Thursday, April 24, 2008

Morocco and tourism

Larache by Chach Coati - Chach Coati's photostream

1. In 2007, Morocco attracted a record 7.4 million foreign tourists.

"The government, which sees tourism as a growth engine, expects the number of foreign visitors to reach 10 million in 2010.

"Tourism accounts for 8 % of the country's gross domestic product and is its largest foreign currency earner.

"The number of foreign holidaymakers visiting Morocco rose 13 % last year from the year before, according to government figures." (Cached )

2. "Pierre & Vacances, Europe's largest operator of vacation resorts, will spend 270 million euros ($427 million) to expand in Morocco.

"The Paris-based company plans to build accommodation holding 10,000 beds in resorts, urban residences and apartments for seniors by 2013" - Pierre & Vacances Plans to Invest 270 Million Euros in Morocco

3. "France has initialled a deal to build a high-speed rail link between the cities of Tangiers and Marrakech in Morocco." - France, Morocco sign raft of economic partnership deals

Video - Asilah

4. "Currently under construction by Qatari Diar, the development arm of the Qatar government, the $600 million Al Houara Resort is designed to be the most opulent and stylish resort in Morocco...

"Situated on the picturesque stretch of coastline that runs from Tangier to Asilah, the Al Houara Resort will attract the most exclusive visitors to this privileged location. The attractive design of this project reflects the best of Moroccan architecture combined with a design that incorporates the comforts of 21st century living.

"Property investors should also be aware that we would expect a significant uplift in value when the Tangier airport opens to more direct flights from the UK..." - Al Houara Resort Al Houara Resort Property Tanger Asilah Morocco ...

5. "Crime in Morocco is a serious concern, particularly in the major cities and tourist areas. Aggressive panhandling, pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, theft from occupied vehicles stopped in traffic and harassment of women are the most frequently reported crimes.

"These are more likely to occur in crowded market areas, transportation centers, parks and beaches. Criminals have used weapons, primarily knives, during some street robberies and burglaries.

"These have occurred at any time of day and night, not only in isolated places or areas less frequented by visitors, but in crowded areas as well." - Morocco

"Since March 2008 a number of Europeans, including British citizens, have been attacked and robbed at knifepoint, mainly late at night, near the centre of Tangier in the area from Blvd Pasteur/Mohammed V leading down to the beach, and in and around the Kasbah/Medina.

"You are advised to avoid those areas late at night and not to carry valuables with you at any time in those parts of town.

"A British tourist was injured in an apparent knife attack at a hotel in Marrakech on 9 May 2007. There has also been an increase in reports of other violent attacks, including some shootings, and of car jacking in Casablanca." - Travel Advice

Muhammed VI

6. Some people see Andre Azoulay, counselor to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, as the most important person in Morocco.

Andre Azoulay is Jewish.

Morocco is one of those Moslem countries that appears to be run by the military and the secret police.

Morocco is one of those Moslem countries that appears to be friends with Israel and the Pentagon.

The King of Morocco and his generals are very, very rich.

The bulk of the population is very poor.

There are huge slums on the outskirts of cities such as Marrakech which the tourists never see.

In 2003, when a Moslem party began to win support among the poor, bombs went off. No Jews or Israelis were among the casualties. The bombs were blamed on the Islamists. There was a crackdown on opponents of the military. More than 3,000 people were arrested.

Morocco occupies a strategically important position and is useful to the Pentagon.

Some people suspect that the CIA recruits Moroccans for some of its work.

Tourists should be very careful in Morocco.

7. The Sunday Times,,2089-2036185_2,00.html reported 12 February 2006, that, according to intelligence sources, the USA is involved with the building of a new interrogation and detention facility at Ain Aouda, near Rabat.

Locals said they had often seen American vehicles with diplomatic plates in the area.

According to The Sunday Times:

The construction of the new compound, run by the Direction de la Securité du Territoire (DST), the Moroccan secret police, adds to a substantial body of evidence that Morocco is one of America’s principal partners in the secret “rendition” programme in which the CIA flies prisoners to third countries for interrogation.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other groups critical of the policy have compiled dossiers detailing the detention and apparent torture of radical Islamists at the DST’s current headquarters, at Temara, near Rabat.

A recent inquiry into rendition by the Council of Europe, led by Dick Marty, the Swiss MP, highlighted a pattern of flights between Washington, Guantanamo Bay and Rabat’s military airport at Sale.

French intelligence and diplomatic sources said the most recent such flight was in the first week in December, when four suspects were seen being led blindfolded and handcuffed from a Boeing 737 at Sale and transferred into a fleet of American vehicles...

The secret police HQ at Temara has a fearsome reputation among former inmates. Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian-born Briton later sent to Guantanamo Bay, told Amnesty International that interrogators there cut his chest and penis when he refused to answer questions.

8. Getting Stoned

STONES were being thrown at me. There was blood on my hand. I was standing at the entrance gate to the Moroccan city of xxxxxxxxx. The teenagers who were throwing the stones were presumably not wildly keen on the sight of a rich western tourist who was carrying a large camera.

I reported to the police station on three occasions after being threatened or hit.

On the third occasion the police officer in charge decided to give me a hard time. He suggested that my passport might not have been properly stamped or might be out of date.

I began to get the impression that something was seriously wrong with Morocco. I came across a small malnourished, ragged child staring at some postcards outside a shop. I gave the boy a few coins. He kissed my hand gravely and thanked me many times. Not all Moroccans are louts.

In my 4 star hotel, the barman was arguing with his colleagues. A hotel employee decided to empty his nostrils of mucus as my drink was being served. The restaurant was full of flies.

The streets of Fes were full of litter and insects. There were huge piles of refuse at every road junction.

Moroccan cities also seem to have more than their fair share of the mentally backward (caused by inbreeding?) and the mentally ill (caused by poverty and powerlessness?)

Figures for March 2002 show a 35% drop in the number of package tourists arriving at Agadir airport.

I was in the main square in the Moroccan city of xxxxxxxxxx one sunny morning (May 1st 2002). There were riot police, and ordinary police and soldiers stationed in the square. There were riot police down the various side streets and sitting in cafes. There were plain clothes police and uniformed officers on all the major roads. In the square there were speeches given by the smartly dressed leaders of one of the 'left-wing' parties. These leaders were dressed like the mafia.The crowd which had gathered to listen was small and their applause was less than lukewarm.


Riots are common in Morocco.

In 1955, Berber tribesmen descended on the village of Oed Zen and killed every Frenchman they found.

On 20 June 1981, up to 600 people were killed in rioting in Casablanca (Le Figaro 1 July 1981, page 2).

In 1984, up to 200 people were killed in rioting in cities such as Tetouan (Le monde 26 Jan 1984, page 4).

A greater danger than riots is the driving in Morocco. My taxi driver drove with either one hand or no hand on the steering wheel and he loved going right up close to the vehicle in front. France has 2.6 deaths per 1000 vehicles. Morocco has 25.6 deaths per 1000 vehicles, making it the second most dangerous country in the world in terms of motoring.

While I was cycling in Morocco, I was chased by savage dogs and savage children demanding money. The children terrified me as they looked very hungry and as tough as slum kids from Liverpool.


So what is happening in Morocco?

Morocco's former king, Hassan, was said to be worth $40 billion.

Out of the 100 richest people in Morocco, 'the top 50 are in the armed forces or police.' 'The fortune amassed by the 20 richest army officers would be enough to pay off Morocco's foreign debt of $17bn.'

I visited a shanty settlement. I am not brave; I simply wandered in by accident. This was a place of barking dogs, piles of rubbish, home made shacks with no water supply or sewage disposal, and ragged children who looked seriously malnourished. A high wall hid the shacks of the poor from any tourists on the main streets.

Almost 65% of the population l ive below the poverty line 'and the situation is deteriorating'.

According to ex-army officer Ahmed Rami, who is now in exile, the former King of Morocco, Hassan, was a puppet of the Jews and of the CIA. According to Rami, King Hassan could not take a step without the Jew André Azoulay, a Zionist "adviser". Azoulay - and people like him - allegedly made the important decisions, such as helping the rich get richer, and being sympathetic to Israel and the USA. Education, the media and the whole of social life were regulated by these advisers, not by the Moroccans themselves.

At least 25% of Morocco's population of 29 million are unemployed.

More than half the population is illiterate (70% of women) and two-thirds of people living in the country do not have access to drinking water, 87% are without electricity and 93% receive no medical care.

Morocco makes its money from the receipts sent home by Moroccans working abroad (most Moroccans want to get out of Morocco because of its corruption), from cannabis (sold in Europe), from smuggling (stolen cars and other goods), from phosphates (used in farming), from fishing (sardines), from farming (most of the best land is owned by a small rich elite, including army officers and politicians), from textiles (most Moroccan industry is still medieval and there is much competition from cheap-labour countries such as Turkey), and from tourism (Morocco gets about 2 million tourists per year while Spain hosts 45 million; Morocco has surprisingly few hotel beds).

The farms of the elite have been given much help and produce lots of oranges and vegetables intended for export to Europe; but Europe would rather buy its fruit and vegetables from the likes of Spain or Portugal. Morocco is no longer self-sufficient in wheat but has more oranges than it knows what to do with.

The farms of the poor suffer from having too many people and not enough water. The rural poor escape to the cities -Tangiers, Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakesh - where they crowd into shanty towns on the outskirts or even in the centre.

I visited a poor farming area. The children's faces looked pinched. Few of the girls went to school. The houses had no water or toilets or electricity. Transport was by donkey.

The 5 star Gazelle d'Or hotel, near Taroudant, has been visited by the likes of the Duchess of York and Michael Portillo. It refused to let me in. Rooms cost hundreds of dollars. Not far from the Gazelle d'Or I came across villages with falling down houses and ragged children.

Photo by Rosino at

10. Muhammad VI came to the throne in 1999. In all the main towns and cities there are large posters showing his face. (A bit like Baby Doc's Haiti?) His concern for his fellow citizens is very different from the attitude of his father, and his nickname is "king of the poor". The king heads the Muhammad V foundation, which acts like a humanitarian NGO, and sometimes travels to outlying villages to bring tanks of water to drought victims, and support micro-development projects. "He visits the sick and takes care of the destitute. Numbers of stories are told of his goodness, compassion and generosity, and some people literally worship him."

According to Moroccan Professor Muhammad Tozy, "His attitude to ordinary people is undoubtedly sincere, but in addition it is politically astute since it cuts the ground from under the feet of the Islamists, who had until now monopolised charitable work in the poor neighbourhoods. This made them very popular. Now the king appears as a major rival in terms of religious legitimacy, since he is the descendant of the prophet Muhammad and 'commander of the faithful', but also in terms of solidarity with the deprived and excluded."

The new king has also taken an interest in the issue of freedom and human rights. Less than a month after the death of Hassan II, he spoke about the "disappeared" and the "victims of arbitrary arrest". Speaking in Casablanca he underlined the need to respect "human rights and individual freedoms". He dismissed Driss Basri, former minister of the interior and mastermind of a policy of repression that lasted almost 30 years.

Will the new king be able to prevent an Iranian-style revolution?

Islamism is spreading at a fast rate, taking advantage of the poverty and misery. The elite in the army are hardly likely to allow changes that will deprive them of their wealth! The politicians are deeply divided and there are over 30 political parties.

When he came to power, the new socialist Prime Minister, Youssoufi, undertook to straighten out the economy, decentralise administrative bodies, clean up public life, fight corruption, reform justice, combat poverty, develop low-income housing for the very poor, introduce a national pact for employment and, of course, find a solution to the dispute over the Sahara. Not much has been achieved. The figures for illiteracy, poverty and healthcare have scarcely changed. Many reforms are incomplete, though some of them, such as electoral reform, changes to legal procedure, labour law or the law on public freedom, are vital to the continuation of the transition process. And there is still high unemployment, as well as discrimination against women, corruption, feudal authoritarianism and sporadic human rights violations.

In the poorest neighbourhoods people are turning to the Islamists and not the socialists. The Islamist Justice and Welfare association founded by Sheikh Yassin visits the sick, helps them to buy medicine, contributes to funeral expenses, organises evening classes for the schoolchildren and supports single women, widows and divorcees.

What do the Islamists stand for in Morocco? How many are there? A big crowd - almost 100,000 - turned out in Casablanca for a demonstration against government plans to change women's status. The Islamists are very well established in the towns and suburbs and, increasingly, in the country as well. They are close to the people, helping the poor, sick and students, and they have networks all over the poorest neighbourhoods. They are active in welfare, whereas the left, even the far-left, no longer bother.

The left "has lost contact with the people." A quote from Le Monde Diplomatique: "Latifa, aged 45, teaches maths in a secondary school in the suburbs of Casablanca. She says "The middle classes account for barely 5% of the population, compared with more than 35% in Tunisia. Morocco's dominated by a system of networks, nepotism, clans, interconnected families who would rather give a job to an unsuitable, incompetent relation rather than a highly qualified young person from a poor background."

In May 2003, there were bomb attacks in Casablanca. Over 30 people died. Islamic militants were blamed. The government was then able to have a clampdown and 'hundreds' were arrested.

Enough of politics.

Moroccan cities are full of female prostitutes. But they are generally for the Moroccans (soldiers and those not yet married) and not for the tourists.

AIDS is very widespread.

My male guide, Hamid, walked ahead of me with his male friend. Hamid spent most of the time gently rubbing his friends back or holding his friend's hand. According to the experts, Moroccans like spending time with a single friend of the same sex. Same sex friendships are very important for Moroccans all through their lives. There are few limits to intimacy in same sex friendships. Moroccans 'usually marry out of a sense of duty.'

According to 'Culture Shock- Moroc co' by Orin Hargraves (Kuperard), "Homosexual relations among boys and young men are common." "Pederasty is exceedingly prevalent" wrote Edward Westermack in "Ritual and Belief in Morocco." In Morocco, homosexual sex by tourists is heavily punished; and sex with minors is very heavily punished with long jail sentences. In any case, tourists are not loved by the average Moroccan who sees the tourist as an alien

The hotel, the Gazelle D'or, at around £600 a night, is rather special. Visitors have allegedly included Michael Portillo, Jacques Chirac, Fergie, Rory Bremner, Mick Jagger, hosts of pop stars, statesmen, politicians, personalities, and 'the world's wealthiest closet Queens.'

According to Scallywag magazine, "As far as Westminster is concerned, the Gazelle D'or was first "discovered" by the notorious gay MP Sir Charles "Charley" Irving who died from aids in 1993. Irving, who chaired the Commons catering Committee, was famous for his private parties in the Pugin room in Westminster where he outrageously flirted with the male members of staff. Many of the 100-plus gay Tory MP's who inhabit "The Palace", often furtively, were fellow guests........

The REAL attraction of the Gazelle D'or is not just the exclusivity, or the fabulous luxury. It is, quite simply, that they boast one of the most superlative men-only Turkish baths, Sauna and Massage Parlour in the world, manned by hand-picked and specially trained swarthy Berbers who are most willing to accommodate every whim of their customers. The whole concept of the place is designed to be a veritable paradise for gays."

12. Some educated young Moroccans admire all things French and Western. But a large number of Moroccans reject all things Western and non-Islamic. The latter group can be very hostile to tourists.

Sorcery plays a big part in Moroccan lives. There seems to be as much belief in 'magic' as in Islam. The kid who thinks you are a foreign 'devil' may be frightened of the evil eye. The shoeshine boys troubled me.

If I had my shoes shined and paid 30 pence, then six other boys would appear and they would follow me, requesting money. If I gave money to a kid whose photo I had taken as he sat on a donkey, then six kids, then twenty six kids would appear, all demanding money. One group of boys threw stones at me after I had refused to give them cash.

There is a law against troubling tourists; but it has not entirely solved the problem! Moroccans seldom seem to feel guilt or shame. They do not seem to feel guilty when they have cheated you. They may only feel shame when they have been sent to Coventry by their fellows, for example for breaking Islamic rules.

How do I explain the 'rough' conduct of moroccan boys? The Moroccan boy is expected by his mother to be spontaneous, demanding and egotistical. The boy is king. The mother is of lowly status. The father has either gone off with another woman or is out at the cafe or is somewhere else. "The father typically remains absent from the household through major portions of each day in his child's life," according to 'Images and Self Images' by Dwyer (Columbia University press). The father and the mother seldom love each other. Their marriage was one of convenience.

13. Morocco is for the holiday that is exciting and adventurous. It is a trip into the Third World. It is not necessarily going to be stress-free. Morocco needs tourists. It's economy is in trouble and tourism is one o f the few areas where expansion can take place.

But, not all Moroccans welcome tourists! So, it is probably best to avoid places like Casablanca, because of the violent crime, and Tangier, because of the hustlers and occasional muggings (I got mugged at knifepoint on a main street in Tangier in broad daylight).

Agadir is generally geared up for sunshine worshippers, but is not very Moroccan. You'd be better off in the Canary Islands.

Fes is fascinating, but expect a lot of hassle and a lot of litter and filth. An Imperial Cities Tour would be a good bet as you would be escorted most of the time.

Marrakech is probably your best bet, but go with an organised tour which will protect you from hassles. Choose your hotel carefully. Generally the higher the price, the better the hotel!

Ouarzazate would be a bit too hot for my liking, but you might like it. Don't expect to find much to do, other than organised trips.

Essaouira is a pleasant fishing village. But you might get bored after a week.

Taroudannt is a good base for organised excursions into the mountains, but the town itself has little to offer. There are lots of 'adventure' trips into the mountains. Remember it can be cold and primitive up in these hills full of scorpions. And there are few toilets.

14. Most Moroccans, especially those over 40 years of age, are reasonably kind and helpful. Don't be put off by the stone throwers.


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