It is easy to get caught in the busyness of big cities in Morocco and most people do exactly this. Yet, the south has plenty to offer, especially when it comes to understanding the politics and socio-economic dynamics of the region. That is exactly why CCLT decided to organize an academic and cultural trip to the heart of the country for our students from the Dartmouth LSA 2015 program.
The trip began with a long but rather enjoyable bus ride to Erfoud. Looking out from the window, we had the amazing opportunity to see so many of the different faces of the country. The starting point was the north with its big white houses and olive trees. From there it was a string of natural wonders- spectacular river defiles, the picturesque Atlas Mountains with summits covered in snow, despite the almost unbearable heat outside and green oases nestled between overwhelmingly high cliffs. Everything- the architecture, clothes, nature and climate, was changing dramatically almost every hour, revealing yet another fascinating site of Morocco. The jewel in the crown, however, was by all means the desert- hostile and austere, yet so magnificent in its solitude and grandeur. However, it was also pointed out the divide between the north and south in terms of economic development and brought to the table the important topic of regional disparity.
Day two of the trip allowed more cultural exploration of the region. The group had tea with the nomads and admired the beautiful desert fossils. Students had a chance to ask questions about the nomadic way of life and the difficulties monads encounter on a daily basis, such as access to healthcare, education and interaction with the government. We then visited a village of Bedouins from sub-Saharan descent, living in isolation from the rest of the region. Meeting the people of the village was an amazing opportunity to reflect on important issues, such as intercultural interaction, racism and slavery in Northern Africa. We also had a chance to listen to some authentic Gnawa music- a peculiar mixture of Bedouin and African rhythms, a melodic embodiment of the mélange of cultures in Morocco. The day ended with a camel ride through the Sahara, while the sun was slowly setting behind the dunes- a truly unforgettable experience. We spent a night in the desert, which passed under the rhythms of the drum and woke up just in time to see the magnificent sunrise from the top of the nearby sandy hill.
The desert trip set a high barrier but the next couple of days did not disappoint. We visited the abandoned Jewish quarters of Tanghrir, and had a chance to reflect on the history of the Jewish community in Morocco. The country was once inhabited by 250, 000 to 350, 000 Jews, which gave Morocco the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world, with its numbers dropping to fewer than 2, 500 in the post- Israel years. We then saw the spectacular defile of the Todgha River and some of the qasbas situated between Agdz and Marrakesh. That included visiting the Ksar Glaoui- a secret detention center, used during the 1970s. Student had a chance to learn more about the means of repression during the rule of Hassan II and the marks that it left on Moroccan society today. That was followed by a walk through the farms of the Agdz oasis, with an evening well spent in a resort hidden in the middle of the palm forest.
To wrap everything nicely, the last day presented one of the most spectacular views, an unforgettable treat to the soul of every traveler- the beautiful drive from Agdz to Marrakesh through the Atlas, going up to nearly 7000 meters. We arrived in Rabat around 19:00, tired and sleepy but glad to have had such an amazing opportunity to explore, learn and enjoy what Morocco has to offer and to enhance our academic and cultural understanding of the country and its people.
Read the article about this trip in asdaemaghribya.com (in Arabic).
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