11 Apr Bedouin Camp
Sleeping in tents and being exposed to the elements feels familiar to our students from their time in the Rocky Mountains and deserts of Utah. Steamboat Mountain School has the outdoors built into the curriculum, so it only seems natural to go camping on our Global Immersion Studies programs. Camping in the Sahara desert, however, is not your typical camping trip. This opportunity offered a unique look at traditional Bedouin life.
The students by this point are prepared for travel days, longs hours on buses and trains somewhere between homestays and unfamiliar cities. This camping trip, however, would require travel by camel. Students and faculty began their day driving south from Fez, the second largest city in Morocco, to Merzouga, a small village about 30 miles from the Algerian border. In Merzouga, our GIS group met their furry, humped-back desert rides for the last leg of their journey. Before saddling up students who wanted to were given keffiyehs, a cotton head scarf designed to protect one’s head and face from the sun and sand. This is not the first time students have opted into trying on traditional garb.
The largest religion in Morocco is Islam and throughout our students’ journey, they have explored the various ways Islam is practiced and celebrated throughout the country. Part of this exploration was trying on the hijab. Kali ‘21 wrote in the group journal, “I went first in trying on different styles of the hijab. Doing this helped me to push past fear and judgment and to understand Muslim culture better. By doing this I felt my shoulders relax, my pace slow down, and I became more mindful of my surroundings.”
While the hijab is a religious expectation for many Muslim women, the keffiyehs is strictly to protect desert travelers from the elements. Headscarves in place, the group rode off into the sunset. Chase contributed to the group journal with a description of the sandy evening, “The colors of the sun setting were beautiful, especially against the sand. The red sky and the red sand combined to form an amazing brightness all around.” As darkness settled in before bed the group were treated to traditional music with drums and other unique instruments such as the rebab. Sharing stories and laughter, faces masked by darkness and exposed only by a flickering fire, our students felt comfortable in their connections with one another, the natural environment, and the adventure of exploration. It is in moments like these, especially as our trips begin to wind down, that our students’ transformations shine.