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During the February half term, the Lower Sixth Geographers visited southern Morocco, where they witnessed the incredible variety of Moroccan landscapes, climate, people and culture. Whilst there, the group experienced the barren plains of the Sahara desert, the incredible remote and rugged beauty of the Atlas Mountains, as well as the hustle and bustle of the souks and bazaars of Marrakech’s Medina.

The area of the Sahara where they stayed was near Zagora, an extremely arid environment that receives less than 100mm of rainfall a year and has temperatures soaring to over 40ºC in the summer. As it was winter, however, the temperatures were thankfully mild. At Imlil in the Atlas Mountains, pupils experienced all four seasons in one day: rain, sun, snow and unimaginably strong winds. It seemed strange to see mountains topped with snow and evidence of flash-floods after spending time in the completely parched Sahara. After Imlil, the pupils continued to Marrakech. There, it was about 20°C, but unluckily they were forced to witness first-hand Morocco’s changing-of-season showers.

Each place on the itinerary contrasted completely with the last: the Sahara had very scare vegetation, whereas Imlil had experienced terraced farming and afforestation. In Marrakech, most natural vegetation had been cleared to make way for buildings and developments, but there was still evidence that palm trees were able to grow independently.

A common theme in all the areas visited was that the culture and the people were noticeably different from what pupils were accustomed to in England. In Tinfu in the Sahara, they noticed a strong community feel in the small village. There, inhabitants had worked together to defend against the natural processes at work, mainly sand encroachment, which was having a negative impact on the whole community. Therefore they had built sand-dune defences and all help to maintain them. Furthermore, owing to the lack of water, the village had to create a rota for taking water from the River Draa to water their crops and family plots.

Something that stood out whilst driving through Morocco was the number of satellite dishes on houses, despite the houses themselves being built out of mud and straw. This would suggest that most citizens in Morocco are not living in poverty, but part of a developing society. In Imlil, there was a similar community feel. The Village Association was in contact with the government and responsible for managing tourism and development in the area, as well as the needs of the villagers.

Marrakech was a completely new cultural experience. Visiting the souks was incredible and everyone enjoyed haggling for their presents and souvenirs. The group also visited the French quarter of Marrakech which, though within walking distance of the old town, seemed worlds apart from it. It was clear the buildings and layout had been designed with tourism in mind, as it all appeared very Western and unsuited to the Moroccan climate.

Overall, visiting the city, the desert and the mountains in the course of the trip provided three adventures in one, different from both each other and from Britain.  The delicious food, the people, the climate, the environment, the shopping and the villages, to name just a few things, were particularly memorable.

Published on 24/03/2014

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