertile plains, with the Sahara Desert taking up the far south and causing the heat the country is known for. 

Expats moving to Morocco will be greeted by a colourful land characterised by scenic beauty, bustling marketplaces and delicious food. Most expats move to Rabat, Casablanca or the red city of Marrakesh. Though the expat population in Morocco is relatively small, it's growing steadily.

Living in Morocco as an expat

Expats looking to work in Morocco may struggle to find a job. Tourism is traditionally a large industry and may therefore be an option for expats looking for employment. Otherwise, opportunities exist in the technology and business sectors, especially for multilingual expats. Many expats may also find employment in teaching English.

Arabic and Berber are the official languages in Morocco, but expats will find that French is more commonly used in business. Brushing up on their language skills will certainly help expats make headway in communicating with the locals and reading road signs.

While expats may have reservations about relocating to an Islamic country, they'll find that Morocco is far more liberal than most expat destinations in the Middle East. It lies at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and elements of these different cultures are visible in everyday life.

Moroccans tend to be open-minded and are interested in learning about new people and other ways of living. Privacy in the home is something which is treasured, so there is little concern about what expats do behind closed doors.

Expats have plenty of options when it comes to outdoor pursuits – hiking and biking in the Atlas Mountains and swimming in the Mediterranean are just a few of the exciting activities Morocco has to offer. Food is also central to Moroccan culture, and the country is a foodie's dream.

Cost of living in Morocco

The cost of living in Morocco is relatively low, especially in comparison to Western Europe and North America. Casablanca ranks 158th out of 227 global cities surveyed in the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, while Rabat is ranked 174th.

Property prices are incredibly reasonable, which is why most expats living in Morocco choose to buy a home rather than rent. As domestic help in Morocco is readily available and affordable, expats will find that they have more time for leisure activities.

Safety in Morocco

Expats generally find Morocco to be a safe place. That said, constantly being followed by hustlers offering directions or trying to sell various goods can be a problem, especially for Western expats and women. This is, however, more of an annoyance than it is dangerous.

Expat families and children in Morocco

While public schooling in Morocco is not up to the standards many expats may be used to, several international schools in the larger cities teach at an excellent standard and offer superb facilities. International school fees are expensive when based on local standards but are typically cheaper than those in Europe. Despite this, expat parents will have to take the cost into consideration when choosing a school that will suit their budget. 

Climate in Morocco

Morocco has a tropical climate, with soaring summer temperatures, while winters can drop to 41ºF (5ºC). The interior is generally hot and dry, while the coast has weather typical of other Mediterranean countries. 

Ultimately, expats moving to Morocco should do so with a sense of adventure. For those who can overcome the language barriers and elements of culture shock, expat life in Morocco is a rewarding and enriching experience. 

Fast Facts

Population: More than 37.8 million 

Capital city: Rabat

Other major cities: Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech 

Neighbouring countries: Algeria and Spain

Geography: Morocco's coast is adjacent to a stretch of fertile plains that runs along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The northern and interior areas are mountainous, while the southeast is arid. 

Political system: Parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Major religions: Sunni Islam

Main languages: Arabic, Berber dialects, French

Money: The Moroccan Dirham (MAD) is the official currency, and it is divided into 100 santimat. 

Tipping: Although there isn't standard tipping etiquette, it's usual to tip 10 percent of the bill for services rendered.

Time: GMT (GMT+1 from the last Sunday in March till the last Sunday in October)

Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz. Round, two-pin plugs are used.

Internet domain: .ma

International dialling code: +212

Emergency contacts: 190 (police) or 150 (ambulance and fire department) 

Transport and driving: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Although the Moroccan government has focused on improving its roadways, some roads in Morocco are still in need of repair. There are also buses, taxis and trains available to ensure expats can get around in the country.

Diversity and inclusion in Morocco

Accessibility in Morocco

According to a UNDP report, Morocco is home to around 728,000 individuals with disabilities, constituting 5.5 percent of the population. These individuals often face barriers to public services and social participation, discrimination and societal stigmatisation. To address these issues, Morocco has initiated various measures, such as harmonising the legal framework, standardising sign language, digitising the disability certification process and actively monitoring progress in the realm of accessibility. These efforts aim to foster an inclusive environment for both citizens and expats.

In the urban transport sector, Morocco has focused on enhancing infrastructure, especially considering that 60 percent of the population resides in urban areas. With the support of the World Bank and a grant from the Japanese government, the Programme-for-Results Urban Transport Programme is working to connect people, particularly those with limited mobility, to job and economic opportunities.

Marrakesh has led the way, piloting an initiative to improve urban accessibility infrastructure. The Marrakesh model is being adopted by other cities planning substantial public transport infrastructure projects, which is crucial for meeting the sharp rise in urban mobility demand.

For expats living in Morocco or planning to move there, these measures signal a progressive approach towards inclusivity. Organisations like Humanity & Inclusion (HI) have actively promoted the inclusion of people with disabilities into broader Moroccan society since 1993.

With these initiatives, Morocco is working towards creating an environment that is more accommodating, understanding and supportive of diverse needs and challenges, making the country an appealing destination for those looking to reside or work there.

Further reading

UNDP: Morocco's Commitment to Support Persons with Disabilities
Humanity & Inclusion's Work in Morocco

LGBTQ+ in Morocco

Morocco's rich history and breathtaking landscapes have made it an attractive destination for many expats, but for the LGBTQ+ community, living in the country can present significant challenges. Same-sex sexual activity is deemed illegal under Article 489 of the Penal Code in Morocco, and it can be punishable with up to three years of imprisonment and substantial fines.

This legal position stems from traditional Islamic morality, where homosexuality and cross-dressing are often viewed as signs of immorality. Regrettably, when apprehended for suspected homosexual acts, individuals are frequently publicly outed even before a trial commences.

Transgender individuals, in particular, face a complex scenario in Morocco, with historical accounts suggesting a degree of tolerance towards cross-dressing, particularly in the realm of theatre. Additionally, the 1950s saw Casablanca emerge as a clandestine hub for sex-change operations. In modern times, the state's policies regarding transgender individuals remain ambiguous.

The Moroccan government has made its stance clear that preserving conventional values and cultural heritage is a priority over LGBTQ+ rights. Schools are mandated to educate about the perceived dangers of 'unnatural acts', and no political party in the country openly supports LGBTQ+ rights. Moreover, at international platforms like the United Nations, Morocco has resisted global LGBTQ+ initiatives. These legal and cultural barriers make it a challenging environment for the LGBTQ+ community.

On the societal front, Moroccan public opinion is majorly unfavourable towards LGBTQ+ rights, with only 21 percent considering homosexuality acceptable as of 2019. This disapproving sentiment has occasionally led to public arrests, further reinforcing the country's anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Instances of violent assaults, such as the 2022 attack on a trans woman in Tangier, further underscore the risks.

There have been some instances of tolerance shown by the government. There has been a trend in the government exercising anti-LGBTQ+ laws less diligently than in the past. Moroccan authors such as Abdellah Taïa and Rachid O. have penned works discussing gender roles and sexual identity in Morocco, albeit while residing abroad. The discreetly distributed magazine Mithly provides a modicum of representation for the gay community, and the LGBT-rights organisation Kif-Kif has even been allowed to collaborate on educational seminars.

Advocacy does exist, with organisations like Kif-Kif and Nassawiyat championing LGBTQ+ rights, but formidable challenges remain. Until there is a significant shift in legal frameworks and societal attitudes, Morocco remains a difficult terrain for the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, awareness, understanding and careful consideration of these challenges are essential for LGBTQ+ expats considering a move to Morocco.

Further reading

IGLTA's LGBTQ+ Travel Guide to Morocco
Equaldex: Morocco LGBTQ+ Rights Overview
HRF Report on LGBT Community Pressure in Morocco

Gender equality in Morocco

Morocco has been making strides towards achieving gender equality. Though this journey is filled with challenges, it is a testament to the country's commitment to uplifting its women. Expats considering a move to Morocco might be heartened by the progress while acknowledging that there's much ground to cover.

However, the winds of change are blowing; the 2021 elections saw women taking the helm in three major Moroccan cities and several key governmental roles. In the same year, the Moroccan Parliament introduced a groundbreaking reform mandating a quota for women on the boards of publicly traded companies.

It is essential to juxtapose these advances with existing challenges. The 2011 Moroccan Constitution, promising equal rights for men and women, has not fully translated into practice. Deep-seated conservative ideologies and gender biases persist, creating obstacles in realising the Constitution's progressive vision. For instance, while legal safeguards against practices like rape-marriage allowances and male guardian requirements exist, loopholes remain, allowing instances like judicially sanctioned forced marriages.

Socially, the situation is complex as well. Moroccan women, empowered by increasing access to education and outperforming men academically in many areas, continue to face exclusion from the workforce despite qualifications for well-paying positions. Factors such as family opposition and domestic responsibilities play a significant role, necessitating a comprehensive approach to address these issues.

Morocco's pursuit of gender equality, while promising, remains a work in progress, with efforts spanning from top-tier policy changes to grassroots initiatives. For expats contemplating life in Morocco, it offers an evolving landscape of opportunities and challenges where women's role is increasingly central to the country's narrative. Organisations like Mobilising for Rights Associates (MRA), based in Rabat, continue to advocate for women's rights, contributing to this ongoing journey towards equality.

Further reading

World Bank on Women's Leadership in Morocco
UN Women's Data on Morocco
MRA Women's Organisation in Morocco

Women in leadership in Morocco

The subject of women in leadership in Morocco is complex and continuously evolving, reflecting the country's broader commitment to gender equality and diversity. On July 31, 2021, the Moroccan Parliament adopted a groundbreaking law mandating a minimum of 30 percent female representation on boards of publicly traded companies by 2024, rising to 40 percent by 2027. This move makes Morocco the first in the MENA region to enact such legislation, signalling a willingness to build confidence in women's qualifications and stimulate economic growth.

The recent appointment of seven women to key government positions, including the first Moroccan woman Minister of Finance, also reflects this shift. However, women still account for only 23 percent of the working population as of 2020, indicating that significant gender inequalities persist.

Moroccan women outperform men in education, constituting 55 percent of high school graduates and higher proportions in tertiary education. However, the country ranked 148th out of 156 on the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index for economic participation and opportunity in 2021. Despite educational achievements, only 13 percent of Moroccan businesses were led by women in 2019, and women made up only 23 percent of managers in the public sector.

On a positive note, initiatives like the "Women in Leadership" programme launched by two major Moroccan universities aim to demystify barriers to development and support women's abilities to break the glass ceiling. The entrepreneurial spirit of Moroccan women is also being recognised and supported. Seven Moroccan women were featured in Forbes 100's most successful businesswomen in the Middle East.

Further reading

EIB Stories on Coaching Moroccan Women
UN Women Annual Report 2020: Brief on Morocco (PDF)

Mental health awareness in Morocco

Mental health awareness and support in Morocco have become increasingly prominent, as the Moroccan Ministry of Health and various non-governmental organisations are working to address mental health issues. Significant challenges persist, including a lack of treatment for mental disorders, a shortage of medical staff and inadequate mental health hospitals and facilities. The situation is worsened by the meagre 6 percent of resources allocated to mental health programs in the country. Affected individuals may face a higher chance of exposure to violence due to these shortcomings.

Despite facing challenges such as insufficient financing, human capital and infrastructure, efforts are being made to challenge the stigma and discrimination against those with mental disorders. National campaigns like the second national campaign against the stigmatisation of mental health disorders, helplines, remote services and psychosocial support campaigns have been initiated, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Progress is being made through collaboration between state and non-state actors, demonstrating the possibility of maintaining and scaling up mental health services. A 2017 case study showed the effectiveness of peer therapy, and the government, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), is actively working on implementing new hospitals, clinics and therapy methods.

Mental health awareness in Morocco is an evolving landscape with both significant challenges and notable progress. For expats considering a move to Morocco, understanding the country's mental health landscape and staying informed about ongoing reforms and available support systems is essential.

Further reading

The Borgen Project on Mental Health in Morocco
WHO EMRO on Mental Health Support in Morocco during the Covid pandemic
Find a Helpline: Morocco Page

Unconscious bias training in Morocco

Unconscious bias training is gaining traction in Morocco as organisations recognise the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Such training addresses the hidden prejudices that may influence recruitment, promotion and team dynamics. It's often an integral part of a broader strategy to foster a more inclusive environment and reflects a progressive outlook within the Moroccan business landscape.

In Morocco, unconscious bias training is often facilitated by professional firms specialising in diversity and inclusion. Various methodologies are employed, ranging from interactive workshops to online courses tailored to fit the organisation's specific needs and cultural context. Companies investing in this training find that it enhances awareness and leads to more equitable practices and a positive company culture.

The push for unconscious bias training in Morocco aligns with global trends towards more inclusive workplaces, and it's an acknowledgement of the rich tapestry of cultures and backgrounds that form the Moroccan business environment. This forward-thinking approach allows organisations to unlock their diverse workforce's full potential, fostering innovation and driving growth in an increasingly interconnected world.

Further reading

Harvard's Implicit Bias Test
Nonprofit Ready: Unconscious Bias Training

Diversification of the workforce in Morocco

Morocco's workforce is experiencing growth in GDP per capita, but it also faces challenges such as low-quality jobs, limited protection mechanisms and difficulty in including women and youth. Female labour force participation is as low as 23 percent, and the presence of informal jobs is dominant.

While the slow population growth is decreasing the dependency ratio, it's also exerting pressure on the economy to create enough jobs for those entering the labour market. However, opportunities are emerging to enhance the labour market through increased transparency, regulation flexibility and reduced entry barriers.

The Government of Morocco is taking steps to address these challenges by implementing strategies like the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Skills (ANAPEC) 2020 Vision and programs such as Idmaj, Te'hil and Moukawalati. These initiatives target youth integration, employment increase and microenterprise promotion, and they are supported by sectoral plans like Morocco's Global Jobs and Moroccan Green Plan. The World Bank recommends further integration of support policies, investment in infrastructure and human capital development to foster job creation.

Furthermore, Morocco's Ministry of Economic Inclusion, Small Business, Employment and Skills is actively developing and implementing labour and employment strategies. This includes contributing to vocational training, small business growth and self-entrepreneurship, and managing regulatory migration flows for work purposes. Efforts to boost social dialogue, settle labour disputes and promote international cooperation reflect Morocco's dedication to diversifying and improving its workforce.

Further reading

World Bank Report on Labour Market in Morocco
MIEPEEC's Missions and Objectives in Morocco

Safety in Morocco

Safety in Morocco, especially for expats, brings some degree of concern due to the potential threat of terrorist attacks. Tourist locations, markets, shopping malls and government facilities are common targets, leading to increased security measures in these areas. Moroccan authorities are vigilant in regularly disrupting terrorist cells, but the risk remains, as seen in the 2018 murder of two tourists near Mount Toubkal.

In addition, the political climate in Morocco can lead to unrest, with protests sometimes escalating into isolated violence. While such incidents are mostly peaceful, expats should avoid political gatherings and demonstrations. Furthermore, crime in Morocco ranges from petty offences like pickpocketing and bag snatching to more serious criminal activities in major cities and tourist areas.

Alongside the risks of terrorism and crime, there are other concerns in Morocco that expats must be aware of. Although no recent kidnappings of foreign nationals have occurred, the threat still exists, especially in remote desert areas and border regions. Those working in sectors like tourism, humanitarian aid, journalism or business should remain cautious, as they could be considered potential targets.

Transport in Morocco is generally safe, but theft on public transport can occur, so vigilance is advised. Natural disasters such as flooding during the rainy season from November to March and the presence of scorpions and snakes in the Sahara desert add to the safety concerns in the country.

Despite these challenges, Morocco is still generally regarded as a safe country to visit. The overall risk of mugging and kidnapping is low, and many issues can be avoided with common sense and awareness of the surroundings.

Expats and tourists should respect Islamic culture and customs, and women, in particular, should be cautious due to reports of harassment when alone. Vigilance in quiet and poorly lit areas is advised, and solo outings at night should be avoided. Being mindful of high-risk scams and politely refusing unsolicited offers from those posing as tourist guides can further contribute to a secure stay or travel experience in Morocco.

Further reading

US State Department's Morocco Travel Advisory
UK Foreign Travel Advice for Morocco
Travel Safe Abroad's Morocco Guide

Calendar initiatives in Morocco

  • 8 March: International Women's Day
  • 21 March: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  • May: National Diversity Month
  • 26 June: International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
  • 30 July: World Day against Trafficking in Persons
  • 10 December: Human Rights Day