A group of students, led by Dr. Rebecca Glazier, is on a trip to Morocco for a Model Arab League Conference. You can read all about their adventures here. Check back for daily updates during their trip.
The 10 Things I Learned in Morocco
November 18, 2016
Dr. Rebecca A. Glazier
November 8 to November 16, 2016, I traveled with 15 students and one UALR staff member to Morocco. Now that we are safely back in the States and reflecting upon our adventures, I put together a list of 10 things I learned:
Adventure is better than sleep. There was not a lot of sleeping on this trip. We had an overnight flight to Morocco and found our host university waiting with a bonfire and party when we arrived. We also took an overnight bus to the desert and opted to stay out late in Marrakesh and get dropped off at the airport at 2:00 am. Can you spot the sleeping students in this photo? We looked like a group of UALR refugees sprawled across the airport! The adventures were definitely worth it—way better than sleep.
Moroccans are incredibly hospitable. At every turn, we found Moroccans graciously helping us, feeding us, and generally being kind and welcoming. We were so touched by their generosity and hospitality. And we drank a LOT of mint tea! Speaking of which…
Mint tea can quickly become a necessary daily staple. Many of us woke up yesterday morning in Little Rock and wondered how we would get through the day without mint tea. We were probably offered 4-5 cups of mint tea each day, and a couple of times we enjoyed elaborate tea pouring performances.
You’ll never feel completely prepared, so jump in with both feet. Many of the students who came along on this trip had never participated in a Model Arab League conference before. Some were definitely intimidated, but everyone worked hard, learned a lot, and represented UALR well.
After many hours of discussion, Jerusalem probably isn’t a good Olympic host city. The students discussed all kinds of important issues in their committees—from refugees to water scarcity to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They proposed thoughtfully-researched and sometimes creative solutions and passed resolutions that had the support of the majority of their committee. (The one about Jerusalem hosting the Olympics didn’t get passed.)
UALR students are amazing! Okay, I already knew this one, but the students who came along on this Morocco trip were really fantastic. They did a great job in committees, made friends from all over the world, and kept me laughing through the sleep deprivation. They also came home with all kinds of awards from the conference! Nora Bouzihay won outstanding delegate for Social Affairs Committee and Joseph Jones won outstanding delegate for the Joint Defense Council. Zach Glembin won distinguished delegate for the Environmental Committee. Brian Gregory won honorable mention for Social Affairs, Miguel Lopez won honorable mention for Joint Defense Council, and Brittany Kirtley won honorable mention for the Environmental Committee. I am so proud of them
Deserts are surprisingly chilly. Everything is nice and warm during the day, but when the sun goes down, things get cold fast. We learned this lesson well on our camel rides through the Sahara at sunset. Layers are your friend. Also, sunsets in the Sahara are pretty amazing.
Larry Rhodes is an amazing photographer. The College of Social Science and Communication Learning Technology Coordinator does much more than keep our technology running smoothly—he is an incredibly talented photographer! Although he did get lost in the medina at one point, we are definitely glad he came along. #where’slarry?
Morocco is a beautiful country. We saw so many incredible historical sites and were amazed at the natural beauty of Morocco. From deserts to monuments to precarious mountain roads, we were continually impressed with this amazing country.
I have the best job in the world. Can we do this again?
Any UALR students who want to come with us to the National Model Arab League conference in DC in the spring are invited to apply here: https://goo.gl/forms/bsGMVp3TEOSxcBia2.
Exploring the Desert
Thursday, November 17
The group did not have internet access for a few days, so several entries came in together.
The night before, a sweet student named Houda from the International University of Rabat offered to make some Moroccan tea at her dorm, for Emily and me. She sweetly stated that she wanted to get to know us better and give us some time to relax a bit after our Model Arab League Conference. During our conversations, we met her roommate Kenza who shared some homemade goodies her mom had sent her. We talked about our studies, life, cultures, and how we would soon be leavingfor the desert. They quickly warned us to take warm clothes and we told them we weren’t as prepared but we would make sure to wear lots of layers of clothes. Before we left their dorm, the girls didn’t even hesitate and gave us one of their warmest blankets to take with us.
It was 11PM and our group, plus a couple of other University students that attended the Conference, we were on our way to the desert. —I will pause to mention that this was the coldest night of all. We weren’t even there, we were only traveling yet just to give you an idea: the well-kept, semi new looking van we rode on, could not produce enough heat to keep our toes from freezing because the temperature outside was way too cold— We drove all night and stopped at a restaurant to have breakfast which consisted of some sort of sweet bread or croissants, Moroccan tea, fresh orange juice, Msemen with honey and sometimes yogurt. We then went to visit a Museum of Fossils, where they explained how they extract, clean, polish and make certain products like tables, sinks, and ornaments.
Our next adventure was to speed through the Sahara’s rocky areas and slippery dunes. Yet before we arrived at the place we would spend the night, we visited a small family’s home. It consisted of some tarps held up by a strong structure of wooden sticks. The floor was either covered with beautiful, colorful carpets (which we learned is common in Morocco) or in this case the floor was sand covered by these rugs. We (34 students overall) fit in the tent comfortably as a sweet elderly Moroccan lady who seemed to have very little, took her time and resources to give LOTS of strangers a glass of tea. While we were sipping our last drops of tea, we learned the art wrapping turbans around our heads in the Imazir-style. Everyone had different colors and we were now ready for the part we had all been waiting for: riding camels.
We all hopped on and we were off before it was time for the sun to set. Sunset watching in the Sahara Dunes was a definite highlight of our trip.
This trip has been a great experience all along. From representing the Kingdom of Qatar in the Palestinian Affairs council to meeting great people to riding camels up a mountain and watching the sunset.
Going-to-the-desert day was one of the highlights of the trip so far. I enjoyed riding land cruisers with crazy drivers. I watched the view of the yellow sand from out of the window and struggled to take a picture of the beautiful mountains as we bumped off our seats in the car. It was so welcoming to arrive at our tents for the night and see the warm welcome of the Moroccans with great tea and music. I must have had 50 cups of Moroccan mint tea on this trip! We then saddled up our camels for a ride in the desert. It was my first time to ride a camel up a mountain, I have to say it was not very comfortable sitting but it was worth it. At the end, we finally got to the top and it was a breath taking moment to see the sunset over the mountain tops and the orange sky.
One might think that this is enough for one day, but when we came back from the mountain, we ate one of the most delicious dinners. We ate Tajin (Moroccan traditional dish) for dinner and we drank, once again, the famous Moroccan tea with mint and lots of sugar. We ended the great day with listening to live Amazari music and even dancing with the band.
Waking up in our tent made of beautifully colored rugs this morning out in the Sahara, we realized that it was the best sleep we have had this entire trip. As the sun rose up over the sand dunes, we packed up the off-road vehicles ready for our next full day of adventures. We stopped at an overlook on the side of the road for a few minutes to view a picturesque valley with homes and shops scattered among the palm trees and hills. From there we went on to explore a gorge complete with a small village and river. Walking along the road, we noticed a woman washing clothes in the river and some from the group tried to talk with her but were unsuccessful because she spoke neither arabic nor french, so they smiled at one another–a language everyone understands.
Lunch was at a nearby place. They served us traditional Moroccan food and bread, of course. One of the guys from the restaurant got to talking to a few of us as we stood outside near the back door. He wanted to show us the best view around. We walked up the dirt steps and small pathways of the hillside village and found ourselves on a rooftop. That rooftop was the mosque for the village and it most certainly had the best view just as the guy had said it did.
A full afternoon of sightseeing and it was time to drive to where we would be spending the night- Oarzazate, the “Hollywood of Morocco”. We were able to rest a while before dinner thankfully. Dinner was a buffet and following was some traditional music and dance. And, you can’t be in the “Hollywood of Morocco” without some curious city night walks. I always enjoy going for walks at night so it was nice to get to walk around the city with friends enjoying the cool air and Christmas lights that are already up.
As have all of our days, it was a great day spent with the new additions to my family I get to call friends. All of us being multicultural, travel-hungry, diplomats in training makes for the best international conference and adventure trip you could imagine!
This trip to Morocco has been one to remember for the rest of my life. My parents were born and raised in Morocco and I have traveled there on several occasions. This time it was different –different in a good way. I got to experience the Moroccan culture and tradition through a different lens, and gain insight into my life in a completely new and different way.
Typically when I go to Morocco I never came as a “tourist”; it was always to visit family and browse around. Prior to this trip, I’ve never experienced learning about my heritage until this International Model Arab League experience. Nor did I expect to make friends, or connect with such an eclectic group of students the way I did. The bond that I made with these people is one that I will never forget. Being able to share my culture and traditions with my peers was one of the most rewarding aspects of this experience. I learned more about my family history and the origins of my heritage than ever before.
Today we got to experience the Hollywood of Morocco where several dozen American movies were filmed. It was truly an amazing experience to be able to see first-hand the sets and scenes of movies that I have watched growing up. Following our trip to the cinematic museum in Ouazararte, we spent the day visiting old ruins, and then took part in the experience of making argan oil and amlou. Argan is a fruit that is only found in Morocco and it is used for cosmetic applications and cooking. Amlou is the Moroccan version of Almond butter. Upon our arrival to Marrakech our group got to experience the creation of various pure herbal spices and therapeutic regimens. Last but not least we headed to dinner. We ended the memorable trip in appropriate fashion when I decided to gather excess food from the restaurant such as dates, oranges, apples, bananas, and bread to give to the homeless of Marrakech. It’s hard to put into words the feeling that I got when I saw the smiles on the faces of the children and mothers that received the food. It’s definitely one that I will never forget, and without this trip I wouldn’t have been able to have that kind of opportunity.
A Very Successful Conference
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
My model Arab league experience was fascinating and educational on so many levels. Prior to the conference I have never participated in any form of an intellectual competition and I had little to no expectation of this whole process. Needless to say, I was blown away. I gained valuable exposure to the operations of the art of delegation and why governmental procedure can be so tedious. I now understand the arduous process that diplomats all around the world go through when trying to get laws, initiatives, and proposals completed with large committees like the United Nations or Arab League. I have never been around so many well rounded, well informed, intelligent people–from the cadets from West Point to the students of the International University of Rabat. All the Moroccan students were well informed and great orators. I was concerned there would be a language barrier for them, considering English is their third language after Arabic and French, but there was not. They continued to impress me with their understanding of the discussions and their vocabulary. Even the local students that were not part of the conference were incredibly welcoming and hospitable. But what was most rewarding was learning from and about my fellow students from UALR. I made relationships on this trip that will last a lifetime. People that I thought I knew well became best friends in a matter of hours. For that I will always remember this trip… And I learned the difference between a hyphen and an “m dash”, thanks Dr. Glazier.
A Sense of Accomplishment on Day 1
Saturday, November 12, 2016
After our formal introduction to Model Arab League Thursday night, Friday’s all day session sounded like a nightmare for many of our first time conference goers, myself especially, after spending much of Thursday night feeling horribly sick. Due to a lack of alarm I ended up breaking the golden rule: don’t ever be late on your first day. Therefore, very winded and sweaty, I found myself half an hour late to my first conference.
It took about ten minutes of sitting in the back row to catch my breath and it was another ten before I realized that out of the eight people in the room, seven of us had never been in this situation before. Our Environmental Committee consisted of Arab states that were on friendly terms, with similar views on our designated topics. Our first topic was climate change and was submitted before lunch and our second topic on water management, before dinner. I learned much more and more quickly than I thought possible, and was enjoying myself by lunch time. Our lack of opposition would not happen normally when more countries would be represented, though I believe all of our committee members enjoyed the fast pace of our progress.
The one person on our committee who was well versed in mock sessions helped guide us, while all of the first timers learned quickly and were happy to participate by jumping in head first. My first day of sessions has left me excited for tomorrows, knowing that I have a good group to work with is very reassuring. A walk under the stars after dinner was relaxing after our long day inside, debating topics that will reassure that future generations will still be able to see the stars.
A Chance to Explore Before the Conference
Friday, November 11, 2016
Today was our first full day in Morocco. We began with a light breakfast of Moroccan bread with honey, mint tea, and freshly squeezed orange juice. Then, we boarded the buses to head off to do some sight-seeing.
Our first destination was ruins in Chellah, a city built by the Romans and abandoned in the 13th century. The ruins had beautiful architecture and were surrounded by lush gardens.
We then went to the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Here we saw more beautiful architecture and tiles with intricate designs. There was also a great view of the city and palm trees from here.
For lunch, we ate at Dar Naji. We enjoyed a fresh Moroccan salad with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, tuna, beans, and other vegetables. To follow, were several entrees including chicken, noodles, steak with spices and prunes, and other meats. We finished the meal with a cup of hot tea.
Afterward, we got to head to the open air markets in Medina. This was the most interesting part of the day to me. There were so many street vendors selling all kinds of scarves, rugs, candles, blankets, hand-carved wood, handmade leather bags, and millions of other trinkets and things. It was so cool to see all of the different people of Morocco and the other people there.
We are finishing the day with our first Model Arab league conference session. Looking forward to meeting with the delegates from other schools!
A First Taste of Morocco
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Once we touched down in Casablanca and could disembark from the plane the first thing the group did was take a photo marking our beginning in the model Arab league. We quickly made it through customs and even through baggage claims. After a short moment of confusion before finding our guide we were escorted to a bus and began our 2-hour trip to Rabat where the conference was going to take place. The road was surrounded by a mix of palm trees and other small trees, the arid ground was a mix of rocky soil and touches of green grass. The weather was just like what we had left behind in Arkansas.
After we made it to the International University, we changed clothes and were greeted by many attending students. The night’s activities started with a well-made traditional Arabic dinner, which have I should mention was fantastic. After that, our host had a bonfire and live Moroccan music as we mingled, and danced under the stars with the other delegations from West Point, Georgia State University, and many others.
Our first night in Morocco is one of the things I will certainly never forget.
Election Results, Airplane Food, and a Quick Trip to France
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Take off over Atlanta, night time over the Atlantic and sunrise over Spain.
Little Rock to Atlanta
It was a gray, overcast Tuesday when the UALR Model Arab League team met in the Little Rock airport. Despite the weather, we were all smiles, because we were headed to MOROCCO! It was a short flight to Atlanta. Once in the airport, we trekked to the international concourse. (Rhett literally trekked…he decided to walk all the way from C to F. He actually made good time, arriving less than 10 minutes after those of us who took the “Plane Train.”)
We had a long layover, so we separated into groups, finding the various food that we wanted. Emily and Andrea had a hankering for tacos. Dr. Glazier and I found a pizza place that had a baby grand piano and a pianist that serenaded us throughout our dinner. Once our hunger was satisfied, we gathered in front of the TVs watching the election results. This was so much fun for me. Though I’ve been following the election process the last year (more or less), Dr. Glazier and those who are die-hard Poli-Sci folks were discussing the percentage leads in various states. As they bantered back and forth about different states, making predictions and discussing odds, I felt like the non-sports person at the Super Bowl, surrounded by stat-spouting fans.
But I’m with folks that study this stuff for a living…or at least for a major. Brian has gotten on Facebook Live a couple of times, doing reports on the election results and making more predictions.
I’m NOT a Political Science major, nor am I majoring in Middle Eastern Studies like many of the others on the team. But this is the wonderful thing about the university experience…a student can take a variety of classes, can dabble in a few different interests, can try out new skills.
I am majoring in ASL/English Interpreting. Brittany is majoring in Biology. Larry Rhodes, UALR Staff, who normally wrangles IT snafus on campus, is our photographer and chaperone and brings his own skill set. Some of our students are with the Clinton School of Public Affairs. There is a mixture of cultures and languages. Two of the participants have spent the semester in other parts of the world and will meet us in Morocco. This week-long trip (and all of the preparation leading up to it) is cross-pollination in the most wonderful way.
Atlanta to Paris
This was the longest leg of the trip. Because of the size of our group, we are split between two flights. Dr. Glazier went ahead with the larger group. Larry Rhodes is the chaperone of my group. Joseph, Brittany, Brian, Larry and I board around 10:45pm. Before the flight leaves, Brian is getting the latest results in the elections on his phone. Clinton has lost Florida. It looks like she’s losing states that most analysts thought she’d win. The flight leaves around 11:30pm and Trump has over 200 electoral votes. We’re in an information blackout for the next few hours.
By the time the seatbelt signs are off, it’s midnight and the stewards bring hot towels and drinks. I’m getting tired, but a delicious aroma of marinara sauce fills the cabin. It’s our in-flight meal. I’m impressed with the quality of our airplane food. My tray has a little lasagna dish, a tiny Caesar salad, three shrimp in a bed of shredded lettuce with lemon and cocktail sauce. There is a mini baguette bread-stick and butter and a sea-salt-flecked chocolate brownie.
When we land in Paris, it takes a long time to get off the plane. As we stand around waiting to get into the overhead bins and leave, we double check times and we realize we have just over a half hour before our next flight starts boarding. Finally, we are in the concourse. We scan the barcode on our boarding pass and get directions. We hurry. Take an escalator, a little train and another escalator. Then its security and body scans all over again. We’re worried, but follow the next set of directions, only to discover we’re only about a hundred steps from our gate. Phew!
We greet the others and Dr. Glazier. They inform us of the newly established fact: Donald Trump won the Presidential Election. I’m in shock. Everyone talks about it dazedly. It was something that was such a crazy idea and such a small chance of success. Yet it has happened.
They call for us to board. But there is no plane hooked up to our terminal. We’re all a little puzzled. Then we see that those who’ve already boarded have gone through the tunnel and then down a flight of stairs to the tarmac below. I’m puzzled. I’m not exactly a world traveler, but since my first flight in the late 80’s, I’ve never gone outside to go on a plane. That’s something I’ve only seen in period movies…you know, a huge flight of stairs wheeled up to an airplane door. Men in dark suits and narrow ties and ladies channeling Jackie O in pearls and a pillbox hat, exiting in mid-century style. But at the bottom of the gate stairway, in the spitting rain and gusts of wind, there’s only a couple of shuttle buses. The first one is full, so the UALR group piles onto the second one.
I’m curious how far we need to go to get to our plane. The answer: quite a ways. I could have sworn that we circled the entire Charles DeGaulle airport, before we pull onto a wide stretch of pavement far away from the terminals where a half dozen planes are parked. One is labelled Air France. We pile out of the shuttle and file into the plane, Jackie O-style while the wind whips the hair around our faces.
One thought taps me on the shoulder. Even though I didn’t get to see Paris, I can say that I set foot on French soil. Even though it was technically asphalt.
Paris to Casa Blanca
I only have a few words to say about this flight. First- Cloudy. I don’t have a window seat, but it doesn’t matter, because all anyone can see are clouds out there. A thick layer that keeps any glance of Europe or the Mediterranean from view. Second- Turbulence. Oh my gosh! I think the last time I had a bumpier ride was when I was on the kiddie roller-coaster with my sons at the state fair. So, really, only three weeks ago. But its rather disconcerting when you’re in an airplane. Especially when some of your flight is over large-ish bodies of water. Third- French Airplane Food is the best!!!
The entree was labeled “Poulet et Pesto Rosso et Risotto” and it was delicious. With it was a fancy cole slaw, a ciabatta roll, a wedge of Camembert cheese and a tiny raspberry and cream cheese tart. Tres delicieux!
And we’re off!
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Dr. Rebecca A. Glazier, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs
Back row: Robert Cole, Joseph Jones, Miguel Lopez, Rhett Smith, Amelia Loken, Dr. Rebecca Glazier, Brian Gregory, Demas Soliman
Front row: Natashia Burch, Andrea Elias, Emily Powell, Alexandria Barnes, Brittany Kirtley
Not pictured but participating in the trip: Larry Rhodes (photographer), Naty Doris, Nora Bouzihay, Zach Glembin.
Today I am heading to Morocco with 15 amazing students and my adventurous colleague in the College of Social Science and Communication, Larry Rhodes. Wish us luck! The students will be participating in a Model Arab League conference hosted by the International University in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Students from all around the world will be attending the conference where we will represent member countries in the League of Arab States and try to find solutions to thorny problems plaguing the Arab world. This is going to be an amazing trip!
Many thanks to the International University in Rabat for hosting us and to the Middle Eastern Studies Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for supporting the student travel. A trip like this is usually too expensive for most students, but because of the support of the Middle Eastern Studies Program, 15 students are coming along for the learning experience of a lifetime.
We are about to board our plan out of Little Rock now, but don’t worry—the students will be updating this blog with news of our adventures throughout the week. We will land in Morocco in only 22 hours! After that, we will tour Rabat; represent Iraq, Somalia, and Qatar in the conference negotiations; ride camels in the desert; and see the natural beauty of Morocco. I can’t wait!