Our meeting at school went very smoothly yesterday, we were prepped on proper garb to wear and what some customs are in Morocco. Before all else, Professor Brahimi has stressed to us over and over again — BRING YOUR HEALTH! Our itinerary is chock full of amazing places and events and we will all be up at the crack of dawn; and then hitting our pillows very late (or early!) at night. There was one night he was reminiscing about from last year’s trip where some students pulled “all nighters” because they just couldn’t sleep with everything that was happening around them!
Professor Brahimi also distributed school supplies and some clothing to the other students who are traveling because we will be visiting an orphanage while we are in Morocco and are making the most of bringing donations with us. Christopher and I have collected many articles of clothing for little children and a lot of school supplies. Our professor shared that the visit to the orphanage was probably the highlight of the entire trip last year.
Here is a list where we will be visiting and what we will hopefully be doing on our journey:
Day 1: May 26th CASABLANCA – RABAT
Explore the largest cosmopolitan city of Morocco-Casablanca.
You’ll visit the impressive Hassan II mosque, the second largest mosque in the world after Mecca.
Continue to the square known as the place Mohamed V, a busy shopping street lined by residential blocks dating from the 1930s.
Next, visit United Nations Square, designed by French architect Josef Marrasat, and the league of Arab States Park, which was built in 1925 and offers a large area of greenery with palm trees, arcades, pergolas and cafes with shady terraces.
Lunch in Casablanca; Moroccans pride themselves on having one of the best cuisines in the world. Food will be nothing short of an experience.
A 60-mile drive brings us to Rabat, the present capital of Morocco and official residence of king Mohamed VI.
Check into our Hotel.
Afternoon tours will include the old medina; the picturesque Kasbah of the Oudayas, and the Oudaya Gate, built during the Almohades dynasty. Also see the well-reserved Hassan Tower; the Chellah, built by the Merinids in the 12th and 13th centuries; and Mausoleum of Mohamed V.
We will drive past the ramparts and the walls of Mechouar that encompass the Royal Palace.
Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Rabat.
Day 2: May 27th RABAT-MOULAY IDRISS, VOLUBILIS, MEKNES, FEZ
After breakfast, a seminar is scheduled for us with an official from the Moroccan ministry of Endowments and Religious affairs. The talk will be about the history of Islam and religious pluralism in Morocco.
We will then be taken to start our exploration of Morocco’s fascinating Imperial Cities. The first stop will be at the holy city of Moulay Idriss.
In the afternoon, we will visit the archaeological site of the Roman ruins at Volubilis. Next, we will drive to Meknes, founded in the 9th century by Zeneta Berbers.
A visit of this former imperial city includes the old ramparts, Bab El Mansour, one of the most beautiful gates in Morocco; and the Moulay Ismail Mausoleum, one of the very few holy sites in Morocco, which may be visited by non-Muslims.
Continue to Fez for dinner and overnight at the hotel.
- Bab Mansour gate, named after the architect, El-Mansour. It was completed 5 years after Moulay Ismail’s death, in 1732. The design of the gate plays with Almohad patterns. It has zellij mosaics of excellent quality. The marble columns were taken from the Roman ruins of Volubilis. When the structure was completed, Moulay Ismail inspected the gate, asking El-Mansur if he could do better. El-Mansur felt complied to answer yes, making the sultan so furious he had him executed.
Day 3: May 28th FEZ
A full day to explore Morocco’s most fascinating city – Fez. The tour of this world’s last surviving medieval city includes the old and new medina.
First, we will visit the King’s Palace. After walking through the Jewish and the Arab sections, we will see the South king Palace. Then we will visit the 14th century religious schools (medersas) of Bouaanania and Attarine.
Also, we will visit the Karaouiyine University, which is the oldest in the world, Najarine Fountain, the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss and a famous tannery where skins are cured and then dyed in enormous vats.
Explore the impressive labyrinth of Souks in the old medina of Fez, declared by UNESCO to be one of the world’s cultural treasures.
Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 4: May 29th FEZ
Breakfast then a visit to a house being rehabbed or built from scratch that shows the fascinating Islamic architecture.
A seminar on Politics taught by an Expert from the Moroccan Interdisciplinary centre for Strategic and International Studies.
A visit to a Henna parlour and a calligraphy artist.
Cooking class day and discovery in practice of some typical Moroccan dishes.
A meeting with peer students and a cross cultural dialogue about the three axes (Religion, Culture, Politics)
Dinner and a show
- In harmony with the Berber‘s belief in Baraka (good luck), Henna worn on the body offers protection against illness, the evil eye, and brings joy.
Day 5: May 30th FEZ – IFRANE – AZROU – MIDELT – ERFOUD – MERZOUGA
We start early morning with a full day drive acoss the cedar forests and picturesque scenery of the Middle and High Atlas ranges to the desert.
From Midelt (the Berber capital of the Beni Mguild tribe), we will travel along the Ziz Gorge to arrive to Erfoud.
Erfoud is situated among the impressive sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, and it is one of the largest oases in Morocco.
We will have a working lunch in Erfoud having a seminar on Culture; a thorough presentation about the racial, religious, and cultural diversity of the Moroccan people.
From Erfoud, we will travel approximately one and a half hour by 4-wheel drive vehicles to Merzouga.
From Merzouga, a short drive will take us out to our Bedouin camp on the edge of the Sahara Dunes. After settling in to our bivouac tent we will have th eopportunity of camel riding to explore the area further. (Our camels will be fitted withi Mauritanian saddles for comfort!)
Experience Bedouin life first-hand as we spend a night of adventure under the vast Saharan sky.
Dinner and overnight at our camp.
Day 6: May 31st ERFOUD – TINGHIR – TODGHA GORGES – OUARZAZATE
We will depart the foothills of the High Atlas on our way to the south’s most picturesque attractions; valleys that drain snowmelt off the mountains into the Sahara.
From Tinghir we’ll visit Todgha Gorges with its spectacular 1800 feet deep gorge. Then, we’ll visit the Kelaa d’Mougouna where roses for making perfume are planted. “Paris” is the famous perfume by Yves Saint Laurent is made from the extract of these roses. We’ll find some nice shopping here for rose products such as rose water, body milk, dried petals etc…
We will possibly stop at Sekoura to visit the Kasbah of Amerdhil.
After driving the 1000 Kasbahs road, we arrive in movie shooting center Ouarzazate (Moroccan Hollywood).
Dinner and overnight at our hotel.
- 1000 Kasbahs Road
Day 7: June 1st OUARZAZATE – AIT BEN HADDOU – MARRAKECH
Before heading to Marrakech, we depart this morning to experience the intriguing kasbahs. Visit the Kasbah of Tifoultoute, and then the famous Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah; a fortified adobe village protected by UNESCO. This site has served as the setting of numerous movies such as “Laurence of Arabia” and “Romancing the Stone”.
Continue driving across the High Atlas on the breathtaking road of the Tizi-N-Tichka Pass. Arrive in Marrakech, check into our hotel.
- Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah – Protected by UNESCO…. Why does this picture remind me of “The Mummy”?
Day 8: June 2nd MARRAKECH
A half-day historical sightseeing tour begins with the old medina, buried within the imperial walls.
Stop at the foot fo the famous Koutoubia Minaret, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. Continue to the Kasbah, the 16th-century monument site of the Saadian Tombs.
Admire the wonderful Hispano-Moresque architecture surrounding the burial grounds of the royal family.
Afterward, we will visit the aristocratic Bahia Palace with its lush Moorish-style courtyard garden and beautifully painted residential rooms.
Finally, we stroll through the world famous Jemaa El Fna Square, the ancient meeting point of the tradesmen in Northwest Africa; an open air theatre with singers, story tellers, fortune tellers, snake charmers and street entertainers. (Not to mention the colorful and exotic fast food joints). *The afternoon is at our leisure!*
- As the day progresses, the entertainment on offer changes: the snake charmers depart, and late in the day the square becomes more crowded, with Chleuh dancing-boys (it would be against custom for girls to provide such entertainment), story-tellers (telling their tales in Berber or Arabic, to an audience of appreciative locals), magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines. As darkness falls, the square fills with dozens of food-stalls as the number of people on the square peaks.
Day 9: June 3rd MARRAKECH — THE VALLEY OF OURIKA — MARRAKECH
Departure of Marrakech at 9AM. We shall cross rivers and mountains where Berber villages are implanted. We will pass by Tafza to visit the ecomuseum installed in restored Kasbah: We will discover and learn about the life of the Berber world. We will take the back road to join the Waterfalls of Setti Fatma.
- Waterfalls of Setti Fatma
Lunch will take place by the river in a Berber typical restaurant.
Depart to Casablanca towards the Old Medina, Morocco Mall and have a chance to juxtapose the two places to appreciate the co-existence of Modern and traditional Morocco.
Dinner with select students from Local Universities in another chance for cross cultural learning.
Overnight stay in Casablanca.
Day 10: June 4th CASABLANCA – FLY HOME
Breakfast in Casablanca
Transfer to Mohamed V airport for our return flight home
Keep tabs on us while we visit this magical locations! We should have plenty of pictures and stories to share!! Next Saturday cannot come soon enough for us!