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Travellers' Advisories, Safety and Security on the Road Recent News, political or military events, which may affect trip plans or routes. Personal and vehicle security, tips and questions.
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  #1  
Old 22 May 2001
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Guns, knives and hand grenades

Coming from the UK, the only experience of guns I have, or indeed intend to have, is courtesy of Hollywood, so this is purely a hypothetical question:

I am planning a trip across Morocco by motorcycle for the start of next year. Although where I am going isn't the most dangerous place in Africa, I am getting the impression from things I have read and heard that the overlander (in particular the motorcyclist) is rather vulnerable to attack from any group (eg. rebels in the middle of nowhere) that decides they want what we have.

With this in mind, what are the groups feelings on carrying some form of weapon for protection?

cheers,
  #2  
Old 23 May 2001
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Hi

I haven't been to Morocco, but visited some Arab countries. my experience is that any kind of weapon found in your possession. will bring you to a very unpleasant situation. meaning - jail.
As I know,a knife in those places is a deadly weapon. I was once carrying a machete while entering Egypt, and had almost put behind bars.
Anyhow, I don't believe in such protection, if you come to a situation of self defence, the last thing is to draw a gun or a knife. It will be your end for sure,they will always outnumber you. locals will be against you in kind of revenge,and you will not have the time and language to explain your side, and the authorities will be insulted that you took the law and hunt you as well.
My suggestion is to ride thinking of passive defence, do not enter alone to suspected areas. do not ride at night and ask other travelers on what is ahead.

Ride safely

Yoni
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  #3  
Old 23 May 2001
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I have travelled in Morocco and as long as your use common sense, you will be able to avoid most problematic situations.

I would strongly recommend that you do not take a weapon as you will compound a situation. Remember you pull a knife they'll pull a gun and as the earlier mail states they'll be more of them than you.

I have travelled extensively and have never needed to use a weapon, it's better to lose your wallet than your life, travelling should be an enjoyable experience and if you go with a negative attitude, you will have a negative experience. A smile and courtious behaviour goes a very long way.

Ju
  #4  
Old 23 May 2001
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Last time I went there the first thing the customs asked me on entering was if i had a gun. Of course the reply was NO, DO I NEED ONE? Jokes aside, They are ready to search you so I would advise take nothing but a good pair of running shoes. If you use a knife while defending your kit and money you'll end up in jail and it will cost a lot more than the price of a new tent to get you out
  #5  
Old 23 May 2001
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I agree with the other writers that the right attitude and using common sense will go a long way to avoiding trouble.

We did carry small folding knives with us, not large enough to have alarmed customs officials if they had searched us. We also carried bear spray, which of course is for defense against animals if asked. The only time we ever used it was in Alaska, when we sprayed it around our tent just to discourage the bears!

Greg Frazier suggests keeping a few expired credit cards and some small bills in a 'mugger wallet', which you can keep handy in case you ever need to hand over something to someone who wants it bad enough to hurt you to get it. Of course, dispersing all your money into various locations on yourself and the bike (boots, moneybelt, hidden pocket, bike, etc.), means you should never lose it all!

Some very good advice on this topic is on the Safety page. This was sent to us a few years ago, on avoiding being a victim of crime:
http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tri...CrimeAvoidance

NOTE: Spraying bear spray around your tent is a NO-NO we found out later - the bears and other critters are curious about the strange - now somewHat dissipated - smell and come and investigate - it's an ATTRACTANT!
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  #6  
Old 27 May 2001
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Ditto!!

The ever ubiqitous 'Glock in the Tankbag' thread *S* Whichever way you look at it, the carrying of weapons, no matter which country you're travelling through, is extremely risky at best.

I can only echo the comments of Susan my friend, passive defence. Forewarned is forearmed as they say...a decoy wallet is a very good idea.

A wiser person then I once commented that the winner of any conflict is the one who is most committed...pull a weapon and you may just find out how many of the locals are more committed then yourself to actually using one...especially considering you're in their backyard.

I can only reflect on the experience of an American friend of mine who carried a weapon around New Zealand (apart from it being highly illegal), the new friends that he'd made almost turned on him when they found he was carrying, not because they'd taken a sudden dislike to him but because he'd brought a weapon into their home...being maori people they considered it an enormous insult.

Use your head my friend...it's the best weapon you've got,

Cheers and all the best,

Andy.
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  #7  
Old 27 May 2001
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I spent a few weeks in Morocco with my Land Rover two years ago with no problem at all - other than those caused by an overly agressive friend in a Toyota:

When we arrived in a small town (Moulay Idris IIRC) he first led us (in vehicles) through all the small back-streets causing chaos to the locals going about their daily business. After our second lap(!) he decided we should park in the town square. Three youths then approached us and demanded 10 dirhams (about 0.65 UKP, 1.00 USD) for 'parking'). I knew it was extortion but the amount was so small that I was all for handing this too them and wandering off for a look around the town and to get some shopping. But my mate [thought he] knew better and started to pick an argument with them. One thing led to another and people started pushing each-other and, suddenly, we were in the middle of a group of about 20 or 30 youths, all shouting at us (well, mostly him, I was trying to keep out of it!). It was very frightening as we were heavily outnumbered and I was glad when he got back into his Toyota and we left town.

The morals here: One: If he'd had a weapon then, if he had been stupid enough to pull it, there is no question that it is him who would ultimately have wound up being hurt with it. Two: It is these people's home we are travelling through and their are cultural differences - respect those differences, don't start fights over them, and you'll probably not need a weapon anyway.

I carry two knives when travelling. One is in my multi-tool, the other in my cooking gear. I certainly do not carry one as a weapon.

Andy
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  #8  
Old 29 May 2001
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There is no doubt that a friendly unthreatening attitude will settle most tense situations. One of my experiences with this has been in eastern Mexico during the Chiapas conflicta, when we (nine on seven bikes) were pulled up and searched many times. Sometimes by the police, sometimes the military.

Mostly we left them behind smiling...
On one occasion I was leading. About eight Police pulled us up and started to search my bike, speaking to one another in Spanish. After about five minutes my friend behind, an Argentinian, spoke up in fluent Spanish, which suprised and embarrassed them as now they knew that he understood every word they had been saying amongst themselves.

Next one of our party revealed herself as a (very attractive) US Policewoman, another as a District Attorney, all smiling broadly of course. Badges were exchanged...all happiness and light...we left, they were laughing, we were laughing.

Also on that trip, one another occasion at a road block, a youth was holding a rifle point blank at my wife's midriff. She smiled and motioned gently him to point it away. He broke a smile and did so....

Another experience in Botswanna was not so pleasant, but ended without incident. A desert random Police road block near Swapkapmund. A young Policeman seized a bike and took off down the road flat out, ostensibly 'testing its brakes'. The owner had to be subdued by his friends, - us, but once again we left without any serious problem.

I do rememebr one of the girls saying "this would never happen in America". I cringed at the obvious reply; "THIS IS BOTSWANNA".

cheers
Peter...about to tour Alaska, where I think bears and RVs may be our biggest threat?
  #9  
Old 14 Jun 2001
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I've just been informed by a fellow Canadian that spraying bear spray around your tent as a repellent may be a bad idea!

"Just a short note to caution you on the practice of spraying bearspray around tent to ward off bears.The exact opposite is likely to occur.They have been observed on more than one occasion returning to the location of their being sprayed and rolling in the residue. Oh Yummy seasoning already applied."


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  #10  
Old 21 Jul 2001
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I'm sorry kids, but this is the biggest load of nonsense I've ever heard. Glocks in tankbags? Attacks by rebels in Morocco? What rebels? Where in Morocco?
Mate, you categorically do not need a tool or a piece to travel through Morocco - or anywhere else in the world. Carrying a weapon makes you paranoid, jumpy, aggressive. Taking the time to learn a little bit of Arabic and French will be a lot more useful.
Chill out, mate. It's a nice world. Forget guns, remember people. Man.
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  #11  
Old 27 Jul 2001
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"Attacks by rebels in Morocco? What rebels? Where in Morocco?"

Others know their history better than do I, but if I remember correctly there has been fighting in the south of Morocco over the area called the Western Sahara for quite some time now. Last I noticed the UN was still trying to arrange a referendum, without success. I wouldn't imagine that tourists would be allowed to enter the area, either.

But I very much agree with the point that weapons are not needed, and smiles and a smattering of the local language will carry you through most situations. Neither your wallet nor your motorcycle are worth your life, and nor are they worth a long stint in jail.

  #12  
Old 19 Aug 2001
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Yep, Western Sahara is disputed but hardly dangerous. The Polisario Rebels are based in Algeria now and firmly into a UN/Jim Baker led peace process, arguing the terms of a long-promised, longer-delayed referendum on the future of the province. I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that Polisario are suddenly gonna start whacking tourists. In the meantime, the area (or at least one long, dusty, windy road from Tan Tan to Dakhla) is definitely open to tourists and part of the Atlantic Saharan crossing route.
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  #13  
Old 3 Sep 2001
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In regard to safety in Morocco you will be fine on a motorcycle trip. Dress conservatively and be friendly to people. The worse thing is the husslers offering to be your guides and some pick pockets. I lived there for a little over two years in the town of Taza about an hour east of Fes between Mid-Atlas and the Rif mountains. During this time I travelled through most of the country as well and met a lot of people travelling by motorcycle. If you take the time, as another post suggested, to learn a few phrases and greetings in Arabic you will find a great deal of hospitality. Also, DO NOT BRING A GUN INTO MOROCCO, you will have heaps of explaining to do and might extend your stay longer than you ever wanted. Use the decoy wallet as suggested. I can't speak for the the rest of Africa, but that is what I know of Morocco. Enjoy the trip.
  #14  
Old 12 Feb 2002
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You should have no need of a gun. Morocco is fine. The only real danger in western sahara is mines. Stay on the track! A machette is fine to carry, I used mine everynight for gathering firewood.
We confirmed that it's OK to carry pepperspray or mace, but on entering the country the moroccan border duanne seized the ones they found. We had a couple more put away and carried them in the cities at night. It would be easy to hide a standard pepper spray on any bike, and they even have some that are shaped like pens and would never be noticed.
-Ed

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  #15  
Old 11 Apr 2002
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First rule of being mugged is that there are always more of them than there are of you.

Second rule, if they have a gun they're probably the police and it's a machine gun. You can't win here.

Third rule, if you pull out a knife or gun, it's no good unless you're actually prepared to use it. If you have to use it, you're in a lot more trouble than just being mugged. The rules aren't that different in Africa to "civilised" countries, despite appearances, and you can't run around shooting people and expect to get away with it.

Fourth rule, if you do carry some sort of self defence, you'll need it only when you've left it in the car. Consequently you have to take it everywhere. Think about it - having your wallet lifted in a croweded market is one thing, but imagine having a gun pickpocketed!

Fifth rule, being armed just makes you more paranoid. Machetes are good because they're useful for other things (still the best cabbage-cutting knife I've ever had), and pepper spray is a good bet because it's non-lethal and appears so innocuous.

Remember, all you want to do if you're in trouble is stall them long enough to get away.

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