Rabat, Morocco Report of what it's like to live there - 05/17/22
Personal Experiences from Rabat, Morocco
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, have lived in multiple European countries, China, and Pakistan.
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?
New York. Direct flights from Casablanca on Royal Air Maroc. Other options like Air France connect in Europe. COVID-19 limited flight options when the government effectively closed its borders, but since February 2022 that seems to be resolved.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Diplomatic mission: spouse’s second year of Arabic language study.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Everyone lives in local neighborhoods a 15 to 30 min drive from the embassy depending on traffic. Families with children typically live in villas/town houses; singles and couples without children usually live in apartments. All the housing seems to be a good size with lots of space but some houses are older. Overall the quality of housing is excellent but if you live in a villa expect to be a drive from other embassy people. We loved our house as the area was walkable and close to many shops and restaurants. Other neighborhoods are less walkable or less close to convenient locations.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Much cheaper than the US but often have to shop around between different grocery stores and produce shops to get what you want. Carrefour Gourmet, Marjane, and U Express are good options.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
We shipped pancake mix, maple syrup, brown sugar and brought medicines like pepto and cold medicines with us. It’s hard to find American comfort foods.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Glovo for delivery. Lots of restaurants in Rabat but quality of food is very mixed. We found ourselves a bit disappointed in food options but we’re probably overly picky/have high expectations. Overall food quality was good and we rarely got sick.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants constantly invaded our house and there was an occasional cockroach. Nothing of major concern.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We paid $25 a day to our Moroccan housekeeper and $20 a day to our gardener, which seemed standard. Some people charge a bit more and skilled nannies can cost a bit more.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a gym. We brought our own equipment so aren’t familiar with other options.
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?
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Unless you’ve studied or already speak Arabic, it can be very hard to communicate in Arabic or Darija. Most people in Rabat speak French though and as Morocco has a robust tourist infrastructure English is widely found.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Probably. Sidewalks can be difficult and most houses have stairs. Apartment living would be a good option though.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, though we personally haven’t used buses.
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?
Typical FS friendly SUV. We have a Toyota RAV4, which was perfect. Many couples/families get a second car since driving is a must to get anywhere. It’s also relatively easy to hire a driver for a trip or daily commute.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Organized through the Embassy ECA. I recommend bringing an extender as signal strength can be low or struggle to get through concrete walls.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Used local provider. Our US-T Mobile plan did not work.
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?
There are a few very good vets. Overall we have been happy with the level of care for our small dog. There are some kenneling options but we haven’t used them.
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?
There are work opportunities at the embassy but while we were there the hiring process could be lengthy. Several EFMs (including me) teleworked for our employers, which is a great option and was well supported by post leadership.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Normal business attire. Seems less formal than DC though. Locally there’s a range of fashions among Moroccans. Outside of Rabat and major cities it’s best for women to dress more conservatively, i.e., covered shoulders for example. I rarely wore my tank tops and shorts and preferred longer shirts/pants/dresses.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Overall this is a very safe post but exercise good judgement as in any larger city. RSO does a great job getting information out to the community and keeping us safe across various housing options. I often walked around alone in the daytime as a woman and was never harassed in Rabat.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Routine medical care is decent but I wouldn’t want to be hospitalized here. There is also decent prenatal care but best for low risk pregnancies and OB medevac is strongly recommended for birth.
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?
Good! Being by the coast results in a lot of lovely clear days. There is occasional haze from pollution but overall air quality is very good.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
As everyone is quite spread out in terms of housing, it can get a bit isolating particularly when COVID-19 limited in person gatherings and events. The community is otherwise strong and supportive though so hopefully that will be less of an issue as COVID-19 restrictions have recently eased.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Very similar to Southern California though perhaps with a bit more rain. Can get very hot in the summer with mild, rainy winters.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Many children seem to attend the Rabat American School (RAS) and there are a few preschool options. We do not have direct experience with these though.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
The Community Liaison Office (CLO) has recently been doing a great job compiling information for families of children with disabilities including learning and developmental disabilities. They likely have good and reliable information on this topic.
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?
Yes on pre-schools. Most people have nannies for childcare either local Moroccans or Filipina expats.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, it seems so.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Good. Due to COVID-19 there was less interaction during our time in Rabat but there are a couple international clubs and it’s definitely there if folks want to meet other expats.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It’s probably best for couples and families but Morocco has so many incredible travel options that I think single people could also find a lot to enjoy especial beyond Rabat.
3. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Relatively easy to make friends if you make an effort. Morocco is a very diverse society and prides itself on that, but there is underlying racism against black people and migrants from sub Saharan African countries. I don’t have enough information to comment well on this but again, it would be worth doing some additional research and talking to the CLO and colleagues who may have experienced this level of racism firsthand.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
In my opinion, Morocco does not do well on LGBT rights and does not recognize same sex couples. I don’t have enough information to comment well on this, but I would recommend researching this carefully ahead of coming.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The travel options even during COVID-19 are stellar. We were able to visit most of the major cities within the first six months of being here and it’s quite affordable to stay in very nice accommodations. I particularly loved Essaouira in the south.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are a few hidden gem parks such as a forest between Rabat and Temara. It’s worth getting out and exploring! Many people take up surfing.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Good weather, nice housing, kind community, very safe, great travel and shopping options.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Rabat is quite a sleepy, suburban town but there is much more to be experienced and explored further afield.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Heavy winter clothes.
4. But don't forget your:
Car! It’s a must to get around the city and explore the country.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Caliph’s House is a fun read.