Begin your journey in Casablanca.
Dive deep into the belief system surrounding Islamic faith in Morocco on this By Invitation Only Program. By Invitation Only is an initiative we designed to give future change makers from all backgrounds the opportunity to participate in one of our Critical Issues programs – free of cost! By taking a look at global issues as they are lived on-the-ground, students will further develop skills sets like critical analysis, creative problem solving, collaboration, and empathy––all essential capabilities for future leaders innovators, social entrepreneurs, and peacemakers.
Islam is often misunderstood in media and politics, leading to polarization and fear surrounding this belief system. Join us in Morocco to explore the roots of stereotypes in an effort to promote peace and build empathy by engaging with Muslims in Morocco. Engage in high level conversations, ready to stand against hate and carry your newly recognized change making skills into your community. This is a program for change makers with curious spirits who believe we can change the world through positive engagement and understanding cultural and religious differences.
As part of our By Invitation Only initiative, each year Rustic Pathways will select up to 15 students to participate in one of our Critical Issues programs, entirely free of cost. We are seeking students with a diverse set of experiences to study the challenges surround religious intolerance who have the power to become change makers in their local and global communities.
Applications will close January 6, 2017.
Do you know a student who might be a good fit for this program?
Rustic Pathways is looking for future leaders, innovators, social entrepreneurs, change makers, and Nobel Peace Prize recipients to join our first-ever By Invitation Only Program. If you know someone who fits the bill, please nominate them today!
You can nominate up to 5 students for this program.
After meeting and greeting your flight leader and the other students traveling to Morocco, you’re off to Casablanca! Most students are able to sneak in a nap and relax with their new friends during the flight. Get some rest so you are ready to dive right in!
Meet your Program Leaders and chat as a group about what’s in store for your time in Morocco. On a program like this one, the group is just as important as the program itinerary. Rustic Pathways has brought this group of students together to recognize the ability of a group of passionate and dedicated students to make positive change in the world. Spend some time learning about fellow future change makers, talk about the experiences that you’ve had preparing for this program, and the questions you want to explore during your time in Morocco. After some tone-setting and team building, you’re out the door to tour Hassan II Mosque. This may be the first time in a mosque for some members of your group and what an impactful place to start! This beautiful seaside mosque is the largest in Morocco and its minaret is the tallest in the world. Lucky for you, you’ll be arriving during Ramadan, so Hassan II will be bustling with Muslims observing the holiday, in accordance with the five pillars of Islam. This is a special time to visit Morocco as you’ll participate in the rich history and traditions surrounding Ramadan and Eid, the festival marking the end of Ramadan.
This program is centered around the idea that there are a number of complex issues that are going to challenge your generation and the best way to build an understanding of them is to experience how they are lived on the ground. Global and local events are inextricably linked and you can make sense of a global challenge by seeing how it plays out on the ground. It is critical to understand the context in which the local events play out, which involves learning about the history of a place and its people. During the beginning of the program, you will grow your understanding of Morocco and the Islamic faith in this way.
Today you’ll drive to one of Morocco’s most famous destinations, Marrakesh, also known as the ‘red city.’ As you explore mosques and palaces, you’ll learn about the evolution of the Islamic faith and the history of the dynasties that have occupied this storied city. Later on, you’ll sit down with your group to discuss what you’ve seen so far, what’s stuck out to you most, and think more about the questions you’d like to answer as you continue through your program. Tonight you’ll begin working to understand the psychology of bias and some concrete tools you can use in your change making work to confront stereotypes and overcome bias.
Making personal connections plants the seeds of empathy from which peace in a multicultural society can grow. This program is designed to put you in conversation with Moroccans, and practitioners of Islam, in many different settings. For the next three days, you’ll spend your mornings in workshops with local experts on Islam learning about their work and their lives. You’ll spend time engaging with university professors, scholars of the Qaran (Coran), and leaders in the religious community called imams. Discuss gender roles and Islam with a female imam, known as a mursheda. She’ll share her experience being a female Muslim spiritual leader and what led her to the position. Examine the role of the media in furthering stereotypes and fostering hatred. Learn the historical and cultural significance of Ramadan and make sense of what you’ve been noticing the past few days. Each afternoon will be dedicated to interviews and open discussions with similarly aged local students on the topic that was explored in the morning, allowing you to get a more nuanced perspective from your Moroccan peers. In the evenings, split into smaller groups to participate in Iftar, breaking fast, with local Moroccan families.
Though the workshops and discussions will be impactful, nothing beats experiencing authentic everyday life. One night, attend Taraweeh, extra Ramadan prayers at Koutoubia Mosque, where Muslims have been praying since the 12th century. Sit in silence as you show respect to the Muslims who have packed inside and spread outside the mosque to pray during Ramadan.
Throughout these days, you’ll also have time to explore the city. You’ll see the famous souqs, take in the aromas of the famous Moroccan spice shops, and get to know this wondrous city.
Often, the way we perceive something comes from just one picture we have of it in our minds, and that picture is often influenced by the media or by stereotypes we hear repeated at home. This program intentionally exposes you to so many different aspects of Moroccan and Muslim culture to give you a more multifaceted picture. Today you head to Sbiti village in the Ourikta valley. Upon arrival, settle into your guesthouse and tour the village. Experience Iftar with a local family. The role of religion and rural life in general look very different than in the city. You’ll compare and contrast what you’ve seen in the urban areas with this small Berber village. It won’t be hard to notice that all women wear headscarves in the village whereas only some do in the city. This is just one of the more observable differences you might note. You’ll have time to get into the nuances with your group during evening discussions.
Depending on the moon, tonight might be the night you’ll hear the announcement of the beginning of Eid Al Fitr. This is a very happy time for Muslims worldwide and they celebrate by spending time with friends and family, exchanging food with neighbors, buying new clothes for little ones, and practicing charity towards others. It’s a privilege to be able to eat pancakes, have tea, and celebrate this momentous day in Islam alongside local Moroccans during your stay.
One of the habits of mind that is found across a majority of change makers is active listening. To be able to listen openly limiting how your perspective colors what you are hearing is a skill that takes cultivating. In the same way, the ability to ask questions is an essential tool in your metaphorical toolbox. Those skills are the focus of today. Spend the day at local family’s house, watching and taking part in the daily tasks of keeping life moving here. You’ll observe the religious practice of daily prayers (or celebrating Eid, depending on the moon). Your local Program Leaders will be there to help translate as you ask thoughtful questions and listen openly. Today, things get a little more personal as your group spends time exploring your individual beliefs, experiences, and identities in a safe space. You’ll have the chance to meet someone who has chosen to convert to Islam. You’ll prepare questions for him and try to understand his faith journey and how his life has changed because of it.
Today, you’ll drive to the capital of the kingdom, Rabat. You’ll visit the Hassan tower, a minaret once expected to be the tallest in the world. Construction halted in 1199 and the mosque was never completed. The sandstone tower rises to half its intended height, but it is still a very impressive sight. The Hassan tower stands in contrast to the white and green building right across the esplanade, Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Serving as the tomb for the Moroccan king and his two sons, the mausoleum is a national treasure honoring the Moroccan royal family. You’ll end your day with dinner on a boat on the Abi Raqraq river admiring the coastal capital city.
Today you head north towards to Tetouan, a small Mediterranean port town where Spanish influence is apparent in the architecture. Here you will see something out of the ordinary: a church facing a mosque. This symbol of tolerance serves as the backdrop for a discussion about tolerance, your personal beliefs, and what we can do to see people as people. This conversation paves the way for your afternoon workshop where a university professor will help you explore Islam’s relationship to other monotheist faiths.
You will spend two packed days in Chafchaouen, Morocco’s famed blue city. Hike to Akchour waterfall and take a dip, explore the souqs, and roam through the spice shops and carpet stalls. Here you will get the chance to meet a religious music group. This band sings poems that praise Islamic values and the prophet Muhammad. Learn the history and importance of that art for Moroccans. You will also sit down with a young imam. He will be ready to take your personal questions and share his perspective on life as a religious leader. Talk with young students who have made the commitment to learn the Koran by heart, a great source of pride for their families. Cap off the day watching the sunset from a mosque overlooking the blue city.
Arrive in Fes, an important intellectual and cultural center, and the host of the first Moroccan Muslim dynasty. While here, you will visit madrassas, or old Koranic schools as well as the library of the oldest continuously functioning university in the world, Qarawyin University. The school was founded by a visionary woman who recognized the importance of education even in the 9th century. You’ll explore the honey market and the craft market and see what this interesting city has to offer. Your journey is coming to a close so you’ll take some time as a group to start to think about how your experience has shifted your perspective and to talk about your post-travel plans as change makers.
Come full circle as you drive back to your starting point, Casablanca. This program was designed to give you and in-depth and up-close look at what we believe is one of the most challenging and critical issues of our time: how to live in peace in a multicultural society. Today, you will celebrate all that you have learned and share the takeaways from your experience. You’ll talk about how your ideas on the intersection of religious ideology and peaceful society across the globe have changed based on your local experiences in Morocco. You’ll recap the skills and habits of mind you have gained on this program and discuss how you are best positioned to be a peacemaker and change maker in your own community. The program ends with “Rustic Ties” which is the culmination of memories from the program and a discussion about your plan of action for what comes next.
We know that you will have created deep bonds with the other change makers on your program and that you will go on to do great things. Because you have amazing potential and we want to invest in your success, we will help you tap into Rustic’s network and resources. Head home and start being change makers for a more peaceful world.
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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Applications will close January 6, 2017. The Critical Issues Committee will review applications during January, and applicants will be notified the first week of February. Students who are accepted will begin preparing for the experience six to eight weeks before departure on June 20, 2017.
Students can apply for a spot on Peace, Wonder, and Understanding Islam. Rustic Pathways staff and educators have the opportunity to nominate students who we truly believe will change the world for the better. Through the application and screening process, we will assemble a group of 12-15 students who bring diverse perspectives and experiences to this program. We are looking for a diverse set of students we believe have the power to become change makers in their local and global communities. Stand-out superstars. Mature self-starters. Individuals. Natural leaders. Peacemakers. Students with passion for change oozing from their being. Volunteers and community builders at home and abroad. We’re willing to bet these students are the next barrier-shattering innovator, president, genius grant recipient, or Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Program Leaders have intimate local knowledge and an academic or professional background on Islamic relations and culture.
Yes. The program, airfare, and all other costs are covered by Rustic Pathways. We’re covering the program fee and airfare because we don’t want cost to prevent anyone from taking advantage of this opportunity.
Once accepted, students will be asked to use the skills they have learned on their program to take action in their hometown/city. Each student is required to participate in a Commitment Project and indicate an adult who will stand as their accountability partner. Commitment Projects will be decided prior to the commencement of the program and can include (but are not limited to):
After summer 2017, Peace, Wonder, and Understanding Islam will become part of the rest of the Critical Issues series that students sign up for and pay for. Each summer after 2017, we will launch a new program that will be the “By Invitation Only” program and will be free to the first group of participants.
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 is hot and sunny during the summer with sporadic periods of rainfall. Up in the Atlas Mountains where you will be doing your community service expect it to be hot and sunny during the day and cooler at night. 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 HX-Global’s website at: http://hx-global.com/ 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.
There will be some hiking on this trip that could be slightly strenuous depending on the weather conditions during the hike.
This generation of students is up against a lot. They will be tested. They are facing issues that are gaining momentum day after day and the consequences will be significant.
This year, we have created Critical Issues programs that center on a few of the most pressing issues you’re facing in the locations where we operate. They’re designed to help you recognize the importance of these issues to our global community. By connecting with people at the heart of these issues in their local communities, we think you will be more willing and better able to make change.
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.
A 50-70 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.
(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)
Begin your journey in Casablanca.
Wander through the medina and souqs of Marrakech.
Take in rural life in Sbiti Village.
Pass through the political capital of the kingdom
See a church facing a mosque.
Explore the markets and climb to a local mosque in the blue city.
Hike through a canyon to a stunning waterfall
Visit the oldest continuously functioning university in this historical intellectual epicenter.