Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Final day- " Free time in the rain" 19th February 2013
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Today we had a lie-in, which we all needed! Breakfast was at half past eight and we had to be packed and out of the rooms by ten. Once we were done, we got together in our groups and walked to Mcdonalds, the promised land for some of our students!! Some spent as much as 100 dirham on food!

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Embedded image permalinkAfterwards we went shopping around the mall visiting some English shops without getting harassed to buy things which was such a relief. Then we took a walk towards the souks and some haggled for gifts. It was a final chance for photos with the snake charmers and Moroccan monkeys. It suddenly began to rain really heavily after spending the past five days in the glorious sunshine! The floors of the market stalls began to quickly flood and the locals were rushing around with their brushes moving water towards the grids, it was chaos! Our feet were soaking and the area smelt really bad as sewage was gushing up from the grids.
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Embedded image permalinkEmbedded image permalinkEmbedded image permalinkSoggy and wet we walked back to Mcdonalds and some enjoyed more food! Where do they put it all? We then took a stroll back to the hotel, changed our wet clothing (thankfully) and collected our luggage to be put onto the coach to travel to the airport home. We had a collection for our guide, Hussain, who had been great with us telling us lots of information about the country and culture. He was a Berber, or Bedoiun, one of the indigenous people of Morocco and he was really touched by the money the students had collected for him. Our students had been so generous and polite  all week, worrying over people begging in the streets and the number of people with disabilities. They wanted to help and give money. We have all had our eyes opened by the poverty but also the vibrancy and ingenuity of the people, from the water management systems in the Atlas mountains, to the artists cutting up coke cans to make pictures, to the artisans making bracelets near the mosque. It was really interesting to see the Islamic culture, with the French influence and the acceptance and tolerance which appeared to be the norm. I think we had all had concerns about the way we would be treated or how strict the codes of dress and behaviour would be but our fears were unfounded. The mixture of people, cultures and languages was stimulating and we all loved the variety and difference.
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By Lauren Kidd, Joy Edwards and Mr Dearing.             
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What a fantastic trip had by all. The group of 40 pupils that we took away this year have been the best yet and they were genuinely in awe of the drastic culture change that they experienced. Throughout the 6 days they were inquisitive and remained respectful and did themselves and our school proud. Well done everyone and happy holidays.
Miss Gallagher
"The situation in Morocco is like a snake. Jews, Arabs and Christains- if one  of them wanted to claim Morocco for themselves, the snake will bite but if they split the snake up into 3 equal parts then it will not be able to bite". Hussain

Monday, 18 February 2013

Day 4 - Marrakesh Day

Monday 18th February 2013



We got an extra one hour lie in today and woke up at 7.30 and went down for our usual continental breakfast and waited for our coach to pick us up at 9am. We had a very short coach journey of about 10 minutes where we would travel into the middle of Marrakesh to the Medina which is known as the old town. While we were there we were in the grounds of the Koutoubia Mosque which was built in 1062 and is the largest mosque in Marrakech at a height of 77 meters (none of us where allowed in the mosque because to enter you have to follow the religion of Islam). Our guide said that this building inspired other buildings such as the Giralda in Seville, Spain and the Hassan Tower in Rabat, Morocco.

After we visited the mosque we had a short coach journey to the Bahia Palca which is where the former Prime minister of Morocco used to live and was built in the 19th century. We went on a tour of this massive, beautiful building explaining the job of the prime minister and told us how people should treat the prime minister if we were to ever meet him. After this there was another very short coach ride to the Saadian Toms which date back to 1578. The Saadian toms are where the king, his wives and his children are buried. 66 graves in the Saadian toms hold the royals and there are 100 other graves which hold people who have connections to the Royal family.

An interesting point I think is that in the area of Marrakech that we visited today contains the three main monotheistic religions; Islam, Christianity, and Judaism and there is never any conflict between these groups based on their beliefs. This is unique to Marrakech and is not really replicated anywhere else in the world. This is because there is emphasis on the fact that everyone is equal no matter their beliefs, views and values.

We got on our familiar coach again for another short ride and made our way back towards the Mosque. A minute’s walk from the mosque is the beautiful Koutoubia gardens where we stopped and soaked up the peace and quiet as we enjoyed our lunch. Peace and quiet is the exact opposite what we faced in the souks after lunch...

After lunch, when we first entered the souks it was comparable to Gracie Market but soon after that it got really busy really quickly. We were hounded from all sides, every souk owner wanting us to buy the items they had laid out. We eventually got used to the constant badgering and people either ignored them or gave them the famous, firm NO!!!
While rushing through the souks we visited a herbalist where they created potions and remedies for every illness you could think of. The herbalist also told us about all of the spices traditionally used in Moroccan cuisine. Some of the students and teachers were even able to experience a moroccan style massage using the oils that they self specifically for back pain.
The Djemaa El Fna Square was a place like no other you have been before. The stalls were a bustling place for locals and also tourists to hang out. Look beyond the beggars and the children who were trained to cry in order for money, you admire what a wonderful vibrant place the square is. Snakes, monkeys, horses and tiny tortoises, your thinking, ‘what a weird combination of wildlife?’ Yes, that was what we encountered every few hundred yards, a number of students stopped to pose for pictures, mainly the ones without a fear of the hissing reptile. If you had to describe the market to a relative who hasn’t been then I don’t think you could, but if you do, then well done, because the place is indescribable.
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Nathan Jones and Jessica Preston