Prisoners Abroad’s country of the month for May is Morocco, a thriving and diverse destination frequented by about 600,000 British nationals every year. Morocco’s myriad of natural and cultural attractions range from the scenic Atlas Mountains to the Sahara Desert, and include mosques, bustling marketplaces, and beautiful ocean side towns.
With temperatures ranging from 6 to 36 degrees, visiting Morocco is a different experience throughout the year, with a ski season from December to March, and high tourist season over the summer. The Moroccan summer is also home to countless festivals: the Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez and the Festival of Roses – celebrating the rose harvest in the ‘Valley of the Roses’ – are popular traditional festivals. Of more modern character, the Marathons des Sables (the Sand Marathon) – the ‘toughest’ foot race on Earth through the Sahara desert – and Mawazine (Rhythms of the World), a modern multistage music festival in Rabat, also entice many British visitors each year.
As Morocco is a Muslim country, Ramadan is also celebrated each year. This year the festival will take place from the 27th of May, till the 25th of June. In observing Ramadan, locals fast from food, drink, and smoking from dawn till dusk each day and refrain from all other activities incompatible with Islamic values. As well as being an interesting and – for the closing celebration of the fast (Eid al-Fitr) – exhilarating tradition, Ramadan represents a time that travellers in Morocco should be extra careful. The British FCO recommends that, out of respect, one should not: eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public during daylight, engage in public displays of affection, or engage in loud music or dancing during Ramadan. Further, extra care should be taken to dress conservatively.
Even outside of Ramadan, travelling to the beautiful Morocco comes with risks. Many Moroccan laws differ from UK law, the breaking of which can result in arrest and imprisonment. Some of these offences include:
- Sexual relations outside of marriage
- Drinking alcohol outside of licensed hotels, bars, and tourist areas
- Carrying bibles printed in Arabic
- Flying drone cameras without permission
Further, taking photographs near sensitive political of military sights is inadvisable. Dressing conservatively – covering arms, legs, and chest – should also be considered, to show respect and to reduce unwanted attention, especially for females travelling alone.
To read the story of Ray Cole, a Briton imprisoned in Morocco for homosexuality, click here.
Should a British traveller be arrested and detained in Morocco, prison conditions are often extremely challenging. As of March this year, Prisoners Abroad has been supporting 5 Britons imprisoned in Morocco, helping them to overcome isolation enhanced by the language barrier, and providing tangible support to help combat the well-being deficits created by overcrowding. The effect of this support can be monumental. We also support their families – who can suffer terribly as a result of the separation – by helping to arrange visits and giving advice. In the words of a family member of a man detained in Morocco:
‘He left when his son was 3 months old, now his son has met him and is able to identify him as his dad… Our daughter is very close with her dad; this keeps me going knowing that once a year she will be able to see her father’.
Travelling to Morocco can be an incredibly diverse and rewarding experience – although care should be taken to #TravelAware.
To find out more about safe travel, have a look at Prisoners Abroad’s Travel Aware campaign.