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 tentative 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 to Rabat to spend the evening, and then travel the next morning 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 head to Fez, one of the most important imperial cities of Morocco. Its maze-of-an-old-city will be a great place to learn what Moroccan cities can really be like, and the group will be challenged to explore the city and to try to use some initial Darija skills, which will be both exciting and perhaps a bit overwhelming. We will round out our time here with some conversations with deep thinkers and discussions of spirituality, the history of Fez, and Morocco more broadly speaking.
Week 3-4: (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 the recent century provides a really interesting setting to learn about contemporary Moroccan topics, particularly around youth issues and employment. Throughout this time we will continue to work on learning Darija, meet with guest speakers focusing 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 5 (Trek):
After Azrou we’ll continue working our way south and up in altitude, ending up in the Valley of Ait Bougamez – called the Happy Valley by the local communities. We’ll sleep a night here to get settled, before beginning our long 8-day trek through the High Atlas Mountains heading south towards the desert. The trek will take us past M’goun Massif, and if the weather permits we will summit on our third day of trekking. M’goun’s summit is 4068 meters high, just 100 meters shy of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in Morocco and North Africa. After the summit, the trek takes us through various river valleys until we arrive near to Q’laat Mgouna, a small city on the edge of the desert.
After the trek we will take a few days to rest and recover, and focus on all that we’ve done in the initial half of our course, and how we want to enter into the final month and a half. Midcourse provides for a period of reflection, and is a space to set new intentions. We’ll do so surrounded by beautiful mountains and desert views.
Week 6-8 (Homestay 2):
After our trek, we’ll head back to Ait Bougamez where we will do a 14-day homestay in the village of Timmit. Timmit is known to be the village with the kindest people in the valley, and we’ve learned this to be true through our experiences there. In homestays in Timmit students will learn the rhythms of rural life, helping to take care of livestock, going to the fields, and eating lots of fresh bread, olive oil, and butter. 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.
Week 9-11 (Marrakesh, Flex time, and Student Led Expedition):
We’ll say goodbye to our haven in the valley and head to Marrakesh, another important imperial city that has since caught the eyes of many travelers due to its picturesque alleys and doorways, many to be found in places like instagram. In Marrakesh we’ll spend a few days exploring the history of the city, including its Jewish quarter, and the mix of architecture representing various imperial dynasties, and will also take time to reflect on the ways in which tourism and foreign influence changes the social, economic, and physical lives of cities. We’ll discuss ethical tourism and meet with a local art/culture space to think about how cultures change, develop, and are nurtured in a setting like this.
During the final phase of our semester, assuming that the group has proven itself to be capable and is working as a well-oiled machine, instructors will give the group some time to work together to craft an itinerary of travel, adventure, and learning that is meaningful for the group. As instructors, we step into a support and safety role while the group works together to plan, organize and execute their 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.
Week 12 (Transference):
Finally, we will end our days in the small coastal town of Sidi Kaouki. Kaouki is a small hub for surfing, fishing, and generally an excellent spot for relaxing in the sun. Transference is a time for reflection, 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!