Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Moroccan Security There, But Not Too Obtrusive

Written from Casablanca--

Casablanca has had terror attacks, but the security surrounding my ship's docking in the Moroccan city Monday, and a tour I took to the Moroccan capital of Rabat was not all that obtrusive.

The dock area is well guarded and locked down. Anyone entering requires a pass, and cruise passengers must provide their cruise identification card. But this is common these days with many ports.

When we boarded our tour bus, there was an extra person aboard, kind of riding shot gun, beside the tour guide and driver. This man identifiied himself upon my question as "an agent." He may have been armed, but that was not clear. The bus had a radio, but that too is common.

When we reached the royal palace in Rabat, the entire governmental zone was cordoned off and well-guarded. But all the driver had to do to get us in was to say one word: "Americans," and there were no questions asked.

Three separate kinds of police or army were evident at the tombs of King Mohammed V and King Hassan II.

In Casablanca itself, there was not heavy evident police presence. And the great mosque, with the second highest minaret in the world had no outside police presence.

Casablanca has a "Rick's Cafe," but of course it is not the one shot in the classic film with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. That film was shot in a Hollywood studio in Los Angeles.
However, our guide told us that the film "Casablanca" is credited with bringing other moving shooting to the city in recent years. The film Syriana and two others were recently shot there.

The Euro is much more readily accepted in Casablanca than the dollar. The dollar has sunk to a new, lower level of esteem, and sending a postcard home cost $2 in postage, much, much more than when I was in Morocco 12 years ago.

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