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St John’s geographers explore

During February half term 24 Lower Sixth geographers visited Morocco to explore the incredible variety of landscapes, climate, people and culture. During their seven day adventure, pupils experienced the barren arid plains of the Sahara desert, the 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 trip started in the arid desert of Zagora, with a three hour camel trek before camping overnight under the stars. A number of pupils woke up in time to climb a sand dune to watch the sun rise, a magical experience and a highlight of the trip for many.  The group also visited the village of Tinfou which is being overrun by sand encroachment, and experienced first-hand the causes and effects of desertification.

From Zagora, pupils headed up into the High Atlas Mountains.  Passing through the Draa Valley, they witnessed many beautiful geographical landscapes and stopped to admire the gorges formed by many years of flash flooding in the region, before visiting the ancient fortified city of Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO world heritage site that in recent times has become a film set for many famous Hollywood movies, such as Gladiator.

The mountain pass across to Imlil, where the pupils were headed, had been shut because of a large snow and rock avalanche. They were forced to return to Ouarzazate for the night, before undertaking a long journey around the Atlas mountains the following day.  

Once in Imlil, the group spent time trekking through the snow in the mountain region, learning about the impact of tourism on the area and about the flooding events that have shaped the landscape and affected the village. The geographers also had the opportunity to visit the Atlas Mountains Eco Musee to learn about the local flora and fauna in the national park.

The trip ended in Marrakesh, with a tour of the city by ‘caleche’ (traditional horse draw taxis) before visiting the tanneries and a Berber pharmacy, before a visit to the Souks to enjoy haggling for presents to take home.

On home soil, the School’s Upper Sixth geographers enjoyed a sunny visit to the Queen Elizabeth Park and Stratford. The area made a perfect case study as part of their retail and sport-led regeneration topic. The pupils learnt how the London 2012 Olympic games rapidly transformed the area, and to this day the evolution continues with the development of new housing, office complexes and the reinvention of the Olympic park, creating one of the world's largest urban parkland environments.

The pupils visited Stratford’s town centre to enable a comparison with vast Westfield complex and then went on to survey the park from the top of the Accelor Mittal Orbit tower. A walking tour of the park then took them to the Cooper box arena, the Aquatics centre and the Velodrome, all of which now serve as community venues.

Further photos can be viewed in the Morocco trip photo gallery.

Published on 24/02/2016

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