As the departure date for our journey draws near, we wanted to present the tentative itinerary for our upcoming Morocco course! Please keep in mind that specific dates may vary while in country depending on group and travel needs. Consequently, this post is to provide a sense of the flow, transitions, and main destinations for our course. Periodically throughout the course we will be posting more specific, updated itineraries, so keep your eye out for that.
At Dragons, we intentionally keep our itineraries somewhat flexible so that we can both take advantage of unexpected opportunities which can arise along the way and in order to engage with your individual interests. In other words, we don’t want our trips to be cookie cutter, but rather, to be adaptable to you specific needs and interests and the realities on the ground. Consequently, we encourage you all to begin thinking about your intentions and goals on this course so that you can arrive in country ready to communicate those expectations with us instructors as well as your group members.
We’ll speak more to the logic underlying our itinerary design once we’re together in Morocco, but for now, please know that we’ve intentionally chosen places and activities which provide a progression of opportunities and challenges throughout the semester, and which align with Dragons’ Core Values: Global Citizenship, Awareness of Self, and Leadership and Skills (GAL).
September 16: Arrive in Casablanca
Fly to Morocco! You will meet Keshet, Ismail, Parker, and Kevin at the airport in Casablanca. In the coming days, we will be posting a yak with arrival details so you will know what to do at the airport with customs and immigration and where to meet us.
September 17 – 25: Orientation in Moulay Idriss & Visit to Fez
After arriving in Casablanca, and staying one night in the country’s capital of Rabat, we will transfer to the small town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun outside of the cities of Meknes and Fez for orientation. This beautiful area holds a special place in the heart of the Moroccan people because it was here that Moulay Idriss I arrived in 789 to bring the new religion of Islam and a new dynasty to the area. In this place we will prepare for our three months together in Morocco by getting to know each other, establishing routines and our group culture, beginning our study of local languages, and getting out into the area to start our explorations.
Following that we will trek for a couple days in the area in order to solidify our group and begin to function as a cohesive unit. We will then continue that process with your group’s first student-planned expedition, as well as a visit to the city of Fez.
September 26 – October 12: Azrou Homestay
Next we will travel to the quaint semi-urban Amazigh (Berber) town of Azrou (translated to mean “Great Rock”) which is surrounded by the cedar forests of the Middle Atlas Mountains. Here you will be staying with local families for just over two weeks. This immersive cultural experience will include daily Arabic lessons, working on your Independent Study Projects (ISPs), guest speakers, and lessons and activities which will introduce you to Moroccan and regional academic topics. Of course, we will also explore the local area, including visiting local markets, hiking through cedar forests, partaking in discussions with community members, listening to local Atlas music, and much more! While the focus of our time here is for you to build strong connections with your homestay family and the larger community, we will also be spending some part of most days together as a group, and students will also be planning some outings in the area.
October 13 – 20: Marrakesh, Mini Student Expedition, and Mid-Course
Next we will travel parallel to the High Atlas peaks to reach Marrakesh, also known as the “Red City” because of the ochre colored walls of its old medina. Here we will explore what urban life in the south is like and take a couple of days to reset before our upcoming trek in the mountains. We will have a chance to stop by refreshing apothecary shops for tea and spices, tour a madrasa, and soak up the sound of drums as we dine in the heart of Jama al-Fna square. During this time you will also be organizing a 2-3 day student-run mini expedition in the area. We will also spend a few days doing the midcourse process, which includes pausing to reflect on what we’ve experienced so far and setting intentions for the second half of the course.
October 21 – November 13: Azilal Homestays to M’Goun Massif Trek & Rural Homestays
After taking time for mid-course reflections, we will shift our focus to experiencing a more rural homestay as well as a longer, more challenging trek. We begin this phase in Azilal, a medium-small sized town in central Morocco. Here we will have a short three-day homestay to gain a deeper understanding of local customs and discover the vast diversity of life in Morocco. From Azilal we then will start our eight day trek into the beautiful High Atlas Mountains from the Ait Bougamez valley over the M’Goun Massif and into the area known as the “Valley of Roses”! Our trek will be dotted with spectacular scenery and geological wonders, as well as traditional Amaizigh (Berber) villages. Following the trek we will begin another, more rugged and rural homestay in the village of Azlag, which is located outside of the town of Qelaat M’Gouna on the south flank of the High Atlas Mountains. We will spend about 1.5 weeks in Azlag, where we will observe local artisan dagger makers (an ancient tradition that has been passed down many generations), visit a rose water distillery, and learn about the unique tradition of local weddings in the M’Goun region.
November 14 – 30: Student Led Expedition and Flexible Time
During the final phase of our semester, assuming that you’ve proven yourself as a group and are working as a well-oiled machine, instructors will give you some time to work together to craft an itinerary of travel, adventure, and learning that is meaningful for your group. As instructors, we step into a support and safety role while you work together to plan, organize and execute your vision. The Expedition Phase is a moment where the group is hopefully performing at its peak! We will guide you through the planning process and give you the tools to be able to organize your Expedition Phase. More details of this to come. We have also built into the itinerary some amount of “flex days” which can be used to add time to meaningful experiences, pause the course for sickness or needed rest, or add new destinations.
November 31 – December 5: Transference at Sidi Kaouki
For transference (which is like reverse orientation) we will travel to the Atlantic coast and, amid the crystal blue waters of the Essaouira region, we will take a breath and reconnect as a group. At the same time, you will have a chance to see more of coastal Morocco – from the economic capital of Casablanca to the political capital of Rabat, and even to the international space of Tangier, coastal life is fundamental to Morocco. This last week in the Essaouira region will allow a small glimpse of this life, which can be thought with even as we take this time to reorient ourselves towards the trip back home. In the small town of Sidi Kaouki, we will reflect on all that we have seen and learned in order to process our trip and decide what is transferable and important to incorporate into our lives back home. In the end, we will make a short visit to Dar el-Beida (Casablanca), Morocco’s largest city. There we will spend an afternoon exploring this iconic city and hopefully be able to visit the Hassan II Mosque, by some estimates, the third largest mosque in the world, and the only one that non-Muslims can enter in Morocco before saying our goodbyes to each other and Morocco.
December 6: B’slama (Goodbye) Morocco
It’s goodbye for now as we depart Morocco and return home.
Ma’a Salama (with peace),
The Morocco I-Team