Casablanca, Morocco Report of what it's like to live there - 06/01/21

Personal Experiences from Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca, Morocco 06/01/21

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Asia, Europe, Caribbean, Pacific islands.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

USA. No travel due to COVID restrictions.

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3. What years did you live here?

2019-2021.

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4. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Apartment downtown or Villa in the suburb. Commute time can be up to 30 minutes from the suburb to downtown at peek hours. The traffic is hectic, most people do not follow driving rules much.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Cheap at the open market, but sanitary rules are non-existent ; Comparable to the US at the grocery store. Marjane is the big local food chain, and depending on the location of the store, the selection and cleanliness varies. I like the one at the Marina Shopping Mall, very clean and a large selection of products. Carrefour is a French brand of grocery stores, available also around town as mini-mart or medium size grocery store and have a good selection too. "Carrefour Market Gourmet" is higher end and has specialty produces. Ikea has two locations around Casablanca.
Decathlon and Go Sport are sports goods chain, several locations around town.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing, unless you have a favorite of something and is not sure about availability.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Mostly Moroccan food. A few Asian, French & Italian restaurants in the city center, around the embassies; Some of them deliver or offer takeout, especially since Covid.
Mac Donald and Burger King are available in most cities around the country.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing worth than in any other developing country. A few roaches in the street and a lot of stray cats.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Work's mail. Local post office is adequate, but you can use Fedex for anything important to send abroad.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Many gyms available. Facilities vary depending on location and price - Passage Fitness is a good address. Many Equestrian centers (great for kids) in town or around. Bow shooting. Art centers. Best resource to find information is Facebook.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes, though cash is needed in small places and away from the cities to pay your accommodation when it's a "gite" (unless you paid online). Online payment on local website with foreign credit card can sometimes be a problem (i.e. Jawaz telepass website ; to refill it, go to a "Cash Point" store).

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Best to speak at least some French or Daridja (Moroccan Arabic) of everyday business. In touristic area, I find more and more people speak English, but it is not the rule.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A lot. Infrastructure adaptation is non-existent.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public transport is a no no. Use "Petit Taxi" which are affordable and safe to move around the city (check that the meter is running or negotiation price before starting).

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

SUV gives you a higher vantage point in the traffic, but a sedan will go anywhere in town and be easier to park. Outside the city, depending what you wish to visit, the SUV can be more comfortable (some remote places in the Atlas are accessible via dirt road). Commuting between any large cities, the highways are in great shape. Autoroute du Maroc recently rolled out a telepass (Jawaz) which is prepaid and rechargeable, and it can be a real time saver at the toll if you travel often during the week-end.
Don't leave anything visible in the car, but keep small change handy to pay the parking watch-guard.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We have high speed fiber optic Internet for $50 a month. Took 2 weeks to set up as the apartment was not yet wired when we arrive. Otherwise, it takes a few days to a week to activate.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local pre-paid SIM and loads; very cheap and loads are available at every corner shop. Three main companies to choose from. Buy the SIM at the airport, it's cheaper than in town usually. Bring an unlocked cellphone.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual or business casual. Women wear is mostly conservative.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Covid restrictions, including travel, are in place at this time.
Women are sometime harassed if they are alone, though a terse firm glance refrain most from engaging insistently.
Avoid flashing valuables to avoid petty crime - be aware of your surrounding - same as at home.
Drive defensively.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Water should be treated before drinking, or buy bottled.
Pharmacies are located everywhere and have anything you will mostly need basic care.
COVID is here as anywhere else. Vaccins campaign are rolling and Morocco is very well organized.
Local healthcare can treat most thing benign; you should medevac for anything major.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Occasional Sahara wind brings a lot of sand/dust in the air and can be a problem for people with breathing issues. Traffic pollution in the city can be troublesome, though the sea breeze tend to clear anything quickly.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

In Casablanca, vary from Hot and Humid to Hot and Dry from spring to autumn. Cooler in the winter month.

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Schools & Children:

1. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are at least 2 art centers that offer program for kids, many equestrian centers, a bow shooting range, soccer fields, swimming pools, tennis courts. Several surfing schools. Also the CAFC (see below).
Again, Facebook is a good resource (search in French or Arabic).

Also, the Park de la Ligue Arabe, near the embassies, is a great place for jogging and has several playgrounds for kids. The beaches are good to play with kids too.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It is what you make of it, but Covid restrictions have affected everybody differently, as visit from friend or family from abroad are all but impossible at this time, and most club and sports infrastructures have been closed for a long time.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

If you are staying in Casablanca for a few years, it can be worth the money to become a member of the CAFC Cercle Amical Francais de Casablanca. It is expensive to become a member, but opens up a variety of activities to the family members.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

For all, depending of your interests, though single women may have more trouble going around outside of the expat community. Unmarried couple with a Moroccan citizen member are not allowed to reside together; It can make booking a hotel or going around awkward.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Yes but yes. People are usually friendly and welcoming. Racism exists towards foreigners (Asians, Black African descents, ...), and can be occasionally felt. Women can feel unsafe when alone.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not a tolerant society for LGBT.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling around the country is great. Beautiful cities, architecture, light. Be daring, go around. Visit the imperial cities, stay in a Riad; Go to the desert and spend a night under the stars; Go hike or river rafting in the Atlas, stay in a "gite" and eat local food ; Several lakes/rivers are within a few hours drive of Casablanca in the pre-Atlas mountain and are worth the drive (book a tour guide to organize your hikes). Go birdwatching by El Oualidia lagune ; visit the souk (medina) of the cities you visit.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Handicraft: leather, pottery, wool carpets; Furniture; Spices. Learn the art of haggling

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Learn some language before you arrive, it will make your stay more enjoyable.
The sea in Casablanca is just for watching, or sometimes surfing: the currents are too dangerous to swim. The closest beaches are a bit of a drive.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectation that yes means yes. Always confirm your understanding, and theirs.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience and Google maps.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

If you speak French, petitfute.com/v46288-casablanca website can be a good resource.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Smile to people, even if you don't understand them. If you ask for help, they will try their best to understand you (hand signs and a map are your best tools).

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