Morocco Cultural Immersion & Linguistic Tour - THE HOTCHKISS SCHOOL, SPRING 2011
Casablanca * Fes * Marrakech * Ouarzazate * The Draa Valley/Zagora * Erg Chicaga (The Sahara)
Each time I go to a place I have not seen before, I hope it will be as different as possible from the places I already know.- The late Paul Bowles, author of The Sheltering Sky, composer, traveler, Morocco expatriate
A mere 17 miles south of Europe, across the Strait of Gibraltar, a very different experience awaits--an intriguing place of great contrast, color, culture, history, and hospitality. The late King Hassan II described Morocco's complexity and essence best--"Rooted in Africa, watered by Islam and rustled by the winds of Europe"--and during our fortnight here, we will encounter this country's intriguing mélange. Through various guest lectures and language training, service learning, guided tours, cultural and spiritual performances, and intimate home-stay settings, we will uncover a layer of Morocco and Moroccans unrevealed to most visitors.
Our diverse journey will take us from the commercial pole of Casablanca with its striking modern-traditional contrasts and the third largest mosque in the world...to the soul of Fes and its inimitable medieval medina (old city)...from the Arab-African pulse of Marrakech, "The Rose City", and its hypnotic, carnivalesque Djemaa el Fna ("Square of the Dead")...to the fun-to-say town of Ouarzazate ("Where's az at") with its nearby stunning Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou (yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the medinas of Fes and Marrakech)...through the fantastic oases and spectacular geology of the Draa Valley...and finally, to the dramatic Sahara Desert with its shifting, hundreds-of-feet high dunes. And requisite camels, Bien sûr!
Since we'll be covering much ground in such a short period and since we'll be striving hard to explore, engage, decipher, and document, there is a Moroccan proverb to keep in mind: "Little by Little, the Camel goes into the Couscous." By travel's end, we'll only have tasted our first few grains. Spicy, sophisticated, and no doubt delicious, but much more will remain to savor in the future.