For four weeks in June and July, 2002, CMES led a group of K-12 educators on a curriculum-building travel seminar in Morocco sponsored by a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant. The trip to Morocco was led by UA faculty member Dr. Michael Bonine, with assistance by other UA experts on Morocco.
Morocco is both an Islamic and Arab country with diverse cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic, and architectural traditions that are reflected in its modern and traditional landscapes. It has been a bridge between Africa and Europe making its traditions as much Arab as they are West African, Berber, Andalusian, French, and Portuguese. Traditional and modern Moroccan lifestyles coexist inside its ancient royal cities as well as in its small towns and villages. This co-existence of the traditional and modern in Moroccan life as well as the diverse mix of ethnicities and religious elements make this country rather unique among the countries of North Africa and the Middle East. Rapid population growth and urban migration are having profound impacts on Morocco's ancient cities and diverse cultures, and Morocco offers unique answers to conservation and preservation.
Travel in Morocco began in the largest and most modern city, Casablanca. Here teachers began to witness the complexity and coexistence of tradition and modernity. From there we proceeded to Marrakesh, Morocco's fourth largest city, for four nights. In Marrakesh, teachers saw the mix of Berber, Arab, French and African influences, and they experienced the famous Djemaa el-Fna in the heart of the old city. Teachers also learned about the local issues of literacy and language policy that are similar to issues in Arizona. From Marrakesh we visited the coastal town of Essaoira and proceeded to Berber towns and villages in the southern Atlas Mountains and Draä valley "oasis". Teachers were able to stay as guests in local people's homes in the Berber village of Foum Zguid.
After visiting the Berber villages, we went to Ifrane where teachers meet with professors from al-Akhawayn University to discuss relevant topics. We stayed in Fez for almost one week to explore the challenges of conservation in this UNESCO world heritage city as well making side trips to the royal city of Meknes and Volibilous, a ruin of a Roman city. In Tangier teachers experienced a city that shares a similar commerce in people to Nogales and Tijuana. Finally, we spent two days in Rabat, the capital which offers a blend of traditional and modern Morocco.
Throughout the trip, teachers meet with numerous experts and faculty from local universities who were their guides and teachers to enrich their visit with historical and cultural information.