Rabat, Morocco Report of what it's like to live there - 06/03/08

Personal Experiences from Rabat, Morocco

Rabat, Morocco 06/03/08

Background:

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

No, Tokyo.

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2. How long have you lived here?

9 months.

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

I work for the U.S. Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Paris to Rabat, Paris to Casablanca, Amsterdam to Casablanca, Rome to Casablanca, JFK to Casablanca. I have found Paris and Rome to be the best.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nice, large homes 10-20 commute to Embassy or American school.

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

Moderate. Some things are difficult to find (cheddar and american cheese, peanut butter, etc) but you can usually find them periodically at the commissary. Prices at the commissary are increasing because of transportation costs. Sometimes online is cheaper.

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

Peanut butter, soft toilet paper, strong paper towels, baby products (formula, food, diapers), muffin mixes, dinner mixes, favorite foods.

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

McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Domino's and they just opened a TGI Fridays. Local restaurants are pretty good but they open later in the evening.

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Daily Life:

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

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

My maid earns 150 Dirham a day as does my gardener. Today the exchange rate is about 7 dirhams to the dollar. My help is VERY hard working and have become part of our family!

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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?

I use my ATM to get Dirham frequently with no problems.

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

LDS (Mormons), Catholics and Protestants advertise services in the Embassy newsletter.

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

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

It helps to know French or the Moroccan dialect of Arabic. I've slowly picked up some French but wish I would have had classes prior to my arrival.

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

Streets are poorly constructed as well as sidewalks (when they exist). High curbs. It's not fun with a stroller.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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

Taxis and trains are safe. We are advised against taking buses. I take the petit taxi frequently with no difficulties.

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3. 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?

If you are driving in city any car will do. (Many are for sale from families that are leaving). IF you plan to go to more remote places then you'll need a 4WD or rent one.

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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?

I pay about US$100/month for the fastest service offered. There are cheaper rates for slower service available.

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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?

I get the ones with the prepaid cards and have spent about US$50 a month buying minutes. Very affordable.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage or other type of Voice over internet Protocol service.

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Pets:

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

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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?

I see some advertised in the embassy newsletter but I don't know anyone who works on the local economy.

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

Work - professional dress (tie for men, slacks, skirts, dresses for women). Public - With the locals you'll see a variety from jeans and shirt to fully covered with only the eyes exposed. Technically you can wear what you normally wear in the U.S. but personally I feel uncomfortable going in public in shorts, skirts above my knees or sleeveless shirts.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

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

No major concerns. We are encouraged to be aware of our surroundings, etc.

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

Good clinic at the embassy. No encounters personally with medical in town but I've heard no complaints. I've had good dental experiences here for VERY good prices!

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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?

Mild winters, warm to hot summers.

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Schools & Children:

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

Rabat American School (RAS) - it's an ok school. I'm personally not overly impressed but they treat the children well.

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

None for severly handicapped.

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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?

Expensive at RAS, affordable French and Moroccan preschools around.

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Expat Life:

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

Approximately 60 families with the embassy, Many more with USAid and Peace corp and even more from other countries.

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2. Morale among expats:

It's what you make of it!Professionally, there are some issues in the workplace (inefficiency, lack of follow through, etc but personally I've made some really great friends who I can depend on.

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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?

Activites at the embassy (mentioned above), there are a few nightclubs and people have get togethers at each others' homes, etc.

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

Families and couples yes. I think it would be hard on singles.

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

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

None that I've encountered.

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

CLO (community liaison office) is good about activities at the Embassy: things such as holiday parties, happy hours, quiz nights, etc. The tourist things you see in the tour books are nice but once you've done it it's not that exiciting anymore.

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

So many things!Beautiful woodwork, brass work, and more.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't shop too much at the medina! :)

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Car that you don't want to see with dents! Driving here is CRAZY!, 120 V appliances.

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3. But don't forget your:

Golf gear if it's your thing, camera, favorite foods, sense of humor.

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

The Strings of the Lute and Moroccan Mystery: The passport series were written by fellow expats here at the embassy.

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

The Strings of the Lute and Moroccan Mystery: The passport series were written by fellow expats here at the embassy.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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