Casablanca, Morocco Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca, Morocco 02/06/16

Background:

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

No

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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?

East Coast in the U.S. to Casa takes approximately 16-17 hours including short layovers in Europe.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years

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

Spouse of State Employee assigned to this post

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are two types of housing in Morocco. Apartments close to the consulate (walking distance), and villas approximately 20-30 minutes away from the consulate. (Traffic is so bad that it takes 20-30 mins to get to the villas.) Villas have issues with ants and roaches where the apartments don't have as many issues with insects. Villas have small yards in the back. The apartments are a little noisy at times being in downtown Casablanca. You hear cars honking and people walking by outside where the villas are a little quieter. We chose to live in a villa but looking back, due to the horrible traffic, I wish we had chosen to live in an apartment. The traffic is so stressful with people not following traffic laws that it would have been a much less stressful experience at post had we chosen to live in an apartment close to the consulate.

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

Fruits and veggies are cheap but the grocery stores do not have a large variety of foods like we do in the U.S. Bugs are often flying around the fruits and vegggies even in the grocery stores in the mall. Gross

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

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

McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Burgerking, and KFC. There are a few decent restaurants in Casa but not the same quality as food in the U.S.

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

ROACHES! Walking on the streets close to the consulate, you see dead roaches all the time. We had roaches and ants in our house. We got some insecticide and the ants went away but the roaches have never gone away. We had to put all food in containers and even resorted to keeping dishes in the dish washer after running the dish washer every night because we kept finding roaches and roach feces in the kitchen cabinets.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO, Amazon Prime was a life saver in Casa.

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

Lots of availability. Approximately US$300 plus per month for full-time help.

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

Yes but they are not air conditioned and men and women have different work out days/times at most gyms.

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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?

Same as in the U.S.

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

There is a catholic mass service and an Anglican service in English.

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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?

Basic French is essential for daily living. Most upperclass can speak English but middle and lower class locals do not speak English

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

Yes. The sidewalks are bumpy and most apartments/restaurants/etc are not wheelchair friendly.

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Transportation:

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

yes

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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?

Small vehicles. Parking is VERY limited. Also, I wouldn't bring a new car or a very nice car to Morocco. Traffic laws are not followed here and accidents are very 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. US$20 US per month. Lately Skype and Facetime have not been working. Vonage also has been blocked by the internet providers in Morocco. Very Frustrating!

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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?

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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. decent vet care available.

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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. Decent paying jobs are very hard to find and you must speak the local languages.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots with The schools and DAR American (Consulate public affairs office)

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

normal dress code. Women should dress modestly to avoid harassment.

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Health & Safety:

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

Petty crime is VERY high in Morocco due to the poverty. Do not wear nice jewelry out in public. Hold tight to cell phones, purses, cameras, etc. Several consulate members have had pick pockets snatch and grab their jewelry, phones, etc.

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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?

No. Local health care is decent.

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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?

Moderate. Lots of pollution but the ocean breeze does help.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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

Similar to San Diego weather. Usually warm and not humid. Winters are damp and rainy but not cold.

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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 are two international schools. George Washington Academy and Casablanca American School. No consulate kids attend CAS. All kids attend GWA and have for a few years now.

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

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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?

Yes, but they are all in French and Darija. All daycares and schools close for 2-3 months during the summer. GWA offers a 2-week summer program from daycare/preschool and school aged kids, but other than that 2-week program, there is nothing for kids to do during the summer. This can be a huge challenge if both parents work.

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

Soccer is very popular but other than that, there are not many sports offered.

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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 expat community due to GWA school. Moral is low to decent.

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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?

Go out to eat, travel outside the city.

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

This is not a kid friendly post. There are no green spaces in Casa. No parks with playgrounds for kids. Very limited extra cirricular activities at school. Teen girls are often verbally sexually harassed. (Especially if they are blonde) I would say this is more a post of singles or for families without children.

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

No. Strict Muslim values here and gay/lesbian couples are not treated equally.

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

Women often are sexually harassed. Especially if the woman has blonde hair.

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

Getting to know some of the people from the consulate community. Since it is such a small post, you get to know everyone quickly.

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

No. The local beaches are very dirty and trash is thrown all over the ground all over the city. It is a very dirty city and there isn't much to do in Casa. There are two malls and a movie theater that plays English movies on Thursdays. The movie theater is not air conditioned. : (

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

There are not many unique local crafts other than rugs and some pottery.

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

Travel to other countries outside of Morocco is easy and you can find some great travel deals.

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10. Can you save money?

If you do not eat out or travel a lot. However, getting out of Casa and Morocco on long weekends was much needed for us to tolerate living here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How dirty it is and how much of an unfriendly post it is for families with children.

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

NO. We have not enjoyed our time at this post and honestly would not recommend it to anyone.

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3. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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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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Casablanca, Morocco 07/17/14

Background:

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

First time overseas.

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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?

NY, about 13-14 hours: 3 hrs to Paris, 2-3 hr layover, 7-8 hr flight to JFK.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years out of 2

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

US government, Foreign Service spouse.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Two sets of housing:
1) apartments downtown for singles/young couples, 5-10 min walk to the consulate, lots of restaurants, grocery stores within 10-15 min walk. Neighbors tend to be wealthier Moroccans who seem confused about apartment living (want you to be quiet but have no problems having a party until 1 am).
2) houses in one of the suburbs near the beach for families with school-aged children, 30-45 min drive

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

Local produce is fantastic and super cheap (Moroccan government subsidized). Wash thoroughly, but no bleach necessary. Bulk goods (rice, bread, flour, etc) are also cheap. Seafood is very good and relatively cheap and meats (beef, chicken, lamb, turkey) are available from a number of places. Despite being a Muslim country, you can still find pork sausage/hams in a few French/Italian specialty shops. Processed foods and household supplies are on par/more expensive than US.

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

Baking supplies. ECA in Rabat can special order beers and wine and has other American items, but is expensive. Most groceries can be ordered through Amazon with minimal effort. Can also put in orders with the Marines to purchase stuff from the Navy Commissary in Rota, Spain, during their monthly trips (if there is room).

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

Fast-food: McD, KFC, BK, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Starbucks.
Restaurants: mostly French and Italian. Spanish, Indian, Thai, and Chinese also available. Reasonably priced.
Cafes: Lots, but definitely a male-dominated space. Most have a few sandwiches, pastas, kababs, or pizzas.

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

In the residences, ants and roaches. Some mosquitos/flies, but not bad.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch. DPO usually takes 3-4 weeks. Pouch can take 2-3 months.

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

Consulate has a list of housekeepers and nannies. Very reasonable. Most housekeepers will clean, shop, and cook. Ours even helped us unpack when we moved into our apartment, bossed the movers around for us, and organized the furniture. A true housekeeper!

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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?

Cash economy. Consulate has a cashier to cash checks. I've used ATMs without any problems, several downtown near the consulate.

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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?

Having basic French (FAST course at least) is a must. There is very little English spoken and even less understood (you will get blank stares and heads nodding "yes"). If you can get the local Moroccan Arabic dialect (Darija) even better, but it's very difficult and nothing like standard Arabic.

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

Yes. Sidewalks are often narrow, in poor condition, and have cars parked on them. Most elevators in the apartments are very small and would have trouble fitting a wheel chair. The consulate itself lacks any elevator, despite having multiple floors (basement, ground, 2nd).

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Transportation:

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

Trains are pretty good around Morocco. We've taken it to Fes and Marrakech ($35-40/person/1st class). We are not allowed to take the city buses. Small taxis can be adventure (can hold multiple fares), but just make sure they use the meter.

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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?

We have a medium-sized SUV. Glad we have something a bit larger/higher up as driving in the city is a nightmare due to traffic and Moroccan drivers. We only use the car when we're leaving the city. Apartments have parking garages below ground. Basic repairs can be conducted at the Embassy motorpool in Rabat (~1-1.5 hours north).

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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, $50/month. Fairly reliable in the apartments. Depending on the day/time, it can sometimes stream Netflix/Hulu.

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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?

Consulate supplied phones for employees. I think a few people have cell phones with local carriers.

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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?

Nope. There is a very good vet who speaks some English (took care of our sick kitty).

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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?

There are a handful of American/English speaking schools that someone with an education background could possibly work. Unless you speak some French, not much else.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

We've had trips to clean up local schools, beach cleanups, and Dar America (the PD space) always needs volunteers to help with programs.

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

Business casual. About 50% of Moroccan women cover their heads. Western women are not expected to.

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Health & Safety:

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

Petty crime is very high. Pickpockets and snatch/grab are common (even in the nice areas). Certain areas of town muggings are more frequent (usually with knives, no guns).

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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?

Tap water in Casa is generally safe, but can have an off-taste. Filters are installed at all residences and bottled water is available at stores. Tap water is not safe in other parts of the country. Private hospitals are good, but for anything major, medevac to London/US.

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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?

Moderate to Unhealthy - car pollution, pollen, and dust can all be very high at times. Thankfully there is usually a nice breeze from the ocean to help clear it out.

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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?

Mediterranean climate. summer high's in the mid/upper 80s, low's in the mid 60's. Winter high's in the upper 50s, low's in the low 40s. Warm/dry but humid summers, cool wet winters with rain from Nov/Dec to Mar/Apr. Spring and Fall are beautiful.

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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 are two schools, George Washington Academy and Casa American School. Currently all consulate children go to GWA. No personal experience.

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

GWA has several programs.

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Expat Life:

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

Small-medium: outside of the Consulate community, it's mostly teachers at the various American schools. Morale varies, but tends towards the negative. Post had 2 or 3 curtailments in the year before we arrived.

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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?

Casa is fairly limited on the social scene. Fortunately, we have a pretty good group of people at post so there are frequent get-togethers. The CG's residence also has a pool, bbq, and tennis court available for the Consulate community. It's also one of the few spots with green space that's safe for children.

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

Families: Maybe. I think the schools are decent, but there's not a lot for school-aged children/families to do in Casa outside of the beach and mall.
Singles: No. Most single Americans would have difficultly meeting someone here. Women would have more success than men due to Moroccan cultural norms. There are a handful of clubs on the corniche, but not much else (our Marines are fairly bored).
Couples: Yes. Lots of restaurants, lots of travel opportunities.

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

No. As with most Muslim countries, it's illegal to be gay in Morocco. Moroccans can be jailed for being openly gay.

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

Race does not seem to be a problem, as Morocco is fairly diverse amongst it's own population. For religion, it's illegal to prosteltize in Morocco, as Islam is the official religion and all Moroccans are by default Muslim (with the exception of the small, but sizable Jewish population). However, Morocco makes an exception for foreigners with a few churches in Casa.

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

Having lunch with a random Berber family in the Mid-Atlas, our housekeeper (she's awesome!), couscous Fridays.

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

Shopping in the habbous - French designed "souk", you can get good deals here as very few tourists come through.
Seeing the Hassan II Mosque.
Eating at Rick's.
Water park (especially during Ramadan).

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

Moroccan rugs, woodcrafts, ceramics, metal-work, hand-made furniture, argan oil products. Lots of opportunities for buying hand-made items. Avoid buying in big touristy places like Marrakech and Fes (unless you are recommended to a specific shop by someone from post). Prices for hand-made items are always negotiable (the co-ops are the one place they aren't).

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

Travel. It's super easy to get around Morocco thanks to newly constructed expressways and trains. Also, very easy/affordable to fly to Europe out of Casa. Weather is wonderful. Food is fantastic.

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10. Can you save money?

If you eat in and do not travel, you could save a lot of money. However, we found traveling out of Casa for a long weekend every 1-2 months a necessity for mental health.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Wish I had known it was a big, dirty, crowded city with no real culture. The beaches in town are not nice and tend to be very crowded and male dominated. There is a lack of clean, safe, outdoor space.

The rest of Morocco is wonderful and a tour in Rabat would be very different.

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

Yes, but I would have very different expectations. The travel opportunities were worth it. Morocco is a wonderful country to visit for a few weeks, but two years was long enough living in Casa.

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

Sense of western logic/fairness, winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor/absurdity, eating pants, weekend travel bag, golf clubs (very nice/affordable courses throughout Morocco).

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

NOT Casablanca.

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Casablanca, Morocco 05/01/14

Background:

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

Yes, but husband has lived abroad extensively.

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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?

West Coast. It's 3 hours to Paris, then another 12 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Spouse works at the U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Two options: big apartments near the Consulate (walkable) or villas near the ocean in urban suburbs (commute is 20-40 minutes depending on traffic). All are fairly old with insect issues and not so great construction.

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

Groceries seem relatively on par with the U.S., though if you go to the souk markets you can get loads of vegetables and fruits for cheap (and good quality). The health food store chain La Vie Claire (French) is fairly astronomical. Les Domaines ('the King's Market) has Moroccan dairy (probably organic) and decent produce at a low cost. Some American goods. The ECA in Rabat has American stuff.

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

More pantry goods like maple syrup and such. Gardening tools, as most of the quality here is very poor. Some outdoor furniture because, again, poor quality and expensive.

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

Fast food: McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Burger King, Cinnabon. Restaurants: an OK range from Moroccan to Asian to Indian. Don't expect very high quality and you won't be disappointed.

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

Ants, mosquitos, roaches.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

Very available and there is a listing at the Consulate. We pay a bit higher than the going rate but it's still not high, US$25-$40/day depending on if childcare is also involved. Many of the ladies clean (extremely well), cook, and shop for groceries.

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

Yes, pretty expensive though. Most people run on a treadmill at home or on the corniche. There's a yoga studio near the Consulate that some people frequent. There are some really nice sports clubs on the corniche with private beaches but again - 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?

Using credit cards is hit or miss; plan to use cash. Most people cash checks at the Consulate.

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

YOU NEED AT LEAST FRENCH. Can't stress this enough. Don't expect people to speak English. Darija is nice and you'll be somewhat revered if you can manage to get by a bit but French is key.

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

Yes - sidewalks are broken up, narrow. Consulate has nothing wheelchair-accessible.

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Transportation:

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

The tram is reliable, safe, and cheap, but has limited access/service. Red taxis are cheap enough; make sure you ask them to turn on the meter. Don't take the bus. Most people drive their own cars.

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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?

Most cars can be serviced here.

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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 US$50/month. It's semi-reliable depending on your residence.

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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?

We use work blackberrys and have a local cell phone (Meditel). It's ok, not great service.

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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 quarantine. A good, English-speaking vet.

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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?

Sort of - you must have French, though.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

Formal/business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Don't wear a necklace if you're out and about - chances are it will be ripped off your neck. The more than occasional protest is typically peaceful but you'll want to avoid certain areas. Be more wary on days there's a soccer match. The tram is fine but skip the buses; most people drive themselves. Women alone need to be careful; there have been accounts of attacks on single women by other women, and sometimes women will be harassed/followed by local men.

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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?

Medical care is OK I guess; private doctors are recommended by the Health Unit. The local pediatrician speaks fluent English and is American Board certified. But I would never want to get in a serious car accident here or have a serious condition. For any real health issues (or for maternity care) you are Medevaced to London or the States. The RSO is currently stationed in Rabat and comes to Casa twice a month or so and this is a real boon that cannot be understated.

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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?

Moderate to occasionally unhealthy. Lots of pollution from cars, regular trash-burning, but then again there is that breeze ...

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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?

Many would liken Casablanca to Southern California. You will get some cold and rainy days in the winter but there's also a lot of sun. March in particular is very nice -- brisk, fresh, everything is green. Summers are hot but not unbearably so. There's often some morning and late afternoon fog.

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Schools & Children:

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

The consulate is affiliated with two schools: Casablanca American School and George Washington Academy. Currently all consulate kids attend the latter.

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

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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?

Yes - there are creches, which run the gamut in price and what you're looking for (all in French). Most people with small kids who work have a nanny.

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

A few kids' gyms and through the schools.

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Expat Life:

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

A goodly amount; at the Consulate, about 20 American officers plus their families (maybe 30+ in total currently). Morale wildly varies. Right now there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction, mostly with the general reality of what it's like to live here, but there is a segment that really loves it. Pretty typical I'd imagine.

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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?

Restaurants and bars are pretty much it.

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

I think singles and childless couple have it the best here -- there are bars, restaurants, etc., though I can't speak to the dating scene myself. Kids are welcome mostly everywhere in restaurants BUT there is a serious dearth of clean parks and outdoor space. There are some activities if you hunt them down -- kid gyms, a water park, surfing lessons, stuff through the schools -- but it's certainly not easy. Most parents would say there aren't a ton of things for kids to do here.

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

Not really, though there are rumors of a 'scene'; it's not very overt.

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

Yes - there is racism toward Africans and consequently African Americans. Definitely class distinctions between Berbers/Arabs.

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

Proximity to Europe is great, especially if you can get direct flights. Exploring the rest of the country helps with the reality of living in Casa.

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

Getting out of the city is key, even just 15 minutes down the coast. If you're into Moroccan goods, there are lots of things to buy at the habbous. You can run around the track at GWA with your government ID which is pleasant. Villa Mirador has a play structure for kids and a pool and tennis courts that is accessible to all.

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

Argan oil, rugs, etc.

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

People go on and on about the weather -- which is nice enough. It's mostly mild and can be very sunny for days. Summers are hot but not too. Rain in the winter but not terrible. Casa is on the coast so there's often a good sea breeze that also serves to moderate the pollution.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, especially if you don't buy a lot of stuff.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish someone had told us more about the reality of life here: getting anywhere is a slog due to the horrible traffic. Also that the dichotomy is so stark: there are slums within walking distance of nice houses, and the wealthy are quite enamored with their cars, designer clothes, and overall lifestyle and this can get a bit depressing. Forget about really walking anywhere if you live in the suburbs -- it's not that pleasant and you will get looks/receive unwanted (occasionally verbal) attention. Also: there is a stunning lack of green space. The corniche is OK-ish, but doesn't really make up for that and in the summer it's incredibly crowded and unpleasant, esp. with the horses/their refuse. Surfing is the main outdoor activity and if you run, go early in the morning along the ocean. Again -- it's OK, but not great.

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

No. I think Morocco is a great country to visit but not to live. And Casablanca is not romantic in any sense of the word. I think it's important that people considering living here know that. Moroccan friends even complain about it. So.

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

Ideas about Casablanca's 'exotic' nature and first world status -- it's a huge, filthy, congested city with no real cultural activities to speak of and is firmly a developing country.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good driving skills (drivers here are ridiculous),

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5. Do you have any other comments?

I think it's really hard to summarize a place because it is always changing and people have such different experiences and expectations. For example, right now, there are some folks who love living in Casablanca and Morocco in general, and a decent amount who are pretty unhappy with their situation. It depends on what you want: if you don't mind lots of traffic and crazy drivers and don't want too many outdoor activities, you will probably be OK here. If you are hoping for a cleaner environment with good infrastructure and interesting things to do, particularly in terms of sports or parks or outdoor stuff, you will be disappointed. Traveling outside the city is great, but don't forget you will be living here a majority of the time. Of course it could always be worse, but it could also be a lot better.

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Casablanca, Morocco 06/08/12

Background:

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

Second, I was in Japan for four years.

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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?

NYC- easy direct flight to JFK from Casablanca, about 6 hours. Air France through Paris is nicer, but connections can be tricky to make.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

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?

Apartments close to work or villas five to seven kms away.

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

Comparable to the U.S. little more expensive on some items. Alcohol is widely available, but no six pack discounts -- pay by the bottle whether you get one or 24. There are a number of modern/western grocery stores, but you can get almost everything you need from a corner shop.

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

Pork? You can find some on the local market, but best to go to the Spanish enclaves to pick some up.

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

Anything you can get in the US for fast food, except Taco Bell. Tons of Italian restaurants and French ones too. Local foods are the cheapest and some of the best you can get.

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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?

I think alot of the meat is "happy," as it is traditionally farmed. Monsanto and the other conglomerations haven't sunk their hooks in Morocco yet, so most of the veggies are decently organic.

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

Ants in houses, the occasional cockroach.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO for USG employees. Local mail is unreliable and expensive to send internationally.

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

Very cheap and high quality. I pay about $100 a month for a once-a-week cleaning and meals for 3-4 days.

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

There are a number of gyms, usually segregated by sex -- men get certain days, women the others.

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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?

ATMS are widely available in Casablanca. Credit cards are becoming accepted more widely, but mostly it is a cash society. You can use cards at major chains and some high-end restaurants.

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

I hear there are.

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

They are, but I don't utilize them.

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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?

French is very helpful in shopping, a little Arabic goes a long way. The more educated people speak in French or English. The less educated usually only have local Arabic. When you get outside the cities it is all local dialects. Anyone who deals with tourists will probably speak French and maybe Spanish.

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

It would be very difficult for someone with disabilities. Sidewalks are broken and cluttered, trees are often planted right in the middle of the walkway. Elevators are pretty common, though always very small.

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Transportation:

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

Trains are affordable and run between many major cities. They are not always on time. Definitely pay for the first class ticket and get a guarenteed seat. The back cars can be like cattle cars. Petit taxis are also cheap, but make sure the driver uses the meter or quotes you a cheap price. The grand taxis go between cities and are very cheap as well, but they pack people into them 5-6 in the back seat sometimes.

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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?

A small one will do you best in Casablanca where the roads are tight and parking is tighter. No need for SUV or 4x4 in the city.

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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?

Pretty cheap and decently reliable. Goes out every few weeks for a bit. Use a VPN for Hulu/Netflix. Pay less than $50 a month for internet.

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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?

Pick up a local one or have your U.S. one hacked and just buy a local sim card.

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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)?

I hear there are good options.

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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?

Only for French speakers.

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

Western standards for men, more conservative is safer for women, but you will see everything.

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Health & Safety:

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

Street crime is pretty prevalent -- snatch and grabs from motorcycles and robberies with knives. The criminals aren't afraid to hurt people. Some issues with soccer mobs before and after games, but the government has been cracking down on that.

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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?

Decent doctors trained in France. Private hospitals are better than public clinics.

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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?

Decent but not great. There are many allergy problems and burning trash is a frequent odor outside the city. Smoking is very prevalent and every bar/restaurant is filled with smokers.

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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?

Weather is pretty much perfect year round (highs in the 70's-80's during the day, can get down into the 30's at night in the winter, but nice during the day. This is only in Casa/Rabat though)

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Schools & Children:

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

George Washington Academy currently has the blessing of USG. Casablanca American School has had a rough year but is undergoing leadership changes.

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

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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?

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

Limited at the international schools. More at GWA.

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Expat Life:

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

Many Europeans and lots of tourists.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty high I would say. Traffic tends to get people in Casa down.

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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?

Plenty of good restaurants, bars, clubs if that is your thing. Beaches, tours to different cities. If you have a house with a yard or at least a deck you can BBQ.

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

All of them. Plenty to do for families and couples and a vibrant singles scene as well.

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

Technically homosexuality is illegal, but there does seem to be a slight gay community. Other cities (Marrakech) are probably more friendly.

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

Definitely a bit of prejudice towards women. It is common to see groups of men verbally harassing women they see walking. The women just ignore and go on their way.

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

A desert trek, exploring the markets in Marrakech and Fez, spending some time in Chefchauoen.

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

The beaches -- nicer the further you get away from Casa. There are close decent ones like to Dar Bouaza, the "habbous" is great for picking up rugs, crafts, olives, olive oil, going to cafes for excellent coffee and just to hang out, the water park is pretty fun. There is golf, surfing, and more chances to play soccer than you could ever believe.

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

Rugs for sure. Many other handicrafts like mirrors, wood work, Argan oil.

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

Getting out of Casablanca to see the beautiful country and more traditional cities. The amazing handcrafts and markets (everything is cheaper and available in Casablanca). A great highway system throughout the country. Low cost of living, cheap and great domestic help, great food. Cheap flights to Europe. Surfing and beaches.

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11. Can you save money?

Definitely possible, even with traveling around and experiencing a lot. Just avoid the high end clubs/restaurants.

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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:

Ideas that Morocco is a first-world nation. For the majority of Moroccans it is a third-world nation and there is evidence of that everywhere. Enough first-world influence sneaks through to fool people there to visit, but if you come to live, you will see behind the facade.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, sunglasses, winter clothes, if you plan an overnight in the desert, sense of adventure.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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


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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Casablanca, Morocco 04/04/10

Background:

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

5th- previously in Bermuda, Wales, Spain, and Algeria.

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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?

Considering the fact that Morocco is in Africa, you can't ask for a better commute to the US.There is a direct non-stop flight to NY JFK from Casablanca almost every day of the week. The flight takes off from JFK around 7 pm and lands in Casa the next morning. It couldn't be any easier. I've been back to the US 4 times in my tour and have never done anything but the NY JFK flight. Some people go through Paris, but that airport presents its own challenges.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2008-present.

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

Assigned to US Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Fabulous large villas with walled in yards (I even have a pool!) outside of the city, large apartments inside the city. The villas can be upwards of 40 minutes from work during rush hour traffic, but my commute is right long the Atlantic and I don't mind the drive. Apartments are usually within walking distance to the Consulate. We live very well here.

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

Meat can get expensive, but produce is cheap and of great quality. Clementines and strawberries by the truckload, delicious and dirt cheap. No need to bleach the veggies here. We are very lucky to have access to the commissary in Rabat for the US products you just can't do without, but the prices are really high, so be prepared.

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

Seasonal items like Valentine's Day and Easter and Halloween stuff - random gifts to give for kid's parties- toy stores here are really expensive. Also stamps of various denominations - the DPO doesn't sell them. Pool equipment, a trampoline, playground for the kids.

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

McDonald's, KFC, TGIF - prices are the same. Also great local restaurants.

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

The occasional cockroach or ant in the homes, but other than that, nothing too bothersome.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch. It takes week or 2 to get back and forth.

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

Plentiful and reasonably priced. Might not speak much english though.

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

There are gyms all over the city. Some can be expensive. Plenty of places to run along the ocean.

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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?

ATMS and credit cards can be used here without trouble.

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

I believe so.

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

TV is cheap here. You can get a satellite installed for about $70 for the decoder and the satellite - there are hundreds of channels to choose from. AFN decoders can be rented from Rabat or you can just buy your own.

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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?

French will get you most places, but some of the less educated people might only speak Arabic, and Moroccan Arabic at that. If you only spoke english it might be difficult to get around.

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

Plenty. Sidewalks are narrow, broken, no ramps. Not to mention the Consulate is not handicapped accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Trains - excellent and cheap. Taxis - run down but cheap. Buses - way crowded and not used by post personnel. Taxis are a much better option to busses anyways.

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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?

Sedans, SUVs, family vans, anything is fine. There's no need for SUVs here, but many people have them. The roads are of good quality, it's just the drivers that are a bit crazy. Your vehicle might get a bit dinged up while you're here, so don't bring anything precious. Toyota, Honda, European models all have dealerships here.

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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?

The internet isn't bad. I pay about $25 per month for internet that allows me to download a movie off iTunes in about 4 hours. I've had a few problems here and there but overall I can't complain. Skype works great. There aren't any sites blocked by the host country.

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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?

Post issues blackberries to direct hire Americans, but there are numerous phone companies that offer various plans if you needed a phone for someone else.

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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)?

There is an awesome English speaking vet who makes house calls. And he's cheap. Can't speak about kennels but you would probably be better off having someone come to your house to watch your animal vice taking them to a kennel. The weather here is such that you could leave a dog outside year round if you wanted. The yards are perfect for pets.

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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 think it would be tough, but I don't know for certain.

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

You can dress here as you would in the US, no need to cover up like in the Gulf countries.

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Health & Safety:

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

I think the previous post reports gave Casablanca a bad rap. There's no serious violent crime to speak of, and aside from the occasional purse snatching here and there, it's no different than living in any large city, just watch your back.

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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?

The occasional stomach bug is present, if you aren't careful where you eat. Medical quality in Casablanca and Rabat is pretty good, but I wouldn't want to get sick or injured out in the boonies. Rabat has a nurse health practitioner and Casa has a local nurse.

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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?

Fine - we are on the ocean and get the sea breeze. I have never had pollution concerns here.

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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?

Awesome. One of the best parts of being here.

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Schools & Children:

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

Casa American School has an excellent reputation and I wouldn't think of putting my kids anywhere else. The teachers there are true educators and have a great amount of experience. I have been very happy there. The school is about 95% Moroccan because many wealthy Moroccans send their kids there. The school does not provide transportation, so the Consulate brings the kids to and from school.

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

Contact the school first, but CAS has a special ed coordinator and a school psychologist. In the community, however, there are very limited resources for OT, PT and Speech, you'd really have to do some checking. Overall the school has been very good in accomodating my son's mild special needs.

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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?

I think almost all the local preschools close at lunch and send the kids home, so if you are using the preschool as "daycare" you would be better off just getting a nanny at home. If you have a stay at home spouse and want your kid to get a preschool experience, there are preschools here (all in French, I think) that are affordable alternatives to Casa American School.

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

There is a kiddie gym called Mon Club that has gymnastics and karate classes for kids. It'sbit expensive but is modern and well equipped.

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Expat Life:

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

Mostly private business types, not as large as Rabat.

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2. Morale among expats:

Since Casablanca is a small post, the morale can fluctuate greatly based off the personalities involved. Right not we have a good bunch, so we're happy.

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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?

The corniche is lined with clubs and restaurants and cafes. The CG residence has a pool and BBQ area that can be used by post personnel and is a great place to gather in the summer.

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

I've heard people say Casa is not a family post but I disagree. If you live in a villa you will probably have a decent yard for your child to play in. There are places to take the kids, you just have to look around a bit. While it's true that there aren't as many kids here as in Rabat, it's a small post, so that's the nature of the beast. Rabat is only an hour or so away and you can always join in on their CLO activities. There are decent restaurants here, a nice tapas bar, plenty of night time activities.

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

While there may be no gay bars around, Marrakesh supposedly is somewhat gay-friendly.

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

None that I have seen.

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

Awesome trips to the desert, incredibly warm and friendly people.

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

Travel, eat, shop, and when you get tired of Morocco, you can hop a cheap short flight to Europe.

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

Metal and glass lamps, pottery, embroidered tablecloths.

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

Where can I start? The weather is to die for. Not too cold in winter, never gets too hot in summer. It will average in the 70s throughout the summer. Inland it's much hotter, but since Casablanca is on the Atlantic, we get the cool Atlantic breezes. Tons of places in country to visit, and it's a very diverse country - deserts, forests, snow covered mountains, all within a day's drive. The food is phenomenal. Great shopping. Easy access to Europe - and the list goes on.

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11. Can you save money?

I did.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat. I wish I could stay here longer.

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

ideas that Morocco is the Paris of North Africa. It's a big dirty city and has all the challenges that come with living in a big dirty city. But the people are great, the weather is fantastic, and the food is lovely.

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3. But don't forget your:

sled. Sleds work equally well on sand and snow and you can see both in the same day here.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The movie Casablanca has very little to do with the city as it is today. It wasn't even filmed here. No doubt it's a classic, but has nothing to do with this post.

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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 Caliph's House, Tahir Shah

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I love it here, maybe more so than I should, so I hope this isn't too biased. But some of the other post reports painted Casa in a bad light, so I wanted to present the other side.

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Casablanca, Morocco 03/06/08

Background:

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

No. I have also lived in Harare, Addis Ababa, Khartoum, and Luanda.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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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. Government.

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

Royal Air Maroc flies non-stop from New York/JFK in about seven hours, without any delays or mechanical problems. Air France offers 4-5 flights a day from Paris with connections to the U.S. There are many discount airlines that fly to Casablanca from many European cities as well, including Jet4you, EasyJet, and Click Air.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Large and spacious apartments near the Consulate for singles or married employees and villas with small yards near the ocean for employees with families. Shanty towns exist throughout the city, even in the nicer parts of town. Most families in villas live within a short walk to a shanty town.

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

You can find anything you need in Casablanca including two pork butchers. Prices are generally much higher than the U.S. Diplomats can apply for reimbursment of the 20 percent VAT.

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

Between the fancy shops in Casablanca and the use of the APO, you can get anything you need. The well-stocked commissary in Rabat can also special order most things from the U.S.

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

KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds have several locations in the city. Casablanca also has excellent Sushi, Lebanesse, Thai, Indian, French, Spanish and Italian Food. There is also the overated Rick's Cafe.

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Daily Life:

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

Use the APO in Rabat.

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

Maids, nannies and gardeners cost anywhere from 10-20 Euros a day.

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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?

Credit Cards and ATMs can be used throughout the city. Rates are usually poor for these services.

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

Yes.

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

You can pick up an IHT for 2 Euros. 'Black Market' TV is available for a small initial set up fee and will get you CNN, BBC, CNBC, and lots of movie channels in English

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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?

You will need some basic French or Moroccan Arabic to navigate around the city.

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

Someone with a physical disability should think long and hard before coming to Casablanca.

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Transportation:

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

Right, like the U.S.

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

Many people take the train to Rabat, Marrakesh, and Fez. Local petit taxis are affordable, but often do not have working seatbelts.

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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?

Its a fine balance between feeling safe and navigating traffic in the city. Personally, I would opt for a larger, safer car or SUV. Most car brands have an authorized dealer in the city. One should expect vehicles to have several scrapes and bumps before you leave, but there are tons of bodyshops in the city willing to fix your dents. Carjackings and break-ins are almost unheard of, espicially if you remember to tip the guardians who watch your car when you pop into a store.

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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?

For anywhere from US$40-100 a month you can get unlimited ADSL service.

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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?

Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and Wana all offer cell phone service ranging from monthly plans to minutes to go.

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

Skype or Vonage.

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Pets:

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

There are several vets and kennels in the city for both dogs and cats.

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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?

Unless you speak French and/or Moroccan Arabic there are few decent job opportunities. Anyone willing to teach English should be able to find part-time work for 10-20 Euros an hour.

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

Mostly business casual but some events do require suits. On one hand, Casablanca is a chic city and you will see the latest fashions on display in Maarif. On the other hand, its not uncommon to see women veiled.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate most days; unhealthy some days.

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

There are serious personal and terrorism security concerns in Casablanca. At one point, nearly a fourth of all women associated with the Consulate had been victims of a mugging or attempted mugging. These muggers have often presented and threatened to use knifes to gain valuables. The use of a moped to snatch a purse is also a concern.

In terms of terrorism, the Consulate was closed for seven weeks in the Spring of 2007 due to security concerns associated with two suicide bombings in the area in March. Government of Morocco authorities seem committed to stopping these people, but regional terrorism issues are a concern.

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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?

Medical care can be very good and medical staff are generally well-trained. Its not uncommon to get sick with a stomach ailment and people complain of respriatory problems.

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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?

Pretty ideal. Winters are mild with highs of 60-70 (F) degrees not uncommon even in January and February. Summers can be hot. In the past, some people have complained about the rain.

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Schools & Children:

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

Two American-based curriculum schools offer instruction in English, the Casablanca American School and the George Washington Academy. CAS is an accredited facility while GWA is not. Generally speaking, consulate staff have been pleased with the academic approach at CAS. Some families have expressed concern about social pressures at CAS. A few years ago, several employees removed their kids from CAS due to harassment at the school. Since then, a new director has come in and tried to improve the social dynamics. At GWA, some families have complained that math and science instruction are not on par with U.S. standards.

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

Beginning in elementary school, CAS can work with most special needs.

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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?

Excellent nannies can be hired full-time for 250-350 Euros per month. Several excellent French-based preschools can be found in the city and tutition ranges from 120-160 Euros per month, depending on whether your kid goes half-day (9-12pm) or full-day (9-12pm, 2-5pm).

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Expat Life:

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

There is a small diplomatic corps in the city serving several consulates. There are also some American businessmen and women as well as lots of French expats.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally speaking, morale ranges from indifference to poor.

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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?

There are a few representational events in Casablanca, but you should expect to attend several events in Rabat. Several galleries and Cultural Centers have events in French throughout the year. For English speakers, there are few events and most can be found at the Churchill Club.

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

Casablanca is often described as a big city without the benefits of a big city. Crime is high, pollution is bad, and traffic is terrible. On a positive note the restuarants are fantastic. Families often complain of how little there is to do for kids.

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

I have heard but cannot confirm that the city, despite its conservative Arab culture has a discrete gay scene.

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

Gender harassment is a huge problem and women should expect to be harassed on a daily basis. I have heard of significant racial harassment directed towards West Africans living in the city.

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

In Casablanca...walk along the Corniche with everyone else on the weekend, tour the Grand Mosque, shop at all of the fancy French stores, explore Habous, eat out at a restuarant.

Getting out of Casablanca for a few hours or a few days can be a fantastic expierence. There are decent beaches within 30 minutes of the city. Coastal cities such as El Jadida and Essaouira are unique places to visit. Marrakesh, Fez and Tangier can all be reached in 2-4 hours on new 4-lane highways. Families often drive 90 minutes to Rabat to go to the Zoo or play at the American Club playground.

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

Rugs, lanterns, fabric, furniture, brass, pottery.

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9. Can you save money?

Between the high prices for food and clothes and the need to get out of the city, it's hard to save money. The Moroccan Dirham is pegged to the Euro and the US$-Euro rate isn't doing us any favors at the moment.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

While I would entertain another posting in Morocco, I would not come back to Casablanca.

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

Skimpy clothes unless you enjoy constant harassment.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor, willingness to explore the country, and ability to find fun and interesting things to do.

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

Paul Bowles.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Lots of movies are filmed in/around Casablanca and most people will find an opportunity to be in a movie themselves. Otherwise, you should watch 'Casablanca' just for the memories.

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

Paul Bowles.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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