North Africa with young children? Any thoughts welcome(14 Posts)
DH and I are very seriously considering a short-term move with our 2 DSs (4 and 2) to Morocco (Rabat). It would be a change of role with the company he currently works for (a promotion), and would be for between 9 months and 2 years, depending on how the project he'd be heading up goes.
I've never lived abroad before. I've done a bit of inter-railing and backpacking in uni holidays, but that's about the extent of my travelling. I have been to Morocco before, travelling with a friend in 2002, and loved it - but living there is quite a different proposition.
The company DH works for are fantastic and would make everything as easy as possible for us - nice house, trips home every 4ish months and R&R trips in the region in between, school fees paid for DS1 (will be 5 in the summer) at a school of our choosing, reasonable domestic help. It would definitely be very good for DH's career for him to go, and without wanting to be crass, good for us financially as well - the salary uplift alone (which we won't actually need to live off, as the cost of living looks v low compared to the UK) will probably cover private secondary schooling for our sons, when the time comes.
Neverthless I am terrified. Part of me wants to go on this big adventure, but I keep reading about women being constantly hassled, Morocco's horrendous road safety record, the potential terrorism threat and unrest in the region (although Morocco looks a lot more stable than the rest of the Maghreb). On a day-to-day basis I worry that it would be hard even to do the weekly shop, to get around the city, and to find ways to entertain my (very blonde!) children.
DH would be away a bit in Agadir, so I'd be on my own for short periods (I'm quite often on my own for long periods here, which doesn't bother me in the slightest, but I worry that it would be much harder abroad).
On the positive side, this would be a tremendous opportunity for us and our DCs to experience another culture, to improve our French and to actually see the sun this year! And it's a comparatively easy time in our lives to go - DCs too little to worry about it affecting their schooling; no elderly parents to look after yet.
I'd really appreciate the thoughts of any expats (I know I'm unlikely to find people in Morocco as there doesn't seem to be a big expat community) particularly as to things which we should thing about when weighing up the decision, and things we could do / ask the company to provide to make it all a bit easier (I wondered about a nanny / au pair, as we'll have to entertain in the evenings quite a bit as part of the role, and will need a babysitter fairly frequently)? They would arrange for intensive French & cultural awareness classes before we went, and hopefully we could have French classes on an ongoing basis while we were there too.
DH is going on a reccy in a couple of weeks, following which (assuming he's comfortable) we'll both go out to look - we should have around a month from now during which to make our minds up.
We live in Egypt, so some things would be the same. I have 2 dd's one is 7, the other nine months.
Egypt is insane, sometimes I love it, other times I want to run screaming. Like today. We are supposed to be going on a Nile cruise on Monday with dh's class. it was already almost cancelled last week because the vendors at the monuments went on strike. Then it was back on. This morning we got a text saying it may be cancelled as the police are on strike. We will find out by Sunday night ( we leave at 10 am Monday and I have 2 kids to organise)
So here are my comments. Bring car seats. Once you have a driver and car ( if you are getting one) you will appreciate them. People drive insanely here.
We spend a fair bit on food, as the local products dont taste the same and it keeps dd happy. I buy american peanut butter and imported cereals, which are around £5 a box.
Everything can be delivered. You can shop and get your stuff delivered or you can call the pharmacy, grocery store... And they will deliver your stuff. Its great when I realise i have one diaper left, and i can call the pharmacy. within half an hour someone will knock on the door with them.
Usually I work (dh and I are teachers, so our dd gets free tuition) but I am on mat leave now. I spend my days mostly with other ex pats, we go to a private club which has several swimming pools, restaurants and playgrounds. I also go to exercise classes a few times a week, lots of coffee dates, babaygroup that kind of thing.
I do have egyptian friends, And dd1 only has egyptian friends, so we socialise a lot with those families. I have never hired a babysiter here and do not have a nanny.
We live in a dry community, so often will travel 45 minutes to get to a british club or other restaurant, where we can drink. But we can get beer and wine delivered to our home.
Gotta run, dd2 needs feeding, feel free to pm me if you have any more questions, that you think i may be able to help with.
I forgot to say it gets hot here ( we are gone over the summer when it is really hot - around 45c) and women have to cover their shoulders and knees. It does annoy me sometimes.
It sounds like you're considering it sensibly, which is good- by that I mean not romanticising it or making it out to be a pit of doom.
I have not lived in morocco but have lived in a different part of Africa.
Re: your concerns- the road safety is appalling compared to the UK, but there are things you can do to minimise the risk. Get a good local driver, a bigger car than is needed in the UK (to cope with potholy roads and provide protection in a crash), carseats for the children, functioning seat belts for everyone else (not at all a given in many parts of the world!) and avoid driving at night. I think something is unlikely to happen to you though, so try not to worry but do be safe.
If you could find a local housekeeper, that would probably help enormously with things like shopping and so on, and provide a language link for the family with the outside.
I say go for it! The conditions sound fantastic and your children are at an age where they won't sulk for months about missing their school friends.
One thing that might help is talking to someone who's out there already- could dh's company put you in touch with someone?
Thanks for your replies, they've been really useful. The day-to-day stuff sounds just about do-able then (if a bit crazy - how frustrating, Alligator!) - we would get a local driver so that should help a lot re the road safety. The terrorism threat, esp in light of the Mali situation, continues to worry me. We would be doing very "Western" things - DH would be setting up a branch of a UK company, DS1 would probably go to the American school, I imagine that with the best will in the world I would probably end up gravitating towards expats. Not sure that's something that can be addressed on here though! But your replies have been really helpful in terms of focussing my mind and identifying the issues which we need to get comfortable with before deciding to go.
Hi, have family in Rabat and partly grew up there. i can answer very specific questions if you want to pm me!
My laptop down and its tedious typing on the phone so get back to you soon to start sorting through your post.
Rabat really is a lovely pkace to be and has the best english speaking school. Its the american school which is fully IB accredited and has an equal proportion of morocco/us pupils & expats/diplomatic corp. Very sound academic results and french/arabic/ spanish tuition.
I found a really funny blog by a mum whose husband was a Peace Corps volunteer working as a doctor there, they've just returned to the US, 4 kids called Sky, Water, Fire or something. Can't find it this morning :-( Can't remember how I found it but I did find other blogs from families in Rabat.
If you send your dc to the American school, there will no doubt be a lot of extra curricular activities on offer at the school or in connection with the school. At least this has been my experience of American schools abroad. Perhaps you could find out a bit about this on the school website?
Wrt being hassled as a woman, it is not usual to see young Moroccan women walking about alone. They tend to go around in a small group and in this way are not hassled. I found Moroccans will notice a wedding ring and they tend to respect mothers, so with your dc I don't think you will get hassled much. If you are going around central Rabat it should be fine. To go to the markets etc, you could choose to cover up or if you have a driver, perhaps your driver can accompany you there. For this reason and generally to help find your way around, I think a local nanny is a good idea actually.
There is an elite group of Moroccans who are quite westernised in dress, travel a good deal etc and I am sure you would be able to make friends among this group as well as in expat circles.
I thought the Berber people of Morocco were actually some of the nicest I have met anywhere. Nice sense of humour.
If you DS1 is going to be at school in an international context, go for it - you will be scooped up by the other expat mothers and have a lovely time! It's such a short posting that you won't need to attempt to integrate, though I am sure that you will meet Moroccans through school and find them very friendly.
Rabat is a gentle, yet exotic enough posting if you've never lived abroad before.
The site is quite pretty (an estuary with a an old pirate fortress) and the Atlantic within minutes of the city centre.
Its very orderly as its the seat of diplomatic missions/gov.
There is a good mix of expats with various professional backgrounds(foreign diplomats, journalists, industry etc...) not as very predominently Francophile as elsewhere in morocco.
There has been a lot of effort put into urban planning. There is a great new tram system with lines accross town and through the historic centre. Have been on it with a stroller, super clean, safe, great way to get into the markets of the old medina.
Never ever thought of covering my hair. Bare shoulders are ok but no gaping neck line, low cut jeans or mini skirts on the street.
In the more affluent parts of town, all the above are really not uncommon.
That said, the scarves are more and more visible. But not imposing iykwim? A bit like in Turkey. And certainly as a foreigner, i do not think anyone will ever make you feel ackward.
Driving in Rabat is quite safe. Its the kings main residence so police presence is very visible but very courteous.
Road safety is really appalling though. A local driver is a good idea, he would also act as facilitator when you are about....until you brush up on your french.
You will also find most people under 30 very keen on practicing their english.
Cost of life on a steady increase. A friend relocated from London this year. As everywhere else in the world, some imported comforts come at a cost.
Private clinics are good and doctors generally well trained overseas.( i can give specific recommendations for paediatricians if you want).
There are dubai style malls around and plenty to do for kids.
I would recommend joining a club, kids in morocco spend a lot of time outdoors ( from the very posh royal golf to tennis, to dirt track poney clubs, there is a lot to choose from) and a lot of expat gravitate around them. A good place for you and DH too.
Agadir is an hour away by plane and very touristy. Am sure you'll have lots of occasions to join him with the kids during the numerous bank holidays/school term breaks etc...
Am sure the children will be very happy, have great childhood memories. The pace is very gentle in Rabat and moroccans from Rabat are very well mannered and welcoming.
You should have no trouble finding a helper. They are often happy to work for expats. Duties in a local family include taking care of elderly+ kids+ late night cooking on a regular basis So you see why your lifestyle would appeal considering. Most will generally speak enough french to get by.
There some specialist agencies for qualified nusery nurses and fluent french that will help the children with language acquisition. In hot demand though.
You could also have a live in with mainly housekeeping/babysitting duties and a live out cook/housekeeper.
Very easy option for entertaining with some fab caterers who will do it all for you in style at a fairly reasonnable price. Be prepared, entertaining in Morocco as you would have to is quite a stylish affair, no room for improvisation.
Just popping on here quickly - may be back with / PM some of you with detailed Qs once I've digested all of this, but thanks so much for your very comprehensive replies, I really appreciate it. You've all done a lot to put my mind at rest about day-to-day life - it's starting to seem really quite appealing! Laptop, I am reassured to read that re medical care, it's a biggie for me - one of my DSs had meningitis a couple of years ago, he made a full recovery but it really brought home to me the value of great healthcare. And also re children playing outdoors lots - I'd wondered about that; we live very near the beach in the UK, and the boys have a pony, so days at home are very much spent out of doors as much as possible. I'm not sure how I'd cope if we weren't able to get out, so that's good to hear.
I'm almost certain that we'd send DS1 to Rabat American School based on what I've read, but we need to actually go for a visit, and I think we are also going to look at KGS so that we have something to compare it with.
somewhere in the great blog I found from the Peace Corps family, it was mentioned their volunteers in North Africa travel to Rabat when they need medical treatment, so there must be something good about the hospitals there!
Thanks natation, off to google that blog now
We are moving to Casablanca this summer, a really late decision (company led, of course!) and I just wondered if anyone in can help me with school choice? There seems to be a heck of a lot of international/French schools. My children, 8 and 6, are at the French school in Moscow at the moment (we're on an expat posting here), I'm English, my husband French so we have a wider choice. A long shot anyway, but any help would be very much appreciated! I'm very excited about moving to Morocco after a few long winters in Moscow! Thanks very much!
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