I have just returned from Morocco – it was a late booked holiday – the objective was to get away from the rain and from work (I managed the first but the second seems to make use of technology to find you!).
It was a welcome break of colour and warmth but it came at an unusual time in the political map of North Africa. Along with the weather forecast we looked at the Foreign Office web site every day in the week before our departure. They informed us that there was no additional risk of travelling in Morocco due to the unrest in the Arab world.
Sitting on the plane with our free copy of the ‘Daily Mail’ we were amused at the cat in a jar.
But turning the page we were faced with a wonderful map of the Arab world and the announcement that 37,000 where likely to match in Morocco at the weekend. As it was the weekend passed off peacefully (unless you count the chaos at dinner on Saturday evening but that was the chef!). I was therefore surprised to see the international news which claimed that thousands of people demonstrated in Marrakesh and Agadir with reports of protestors setting fire to a police station in Marrakesh and more than 50 people were reportedly injured in clashes with police in the south-western coastal town of Agadir on Sunday.
We were as surprised as were locals. People did march – they marched for economic and political reform but not against their king – King Mohammed VI – for whom there is considerable support. It is clear that Morocco’s social and economic problems are similar to those in Tunisia and Egypt, but there was no sign of a mass movement that might threaten Mohammed’s rule. Indeed, many people we spoke to said they trusted him to gradually open the country’s economy and politics, and to eventually move to the sort of constitutional monarchy common in modern Europe.
In talking to Moroccans they clearly have concerns about an inadequate health-care system in which patients must often pay bribes before receiving treatment, poor public education, and a lack of employment opportunities even for college graduates. But they did not see themselves in the same position as those demonstrating in other parts of the Arab world.
I do not doubt the complex social and political siutation in Morocco (which is maybe a topic of another blog) but it did seem to me that the media can put situations in jars giving us a distorted image.