Hello future travelers,
We hope Morocco is on your mind – it is on ours! As an instructor team we’re now working to get the itinerary and curriculum dialed in, and we’re considering other details and completing bureaucratic tasks. You all have perhaps the more exciting role, of doing research, prepping your bags and gear, and building excitement for the coming trip (but don’t worry, we’re doing this all too). At this point we want to share with you a narrative sketch of our itinerary, to help you continue to visualize and imagine the summer course, and perhaps do more specific research.
Please keep in mind that specific dates may vary while in country depending on group and travel needs. 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. 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.
As an instructor team we’re very excited about the itinerary that we’ve put together, and for the opportunity to return to communities that we know, as well as to explore new places with you all. Throughout the course the itinerary will focus and build on certain themes, which we will discuss more in the future, and which will provide a really unique and exciting view of an important part of Morocco.
Week 1 (Arrival and Orientation):
After arriving at the Casablanca airport we will head directly to a small city called Moulay Idriss Zerhoune, a quiet yet immensely historic locale not far from Fez and Meknes. Moulay Idriss Zerhoune is near to the ruins of Volubilis, a 3rd century BC Roman/Berber city, and is also named after the first Muslim dynasty in Morocco, beginning in the 8th century. The city is surrounded by olive groves and small mountains, and is a great space to set our intentions for the course, start learning Darija (Moroccan Arabic), begin interacting with Moroccans, and get a taste of some very good Moroccan food.
After orientation we will spend a quick day in the market city of Sefrou just outside of Fez, where we will go on a small day hike, and hopefully learn a bit about the city’s history (famous for its historically large Jewish community, as well as certain forms of artisanship). Following Sefrou we will spend a couple of days in Fez. Fez is one of the most important imperial cities of Morocco, and its maze-of-an-old-city will be a great place to learn what Moroccan cities can really be like. The group will be challenged to explore the city and try to use some initial Darija skills while in Fez, which will be both exciting and perhaps a bit overwhelming. We will round out our time here with some conversations with deep thinkers – a Moroccan feminist scholar, and a major spiritual leader.
Week 2 (Urban Homestay and Exploration):
After Fez we’ll jump right into our first urban homestay in Azrou, a medium-sized city in the middle Atlas. The world changes a bit as you increase altitude, and Azrou’s history of Amazigh roots that have been urbanized and arabized in recent history provides a really interesting setting to learn about contemporary Moroccan issues, particularly around youth issues and employment. Throughout this time we will continue to work on learning Darija, meet with guest speakers on topics of Islam, women’s issues, and youth issues, and engage with the outdoors.
While the focus of our time here is to build strong connections with homestay families and the larger community, students will have the opportunity to hone in on their Independent Study Projects (ISP) with local artisans and community members. This in a perfect opportunity to start using your newly acquired Darija skills in a practical way, deepening connections with both your homestay families and ISP mentors.
Week 3 (Trek and Rural Homestay):
After Azrou we’ll continue working our way south and up in altitude, passing through a small town outside of Beni Mellal, and then ending up in the Valley of Ait Bougamez – called the Happy Valley by the local communities. Here we will do a small trek in the Atlas mountains, and then head into our second homestay, although this time in a much more rural setting. The valley is home to apple and walnut orchards, as well as numerous artisanal (and particularly weaving) collectives. We’ll meet women’s owned and run collectives, and speak to artisans about their foray into the international markets using mobile apps.
From Bougamez we’ll head to the south of Marrakesh, where we’ll do another short trek in the famous hills surrounding Imlil. These mountains are uniquely surrounded by desert – to the north in Marrakesh and also to the south and east, where the Sahara enters Morocco. Throughout our time in these mountains we’ll visit small villages and learn about the communities that continue to resist the urbanization that has driven much of the post-colonial Moroccan economy and labor force since the latter half of the 20th century.
Week 4 (X-Phase and Transference):
Leaving the mountains, we’ll likely pass through an imperial city on our way to Transference. Students will be deciding the program for this portion of the course, though, as this will be X-phase. As instructors, we step into a support and safety role while students work together to plan, organize, and execute their vision. We will guide students through the planning process and give them the tools necessary to be able to organize your X-Phase. Nearby is both Marrakesh and Essarouira, among other places, so there are very good options.
Finally, we will end our days in the small coastal town of Sidi Kaouki. Kaouki is a small hub for surfining, fishing, and generally an excellent spot for relaxing in the sun. Transference is a time for reflexion, personal and group time, and future planning. We like to sit with our experience together as a group and soak up all that we experienced, as it all will very quickly come to an end. Kaouki is a great place to spend these final moments. Afterwards we head to Casablanca, and then return to the states and to our lives back home.
We hope that this helps you think about our upcoming trip together, and we encourage you to do research about the places that we will visit, and come with questions and information to share.
Looking forward to meeting soon!