Morocco: Multiculturalism in the Arab World

Discover the rich history and cultures of Morocco on an immersive summer abroad program for high school students.

Experience Amazigh and Arab cultures in Morocco and learn about the nation’s history and modern society on this high school summer abroad program. Take formal Moroccan Arabic (Derija) language lessons; learn to cook a traditional Moroccan meal; and study traditional Moroccan arts such as music and dance, basket weaving, and tablet writing. Explore ancient ruins and the cities of Rabat, Meknes, Fes, and Marrakech. Cross the Atlas Mountains and go trekking across the dunes of the Sahara.

The program begins in Morocco’s capital, Rabat, where you’ll explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods, street markets, and ancient medina. Local experts will introduce you and your group to aspects of current Moroccan society, including religion and gender roles. Your Moroccan Experiment continues to unfold as you spend two weeks in a rural community, immersed in the daily lives of a Moroccan homestay family. Share couscous and mint tea with your family and play soccer with local youth. During this period, you and your group will participate in a community service project such as planting trees, painting a school, or teaching English to local children.

Numerous excursions allow you to see several of Morocco’s cities. Meet with artists in Fes and see storytellers, snake charmers, acrobats, and other street performers in Marrakech’s famous Jamaa el Fna Square. Explore ancient port cities along Morocco’s coast and enjoy a picnic at the ruins of the first-century Roman city Volubilis. You’ll also have opportunities to experience Morocco’s natural environments. Stroll sandy beaches, hike in the Todgha Gorge, and visit remote villages in the High and Middle Atlas Mountains. On an excursion to the Sahara, ride in a camel caravan and watch the sun set behind the dunes.

At the conclusion of this program, each participant will earn a language certificate noting how many hours of language classes s/he completed.

Orientation: Rabat, 5 days
Homestay: Oulmes,* 2 weeks
Other Accommodations: Hotels, hostels, and camps

* Homestay locations can vary.

Days 1–5

Orientation in Rabat

  • Learn about the history and culture of MoroccoStudent learning Arabic
  • Hear from local experts about religion and gender roles in Moroccan society
  • Get to know other members of your group during activities and discussions
  • Begin your Arabic language lessons
  • Explore diverse neighborhoods and visit street markets in the Rabat medina
  • Learn about the arts of traditional tablet writing and Moroccan cooking

During the orientation period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Days 6–10

Thematic Focus in Marrakech, Fes, and the Sahara

  • Explore Marrakech; visit the city’s gardens; and see storytellers, snake charmers, acrobats, and other street performers in Jamaa el Fna Square
  • Go hiking in the Todgha Gorge
  • Go on an excursion to the Sahara and explore the desert by Land Rover, go on a camel ride across the sand dunes, and watch the magnificent desert sunset
  • Take a guided tour of Meknes, picnic at the ruins of Volubilis, and meet with artists in the Fes medina
  • Continue your language training

During this period, you and your group will stay in hostels, hotels, and a tent camp.

Days 11–23

Homestay

  • Become fully immersed in the daily life of a Moroccan family and community
  • Explore your host community and the surrounding area with your group
  • Do activities with your host family
  • Participate in a community service project such as teaching English at a local school or assisting with a small-scale construction project
  • Observe and learn techniques from local weavers
  • Learn to cook traditional Moroccan meals
  • Experience traditional music and dance
  • Go on excursions outside of the village to a regional souk

During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample host communities: Ait Ouahi, Taouniya, Oulmes

Days 24–26

Excursion to El Jadida and Essaouira

  • Explore these ancient port cities with your group
  • Relax on beaches, enjoy meals at street-side cafés, and shop in local markets

During this excursion, you and your group will stay in hotels.

Days 27–28

Program Reflection and Wrap-up in Rabat

  • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program

During the reflection period, you and your group will stay in a centrally located hotel.

Day 29

Departure

Please note: This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented above.

These are leader bios from summer 2014.

Ryan Buck

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Ryan Buck graduated from Dickinson College, where he received a degree in music composition and French after studying abroad in Toulouse, France, for six months. Having first been a student on The Experiment to France in 2007, Ryan continued his journey with The Experiment as a leader to France in 2013 and a leader to Morocco in 2014. In September 2014, Ryan returned to The Experiment yet again, to take on the full-time roll of assistant admissions officer.

While in college, Ryan directed an a cappella group called The Infernos, he performed as an improvisational comedic actor, and he worked as a professor’s assistant for Music Theory and Fundamentals courses. Before college, Ryan worked as a theatre teacher and director at summer camps for multiple years. He enjoys sports, traveling, and playing and writing music.

Anna James

Whether encouraging and supporting self-awareness among youth of North Africa or working with youth on outdoor programs in the Pacific Northwest, Anna is committed to empowering young people to make positive changes in their lives. After serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco, Anna joined the Northwest Outward Bound School as an instructor. Her passion for education, youth development, and travel has taken her all over the world to teach, explore, and discover; with in-depth experience in Europe and North Africa, Anna is skilled in both French and Darija (Moroccan Arabic).

Hailing from Washington State, Anna is a certified Wilderness First Responder who spends most of her free time backpacking, climbing, being outdoors, or thinking about being outdoors. In fall 2014, Anna embarked on a new adventure in Washington, DC, to pursue her MA in global human development at Georgetown University.

From the very start of my Morocco adventure, I did not stop learning and developing new ways of looking at things. The orientation in Rabat prepared us well for living in Morocco. The Darija, Maghreb Arabic, lessons we had were very effective, and they actually enabled me to pick up the language a lot faster than I expected. The cultural exploration and scavenger hunts around Rabat were also a lot of fun. I particularly appreciated learning about the taboos and cultural norms of Morocco before we started our homestay in the village.
I was blown away to see how compatible all of the EIL group members were with each other. The size of the group also helped us to get close and to make relationships that a larger sized group may not have permitted. I have never been in a group for this short of time and felt as though I have known everyone for years. We all opened up and experienced the same things together, which helped us bond and learn.
Before we started our homestay, we visited the desert. It was awesome riding jeeps far into the desert and then jumping on camels to walk even further over the dunes in what felt like a moonscape. We stayed in a great small hotel where we slept on the roof and gazed into the sea of stars. Even though many of my group got sick that day, including myself, it was unforgettable and I really enjoyed the desert.
My homestay in Loutichina village was extremely fascinating. My family was hospitable and made me feel at home immediately. From the first day with them, I worked in the fields with my father, watered crops with my brothers, cooked lunch and dinners with my mother, and shared conversations in broken Arabic with my grandmother. I realized throughout how similar my family back home was with my host family in the middle of North Africa. I feel deeply that we share so many more similarities than differences, once you look past materialistic things.
I lived a good mile from the center of town along a path. Our group taught children English and math at the local village school. Teaching these children was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. It felt really good to watch as they progressed and learned day by day. I was surprised to see that every day, more and more children would attend the classes as word got around the hill sides that Americans were teaching morning classes. That made me feel great and I felt I was making an impact on their lives. We also helped build the local association building, but the teaching meant much more to me.
During our time in the village, we also took cooking and weaving classes. The cooking sessions taught us the basics of North African cuisine and we got to make some neat meals. The weaving turned out to be very interesting for several reasons I did not expect. I found that it was very therapeutic to me. I was able to see and help wit the development of the entire rug, from building the looms to weaving the piece row by row. As it developed, I felt a building sense of accomplishment and calmness. The best part was seeing the results of our weeks of weaving. I learned the process and hard work that local woman go through to make beautiful rugs. I now have a totally new appreciation for this type of hand work.
After saying goodbye to our families and all the people in Loutichina, our group traveled to Marrakech and Essaouira. These were my two favorite cities in Morocco. In Marrakech I was able to see things that were so out of the ordinary. People screaming for your attention in the market stalls, snake charmers playing the flute, and monkey performers were all around you. In Essaouira we saw the cleanest beaches of Morocco. The atmosphere was relaxed and focused a lot on music and the arts. Essaouira was also a place where the influences from Europe and the rest of the world were very present as a resort sight with great hotels, restaurants, and activities that draw tourists.
To sum up, EIL in Morocco was one of the best experiences of my life so far. I never would have thought that I would be able to live on a farm in rural Morocco and explore so many places so closely. I helped my host family with their daily work and felt as though I was a real part of their family. I also gained a lot of new self-confidence while on this program. Making such a big difference is the lives of others and having other people make a difference in my life in such a short period of time, only five weeks, puts many things into perspective for me. I learned that so many things are possible if you set your mind to it and attempt something new. The results from trying the unexplored and new are very fulfilling and it is the best way to learn and grow.

Ben Morejon