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Overview

Morocco - Overview


Capital: Rabat

Population: 32,725,847 (July 2005 est.)

Languages: Arabic (official), Berber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy

Religions: Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%

Currency: Moroccan dirham (MAD)

Timezone: GMT+0

Part I: What Morocco Has to Offer

Climate and Scenery

Morocco has wide-ranging types of scenic beauty. The coastal areas contain beautiful, white hillside cities overlooking the oceans of the Mediterranean, and Atlantic. Weather is generally sunny, ten months out of the year. Coastal climates are humid, but not generally excessively so. The interior of the country is dry, but again, not excessively so.

The red city of Marrakesh is filled with dramatic colors. The reddish-pink buildings are contrasted with an intense blue sky and green palm trees, all sitting below the snow-covered High Atlas, as a backdrop. Tangerines cover many trees in winter months, whereas bitter oranges cover other ornamental trees during the summer months. During spring months, Jacaranda trees are in bloom, with their purple flowers. During spring and summer, bougainvillea in red, orange, purple, and hot pink covers walls throughout the city. Banana trees are used as ornamentals. Gardens surround the city walls.

Desert and mountain areas are still wild, and undeveloped. The desert areas are as beautiful as people dream of--dune areas, and deep blue sky. Mountain areas remain dramatic and unspoiled, inhabited by Berbers who are still living in traditional ways.

The large variety of people, and ways of life, are also part of the Moroccan Scenery. People dress in interesting, and different clothes. Many different languages can be heard every day. People living in all sorts of lifestyles mix and interact everywhere.


Lifestyle

Morocco can offer a different life-style from back home, particularly in the area of more leisure time. People do work long hours here. However, thanks to having affordable maids, and different cultural attitudes, there is more time outside of work to pursue other interests. Friends still have time for each other, personal hobbies can be pursued, and the cafe culture is affordable. Few people have more than a 15-minute commute to work, leaving more time in the day for other activities.

Moroccan society is very private and insular. (Most homes have walls around them, for example.) The level of privacy permits some people to pursue private life-styles that might not be possible in other places.

Moroccan life is much more "outdoor" than in first-world cultures. The climate encourages this. Central heating, and central air conditioning, do not exist (although space heaters and air-conditioning units are now available for those who don't mind a high electric bill). Many homes, particularly in the Medina, are built in a "patio" style. For those who live in the Medina, much of daily life is "outdoors," in a sense, even within one's own home. Outdoor leisure activities--skiing, hiking, tennis, swimming, picnicking, and biking are a great part of many ex-pats' and Moroccans' (middle and upper classes) lives. Both beaches and mountains are within reasonable driving distance for day trips, from nearly every part of Morocco.

Morocco offers vine-ripened fresh foods all year, and has a delicious, and healthy, national cuisine. High-quality fresh fruits and vegetables are available at low prices, year-round.

Medical and dental care is now excellent, as well as very affordable.

A variety of languages are spoken in Morocco (Arabic, French, Berber, English, and Spanish in the North). Excellent educational facilities exist for children, including foreign schools in French and English now in most major cities (and Spanish in Tangier). There has been a BIG push toward English since 2001. The number of English-speakers is now increasing substantially. Moroccans are supportive, encouraging, and appreciative of foreigners who are attempting to communicate, or learn languages, in Morocco.

The cost of living in Morocco is definitely increasing. But Westerners and Europeans can still live at a higher level materially, for a given salary, than in Europe.


A Special "Feeling"

Morocco has a magical, almost "spiritual" feeling about it. This "feeling" is due to a number of factors. Life is less artificial and much closer to nature. Weather extremes and changes of seasons are much more noticeable when central heating and air conditioning are non-existent.

Contributing to the "different" overall atmosphere of Morocco is that many Moroccans seemingly take a "fatalistic" attitude toward life. This pervasive idea can be seen in the refusal by many to take basic safety precautions--such as not wearing seat belts, or not wearing helmets on motorcycles. It can also be seen in the general Moroccan lack of striving toward material goals. Many Moroccans don't seem to be "trying" as hard as Westerners. This attitude originates in the Islamic idea of "mktoub," (or what is "pre-written" for you by God). The idea is that, the material things a person will enjoy in his life--the bounty apportioned by God--is pre-written. So there is no need to stress one's self excessively over these things. It is thought that, by doing so, it would put the rest of one's life out of balance. This accounts for some of Morocco's slower pace.

People in Morocco generally take more time to enjoy life, and to "smell the flowers." Many people take daily time just to sit in a cafe with friends. Some people stress themselves less over "achievement," and put more emphasis on "relaxing."

Morocco, and the Islamic religion, both place a great deal of emphasis upon family life. Generally, children are more respectful, and better-behaved, than in the West. Moroccan life is somewhat insular here, as people tend to socialize most in extended-family groups, and with a handful of outside friends. The emphasis on family values, throughout the society, makes Morocco a good place to raise children.


Calmness and Stability

Morocco is probably the most stable country in Africa (together with South Africa). Moroccans are generally calmer than other citizens of the Arab world, both culturally and personally. Moroccans are already a very mixed group of people, who live upon the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. This makes them very open to new ideas, new people, and other ways of living. Since life here is private, Morocco has very much a "live, and let live," mentality.

Morocco derives much of its foreign exchange from tourism. So it does everything possible to promote and protect the tourist trade. Moroccans are attractive, adaptable, and friendly toward foreigners. Most individual Moroccans accept, and WANT, foreigners in the country. Foreigners who choose to do so can comfortably live a western lifestyle, and be accepted by Moroccans while doing so. Most Moroccans LIKE foreigners.


Part II: What Kinds of ExPats Are Moving to/Living In Morocco?

An Unofficial Survey--Reasons for Moving to Morocco:

Climate Reasons:
Getting away from the 'snow belt'
Natural, and rugged, beauty of Morocco
Subtropical Climate

Health Reasons:
Climate (moderately dry, except coastal areas)
Low cost of medical care and/or operations

Religious/Language Reasons:
Considering converting to Islam
Having converted to Islam, wanting to live in an Islamic country
Wanting to live in an Islamic country, but a moderate/liberal one
Missionary work (illegal, however)
To perfect French/Arabic (or Berber)
To learn Arabic (or Berber)
Wanting to experience life in a non-English-speaking country

Other Personal Reasons:
Wanting to raise children in a place with strong family values
Adventure and/or to get away from the boring place in which one grew up; discovery of a new place
Having married a Moroccan
Wanting to experience a third-world lifestyle
Invited by friends, liked the place, and stayed
Being disaffected, angry with home country, and wanting to 'get away'
Being attracted to foreign men/women
Looking for an exotic life, or flamboyant lifestyle, to impress others back home
Retirement in a warm, less expensive place, in a hospitable culture
Dropping out, looking for a lazy lifestyle
Hiding from someone/something
A place to prove to oneself that one can stand on one's own two feet without support of family/friends in a familiar culture - like a personal test
Wanting to work in a culture that leaves more time for leisure, friends, and family

Lifestyle Reasons:
Slower lifestyle
Dropping out of the 'rat race'
Wanting to experience a third-world lifestyle
To feel free to do things one would/could never do in one's own home town
More space, getting away from crowding
Property less expensive than in Europe (but more expensive than in most of America)
Exotic location for second home, with proximity to Europe
From England, it's convenient that there is no time change
Wealthy Arabs from Gulf States wanting a second home in a more liberal Arab country
"Alternate lifestyle" community in exotic locale

Business Reasons:
Sent here to run hotel, factory
Engineers, sent here to build dam or water project, or supervise big construction project, offer earthquake construction advice
Consultancy work
Diplomatic/consular/military/space shuttle
Peace Corps
Geologists/oil company executives
Corporate Spouse
Wanting to start a small business in Morocco, especially import/export, and adventure tourism
Artists/Writers
Clothing designers/manufacturers
Film support staff
Teachers, especially English, and/or foreign languages to Moroccans
Humanitarian work
Fashion designers, for oriental inspiration
Wanting to start a business where the labor pool is cheaper in a third-world-country

Scientific study:
Anthropologists, especially to study Berber culture
Paleontologists to locate numerous fossils, including many dinosaurs
Mineralogists, for whom Morocco is a dream come true
Botanists, to study unique plants, and plant varieties


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