Now more than ever I get asked the question: “Is it safe to go to Morocco?”
I can´t of course pretend to be a security expert and offer complete 100% assurances that all is safe there. But as I am there a lot and I observe a lot, I can at least offer the following:
It was in January this year when I first noticed the appearance of the ´policeman sandwiches´ on the streets of Marrakech. This is what the locals call the security trio/triplet, which consists of one policeman flanked by two camouflaged soldiers carrying machine guns – and this is a trio which is repeated all over the city, and which strikes me as a clever way of subtly monitoring and ensuring the security situation.
You will note these trios standing outside banks, the bigger hotels and companies … and not far away from most tourist attractions, if not all of them. Also outside some of the bigger restaurants.
They are very subtle these trios and have clearly been told not to make themselves look too obvious. One morning I was photographing some beautifully carved trees down the far end of Boulevard Mohammed V, near a military barracks and near the French Institute. One moment I noticed one of these trios, the next they had disappeared behind a tree. They clearly do not want to be photographed.
But I have also seen tourists approach them and ask them who they are, what are they doing? Always smiling and courteous, and speaking in either a beautiful French (those Moroccans who learn French speak it exquisitely, with an enviable Gallic accent) or an English which is not so bad, they explain that they are there to keep the peace.
To keep the peace. And thus far so has Morocco remained. In peace. The king, a clever and thoughtful man, maintains the country in a peaceful state – of course it is not perfect, but you will find that the overwhelming majority of Moroccans you meet love their king and believe devoutly in their faith. In the past, the King has even arranged to send some of the Moroccan imams, famed for their moderation, to countries like Mauritania and Mali to help them to preach tolerance. And in September it was announced that French imams are to be sent for training in Morocco as part of a new programme that aims to promote “an Islam with the right balance” that conforms to “values of openness and tolerance” (I have no update as to whether this has begun yet).
Furthermore, this wise King, like the Queen in England, is head of the faith! So who would rise up against him in the name of Islam?