Begin your journey in Casablanca
Travel across Morocco and develop a portfolio that captures the diversity of the country and your skills as a photographer. Guided by professional photographers, you’ll have both private and group lessons to improve your technique. Explore markets, learn about Berber culture in the high Atlas Mountains, ride a camel through the Sahara, and marvel at the mosques in Marrakech. Get a comprehensive understanding of this diverse country and come home with photos to show family, teachers, and possibly even editors.
After meeting and greeting your photography instructor and the other students traveling to Morocco from JFK, you’re off to Casablanca! Most students are able to sleep a little and relax with their new friends during the flight.
Arrive in Casablanca where your Rustic leaders will be awaiting you. Begin the journey with a short drive to Rabat, the political capital of Morocco along the Atlantic Coast. Check into the hotel and get to know our program leaders, expectations, and itinerary for the week. Explore the old medina and visit the Mohammed V Mausoleum for a sunset photo shoot before dining on a dhow (traditional boat) along the corniche.
Wake up and head to the blue-washed medina of Chefchaouen. Upon arrival, divide into small groups to explore and photograph the bright blue and dark navy walls punctuated by the starburst colors of scarves, carpets, and tapestries. Catch a beautiful sunset over the blue-washed medina before tucking into a delicious tagine for dinner!
After a morning photo expedition and possible hike to Akchour Waterfall, the group will reconvene for an afternoon discussion and photo lesson. In the evening, the group will have time to explore more the medina in small groups.
Depart for the old medina of Fez, the largest city in the world without cars and a Unesco World Heritage Site. En route, stop by the ancient Roman city of Volubilis to capture the diverse history of Morocco as a Roman province.After checking into a traditional riad and holding an afternoon photo lesson, the group will hike up to the Merenid Tombs overlooking the medina for a beautiful sunset. Witness the call to prayer breaking the daily fast and listen for the subtle, collective sigh of relief amongst the locals sitting down to their first meals of the day. Conclude the day with an evening workshop and discussion.
After an informal language lesson, get ready for a day of exploration. Given that Fez is the largest car-free urban area in the world, it could take weeks to see everything in this city. We will go at a reasonable pace, visiting important sites throughout the medina, including the Bou Inania madrasa, al-Karaouine, the honey souqs, the tanneries, spice shops, and more. Lunch will be at the unique Café Clock, a meal you won’t soon forget. In the late afternoon, participate in guided team building activities, a photo scavenger hunt, and work on using your language skills by communicating with locals, whenever possible. Enjoy sunset at ruins and listen for the call to prayer that folds the bustling medina into a lotus of quiet before heading in for the night.
After a morning expedition into the surrounding area, the group will continue its journey to the largest non-polar desert in the world, the mighty Sahara. Upon their arrival at a desert outpost town, the group will embark on an hour-long camel caravan into a Bedouin campsite.
This morning, students are encouraged to climb a nearby dune to photograph the sunrise over the wide expanse of sand. Afterwards, the group will hop back on the camels to the outpost town and return along the “route of a thousand kasbahs” to Dades Gorge. In the afternoon, the group will hold a photo review from the desert experience and receive feedback.
Make your way to the kasbah town of Ait Benhaddou, famous as a setting in dozens of Hollywood hits such as Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia. Afterwards, explore and photograph the Kasbah as you participate in a culturally immersive scavenger hunt!
Make your way to Sbiti Village and make it home for the next two days! Take advantage of this opportunity to practice your Arabic or play games with the local youth. You will also take this time to work on a documentary project with your photography guide.
Explore Marrakech and its bustling souqs full of fascinating wares – everything from magic boxes to ostrich eggs and whale vertebrae! You’ll visit places such as the Ben Youssef Madersa , Bahia Palace and the Koutoubia. Eat a dinner in Jamaa El-Fna by starting with a fresh-squeezed orange juice and weaving through the stands to find a good seat and enjoy a warm bowl of soup, skewers, and mint tea.
Travel back to Casablanca, where you will have a final photography critique session and a chance to relive your journey of the past two weeks.
Wake up early and head to the airport to return home or continue on your summer adventure. We hope that you have soaked up the photography and life lessons that our photography expert has provided along the journey. Best wishes and looking forward to seeing your photography skills continue to flourish and bloom!
Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.
The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.
“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.
“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.
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To get the most out of this trip you should have a camera (preferably a DSLR) that allows you to have full manual control over your shutter and aperture. Additional lenses that you can mount to your camera body are also highly recommended.
One of the purposes of this trip is to gain experience and confidence with your camera in various shooting environments. Students who have learned the basics of exposure and know how to manipulate their camera’s shutter, aperture and ISO will be best served on this program.
Camel trekking, hiking, and participating in sports games with locals are all activities you can expect to participate in on this program. Also keep in mind you will often be carrying your camera and photo gear throughout the program. While none of these activities are overly strenuous or physically demanding you should feel comfortable and confident in participating.
If you come along for this Moroccan adventure expect to experience it all.
You will stay in hotels with hot showers and western style toilets. In some cities like Marrakech you’ll enjoy the special treat of staying in a riad, a traditional Moroccan mansion style house. With many rooms, a central courtyard, and beautiful architecture, riads are a favorite place to stay among students. Most riads are equipped with air conditioning, western toilets, and warm showers.
While stopping over for your rural homestay you will be visiting a small village in the High Atlas Mountains, here you’ll be staying at a newly renovated farm. Rooms are dorm style and showers and bathrooms are shared.
While spending the night in the Sahara Desert you’ll be stopping over at a small encampment to take in the desert stars and enjoy a hearty meal. The camp has a shared latrine but no showers. Don’t worry you’ll wash all that sand off tomorrow. You’ll share a Bedouin style tent with some fellow students, I’m sure you’ll be tired after that camel ride so get to bed early so you can be up on time to see a breathtaking sunrise across the largest non-polar desert in the world.
Students will have access to clean, safe drinking water (pronounced lma) on this trip at all times. Water in faucets can be used to brush your teeth but is not for drinking. Summertime in Morocco is very hot (you’re headed to the desert after all)! Please remember to pack a reusable water bottle so you can constantly stay hydrated throughout the program.
Delicious traditional Moroccan food of course! Morocco is home to many delectable dishes many of them heavily influenced by French colonialism. Having been a major stop along the African spice route, Moroccan cuisine is rich and flavorful. The tagine, a Moroccan favorite is a stew cooked within a conical clay pot where couscous, vegetables, spices and chicken or beef are usually piled high to be shared around the table. Dig in and fork what strikes your fancy onto your plate or eat like a real Moroccan and scoop up each bite with some crisp and crunchy bread. Variations of the tagine are common as well as fish fillet and assorted kinds of kebabs. Hearty lentil soups are also a good starter to any meal. Be sure to sample some pastilla while you are traveling, this traditional dish is a crispy crepe stuffed with chicken and spices while the top is sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. It’s the perfect combination of savory and sweet! Almost all Moroccan meals are served with bread, as it is a big staple in Moroccan daily life. After you are good and stuffed be sure to wash down your Moroccan feast with a steaming cup of sweet Moroccan mint tea.
Morocco is incredibly geographically diverse and therefore experiences several different climates depending on which region you are visiting. It is important to keep all of these in mind while you are preparing for your trip. Morocco’s Atlantic coastal cities such as Casablanca and Rabat are generally cooler and milder than in the interior. Expect ocean breezes and lower temperatures than what you would find traveling east. The interior of Morocco such as in Marrakech and Fez is hot and sunny during the summer with sporadic periods of rainfall. Up in the Atlas Mountains where you will be having your village homestay expect it to be hot and sunny during the day and cooler at night. The Sahara Desert region in the south is incredibly hot and dry during summer months. The north of the country around Chefchaouen and the Rif Mountains has a Mediterranean climate and can be hot and more humid during summer. Besides packing appropriate clothing don’t forget a water bottle and sunscreen!
It is very important that we respect the cultural norms and local customs while traveling throughout Morocco. With a majority of the population practicing Islam, Morocco is a conservative Muslim country and the influence of religion is felt in the ways people act, dress, and present themselves. Women should be very mindful of their clothing while visiting Morocco. It is important to wear modest clothing that does not show or reveal too much skin. This means avoiding shorts and tank tops and tight clothing such as yoga pants or leggings. Wearing loose fitting clothes will keep you cooler during hot days and the added coverage will protect your skin from that powerful Moroccan sun! When visiting religious sites such as the Hassan II mosque it is required that women cover their heads before entering the mosque so remember to pack a scarf or saraong. While swimming or visiting the beach we ask that you please pack a one-piece bathing suit. Remember, Morocco isn’t all desert and heat, evenings on the Atlantic coast or up in the Atlas Mountains can get pretty chilly and breezy even during the summer months. Be sure to pack a sweatshirt or light jacket that you can throw on just incase!
In the cities such as Casablanca and Marrakech many people speak English to varying degrees. Moroccans speak a local dialect of Arabic called Darija. In many of the Atlas Mountain communities the local dialect is Berber where the majority of the people make up this indigenous minority. If you know some French this will also go a long way in Morocco. Once a colony of France the majority of Moroccans can speak French as it is still taught within Moroccan schools. We encourage you to practice or pick up as much Arabic as you can during your trip. It is fun to practice and your local Moroccan leader can help you translate and teach you words along the way. Using Arabic in the markets and souks of Morocco will go a long way towards impressing vendors and ensure you get the best price while bargaining.
The Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan is a special time of year when Moroccans commemorate the first revelation of the Koran to Muhammad. The annual observance is very important as it is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslims observe the month long holiday by taking on an extra sense of self-accountability and charity. From sun up to sun down Moroccans will fast and abstain from eating and drinking. As a result, daytime during the holiday takes on a slower pace. You will frequently see Moroccans napping and dozing in the heat and many shops and stores have shorter hours. At night when the sun goes down Muslims break their fast and things come alive as people are often eating, shopping, and celebrating with their friends and family well into the night. Your program will run as usual during this time and while Moroccans do not expect foreigners or visitors to fast it is important to be mindful and respect those that are fasting. Taking our food and drink indoors or snacks and ice cream during van rides instead of out in public view is a way to honor this. Ramadan is a great opportunity for students to gain additional insight and perspective on Islam as well as enjoy the spiritual energy and atmosphere this holiday has to offer.
When you join us on this incredible journey we want you to have an as immersive experience as possible and soak it all in. To do that you are encouraged to take a break from technology and engage with the life on the ground in Morocco. Leave the lands of social media behind and focus on being present in the moment—don’t worry, it will still be there when you return—we promise!
You will have access to internet in Casablanca and Marrakech but throughout the rest of the trip, internet access will be sporadic.
What should families at home do in case of emergency? You will be given the phone number to our 24/7 emergency line, which is kept open for true emergencies only. One of our awesome staff members in the U.S. will be in charge of this line, and they will pass any necessary information to us on the ground in Morocco.
International SOS provides the most up to date recommendations regarding Morocco. Since we do not know your child’s medical history, we recommend you reference International SOS’ website at: https://rusticpathways.com/international-sos/ or the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov for more information. We also suggest consulting with your local travel doctor prior to your travels for further information.
Believe us when we say that you are not going to be ready to go home after two weeks! Time will fly and you’ll feel like your journey is just beginning as you board the plane home. The long flight over to North Africa is the hardest part; once you’re here, why not make the most of it and build an incredible summer?
This trip connects seamlessly with other programs throughout Africa. Connecting is a great idea if your travel plans allow for it!
Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:
Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing lightweight pants/capris, t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear. Shorts and leggings are not acceptable in Morocco.
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.
A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.
*We recommend putting these valuables in your carry-on, but understand if not all of them fit.
A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.
(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)
Begin your journey in Casablanca
Photograph the political capital of Morocco
Sightsee, photograph and cook your way through the largest medieval city without cars
Continue your photography lessons in the unique, blue-washed medina
Explore the apple town of Morocco! You’re half way to the Sahara desert now!
Ride a camel, hike the sand dunes, and watch the sunrise
Explore the town famous as a setting for many Hollywood hits
Wander through the medina and souqs of Marrakech