Rabat, Morocco Report of what it's like to live there - 09/18/11

Personal Experiences from Rabat, Morocco

Rabat, Morocco 09/18/11

Background:

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

We have lived in Paris, Cairo, and Belgrade

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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?

Washington, D.C. We fly from Dulles to Paris, Paris to Rabat. It takes about 14 hours including the lay-over

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years

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

US government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most of the Embassy have lovely homes with yard. Best places to live are Hay Riad and Souissi. Temara is by the ocean and is gaining some popularity. Nice apartments in Agdal which is the hip city center area with lots of restaurants and shops. Rents are very high, more like D.C. Many of the houses have unusual floor plans that are not typical of the US. Also heating is limited and because of the concrete construction they can be very cold.

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

The supermarkets have most items you would need during your stay. The meats are good, there is fresh pasteurized milk, cheeses, great fruits and vegetables and many American products including Duncan Hines and Hagen Das. Groceries are a bit more expensive than the US.

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

Our favorite Italian dressing. But they have most things here.

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

McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dominos, TGIF, lots of Italian, a few Japanese and Chinese, a Lebanese, lots of French and needless to say, Moroccan restaurants. Cost is about the same as the US.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There is a lot here.

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

Ants, cockroaches and some mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

Morocco has a good mail system.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

There are lots of available domestic help. They are paid weekly. We pay about $20 per day. Gardeners are also available and we pay about $30 per day.

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

Yes, there are several and they are expensive.

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

We use our credit cards at the supermarket and shopping. Most people use ATMs.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, Catholic, Anglican and a more Evangelical church are available. There is a Jewish community in Rabat but the services are in Hebrew and French.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are numerous satellite programs available. Not cheap but good.

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

It is good to have some French.

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

The city offers minimal problems except many houses have lots of steps, many sunken levels etc. Traveling in country can have challenges in that old cities with big bazaars are not accessible by vehicles and the pavement is uneven with lots of potholes and hordes of people etc.

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Transportation:

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

Yes to all. There is a new metro in Rabat also.

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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?

Newer small cars. Streets are small and parking is limited. If you are going to do lots of mountain or desert trips then bring a four wheel. Many at the Embassy have them. Don't bring a car that you will be upset if it gets a ding. Traffic is crazy and scratches are common.

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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?

Yes, about $50 per month.

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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?

You can buy them here or if you have an unlocked one, you can buy a SIM card easily.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, there are good vets here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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

Same as in the States, suits for men, dresses and skirts for women.

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Health & Safety:

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

Rabat is pretty safe, that said, it is in the Middle East and one does need to be vigilant in guarding against terrorists but not to the extent we are in places like Yemen or Pakistan.

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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?

None.

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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?

Air quality is good in Rabat.

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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?

A sunny city but cool climate. Think San Francisco. Sometimes it gets really hot but very rarely.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is one here that has the International Bacculariat Program. Classes are small. My son is grown so we have not used it, but many families are delighted with the programs and high school aged students have been getting into great colleges.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Minimal.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

It is available but you need to get on the list as soon as you know you will be coming. It is expensive. Ms. Elizabeth's is a favorite with the English speaking ex-pat community.

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

The Rabat American School has programs. There are also tennis lessons and horseback riding, as well as surfing lessons.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium sized if you include all nationalities.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good overall. Some people will complain if they are looking for a more vibrant city, but this is a beautiful post.

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

Lots of barbecues, dinners at restaurants, happy hours.

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

Best for families or couples. There is not much of a bar scene here and many singles complain that it is too quiet.

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

No, even though Morocco has a reputation for lots of gay activity for tourists, Moroccans are basically homophobic and make no apologies for it.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Moroccan law allows people to worship their own religion freely as long as they do not try to convert others to their persuasion. Evangelicals are not welcome. They also don't want other Moslem sects trying to convert Moroccans who follow the Maliki version of Islam to other sects such as Sh'ia, or Wahabism.

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

We took a road trip to Fez and then up to the mountain city of Chefchaouen. Fez has one of the oldest medieval bazaars in existence that is still inhabited. The potteries and tanneries are still working and produce gorgeous ware. Chefchaouen is a blue and white village high in the mountains that was home to many Jews. It has a history of weaving lovely bedspreads and other unique crafts.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The Chellah is an ancient ruin that is mostly a part and great for taking pictures. There is surfing at the ocean in Rabat and wonderful shopping in the bazaar.

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

antique doors, pottery, tile tables and fountains, leather goods

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The weather in Rabat is incredible. It is about 70 degrees F. all year. It has a rainy season but it is not very long or heavy and the vegetation becomes very lush. Rabat is a quiet, mellow city perfect for families. The country has so many wonderful places to visit that offer spectacular views of nature, architecture etc.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Warm lounging clothing and pajamas (houses are cold). Business cards because they are too expensive to have made here. Bath mats and rugs if you have space.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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