A group of students, led by Dr. Rebecca Glazier, has returned from their recent trip to Morocco to compete at an International Model Arab League Conference. Fox 16 did a story about their departure and trip. See this link for that story.
You can read all about their adventures here.
From Committee to Community
November 18, 2019 – By Claire Mitchell
Taking in the record-breaking event our class held just a week ago has been more of a challenge than I had ever thought it might be. In the weeks leading up to the event, more and more doubt built up in my head, and I could feel the physical, tangible prospect of total failure staring me down and just waiting for the fall.
But a weird thing happened. It didn’t fail. It did quite the opposite, actually.
To date, we have raised $5,696.00 through donations to our Model Arab League Scholarship Fund. You can donate here if you missed your chance to attend!
My teammates who transitioned into family did not miss a beat. They had the grit and persistence, but most importantly the faith. We had a packed program at the event on November 8: videos honoring Miguel Lopez, a student video created by Sydney Brazil featuring GoPro footage from our trip to Morocco, a student panel discussing the cultural and fundamental impacts of traveling abroad, and a silent auction. By the end, everyone in that room really understood how important an opportunity like this is for students.
Pulling off a high-stakes event like this was an ambitious task for Dr. Glazier and our Executive Team to dream up, and an arduous task for our class to take on as our final project for the class. Reliving the night isn’t something I can do just yet, because it really did feel like a dream. The act of creating something – something HUGE — for our school and our college, for the students who will come behind us and hopefully see a program worth investing their education in, is a lesson and a gift I could have only learned through this amazing opportunity and the extraordinary students who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me, even when we had to ask a lot of them, especially when we had a lot to ask of them.
Team, you are all teaching me every day how to be the best leader and person I can be. I love you all. Dr. Glazier, thank you for believing in a fringe idea last summer that became the celebration of the year for the School of Public Affairs. Thank you for believing in me.
The Journey of Possibilities
October 27, 2019 – By Ra’phael Davis
We began the trip with one of our team members almost getting left in Atlanta–showing up to the terminal with only 30 seconds left to spare. Ok, maybe that team member was me. But the last day of our trip was by far the most eventful! We left Hotel Casablanca at 3:30 am for the airport. Once we got to the airport, we had to iron out an ordeal with tickets–something about the wrong airline or something and 6 of us not having flights. Thankfully, the issue got resolved and the MAL team was able to return together. That flight went from Casablanca, Morocco to Paris, France. Dr. Glazier and I each forgot a bag on the airplane when we landed in France, so we had to go all the way out of the airport and back through customs after retrieving our bags. The bags took forever to retrieve. Both of the bags had pottery in them that would have shattered if we hadn’t run to get them ourselves. Forty minutes later, as everyone just knew that the two of us would be missing our flights, Dr. Glazier and I came running through the airport.
The flight from Paris to the Atlantic would be even more interesting. The flight attendants bumped into UA Little Rock students over 20 times, and some were even elbowed or hit in the head. To be clear, I was hit in the head. Of course, it all seemed accidental but it was painful. Even worse, there was no wifi, so everyone had to bond with each other! But that was okay—because I made several trips around the plane sharing the oreos bought in Morocco with the others.
If there is one take away from the Model Arab League trip, it’s that Model Arab League (and international travel in general) can lead to meaningful connections on this trip that might turn into life-long friendships. After we got off the plane in Little Rock, I took out my cell phone to two heart-warming messages. The first read: “Hey bro, it was great doing this whole tour with ya. Have a safe flight back to Arkansas and let me know when you’ve made it safely. I really hope we become great friends. I’ll keep you updated about what’s going on every now and then.” The second message read: “I can watch our videos again and say I’m proud to have met you all. I met a friend and brother in you man. I tried so much to meet you guys this morning and say goodbye but sleep just wouldn’t allow! I know we will meet again at the top! Don’t let the future take away the joy of today. We should live in the moment and let the future decide for itself.”
You often think it’s just you, imagining a friendship that doesn’t really exist for the other person. It’s possible to get trapped in the complexities of the competition and think to yourself that you’ll never see or talk to those people again so just do the competition and get home. But these messages are proof that international travel does so much more for a student. As we come to a close, many of us who weren’t friends before doing Model Arab League became friends by the end. And all of us, no matter who you point to in the pictures we leave behind, have returned to UA Little Rock better than we left.
Final Day in Morocco – Casablanca
October 26, 2019 – by Sydney Brazil
Wow! It’s wild to think that our time in Morocco is coming to an end. After dancing at a nightclub with clowns (yes, actual clowns), we got about two hours of sleep on our tour bus before being dropped off at our hotel in Casablanca. After rallying with a few cups of espresso, we walked to see the Hassan II Mosque.
The Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in Africa, and third largest in the world. It was massive! This was the first mosque that I had ever visited, and I was not disappointed. The mosque sits right next to the ocean, sports a 210 meter tall minaret, and can hold 105,000 worshippers. Besides its sheer size, the mosque is covered in beautiful mosaic tiles. Everything was handcrafted by Moroccan artisans.
It was such an amazing opportunity to visit the Hassan II Mosque. Being able to tour such an impressive place of worship was a once in a lifetime experience. Touring the Hassan II Mosque was such a perfect ending to our Moroccan expedition.
October 26, 2019 – By Allie Woodville
Marrakesh is a place unlike any other I’ve ever been. It had the crowds of people like New York while still maintaining the charm and culture of the rest of Morocco. There were street vendors offering fruit and restaurants offering full course Moroccan meals. There were men selling scarves by the road and stores selling anything else you could think of. There were street performers dancing and showing other talents and horses pulling carriages for rides.
Marrakesh is so interesting because it combined tradition and modern city life. We started the night with dinner, at a sit-down restaurant that was partly outside. This way we could sit back but still enjoy the music and other performances on the street. As we had dinner several street salesmen approached us offering art, jewelry, and baked goods. After dinner, we went shopping in the town while enjoying the street performances that were in between shops.
The street performances inspired us to dance, so we did. We went out dancing to a place where I had one of the best milkshakes made with Oreos and kinder chocolate. Just when I thought we were all danced out, clowns came out of nowhere to keep the dance party going. Marrakesh taught me to always expect the unexpected, and ALWAYS dance with the clowns.
October 25, 2019 – By Maria Romero
Have you ever watched Game of Thrones or The Bible or perhaps Gladiator? If so, this Kasbah may look very familiar to you. This beautiful place has been the home to many films dating back to 1954 with the movie Alibaba Et Quarante Voleurs.
As you are making your way to the top, you will see different rooms which are the homes of the inhabitants of this Kasbah. If you pay attention to your surroundings, you can see the hard work put into each pillar, wall, step made from clay, wood, and stone. There are also shops filled with beautiful art, jewelry, carpets, traditional clothing and so much more.
We got to see the north and south of Morocco, but this was the only place I got to see a very peculiar kind of art. The piece started out very light in color which made it hard to see what was going on but as the artist put the paper close to the flame, images began to appear.
This is because the “paint” used to create the shadows is sugar and water which turns dark when it meets fire. The artist also used saffron seeds and other things to create the rest of the colors.
The climb to the top of the Kasbah was a workout. The steps were very steep and difficult to step on. However, the view from the top, made all the effort worth it. A beautiful place that looks magical and almost unreal. This Kasbah was one of the most remarkable parts of our trip.
October 25, 2019 – By Landon DeKay
One thing that I found essential while touring Morocco’s historic cities was price negotiation. Although this was preached throughout the trip, I did not participate until today.
Upon our arrival to the hotel in Ouarzazate, I immediately noticed the lack of elevators. Considering we each had multiple luggage containers, we knew that we had an uphill battle – literally. After dragging our suitcases up several flights of stairs, we were finally able to relax after a long bus ride.
Dinner began at approximately 8:30PM. When we walked into the restaurant, there was a large selection of traditional Moroccan food such as couscous and lamb tagine. In addition, a large dessert table was filled with fantastic dishes such as white cake and Mille-Feuille. Although large bottles of water were provided, I had to return to my American roots and enjoy a Coke.
After dinner, the noise of feasting changed to beautiful Dkaykya (music and dancers). As people began to finish their meals, the energy skyrocketed. There was singing and dancing throughout the room. Halfway through the routine, the performers pulled individuals into the main circle and taught them traditional Moroccan dances. In addition, there were dance battles between several students.
This has been one of the most wholesome and inspirational moments of the trip. Seeing the smiles on the faces of students and the dancers was a ray of light in a dark world.
October 24, 2019 – By Nikki Partlow-Loyall
Today in our continuing adventures into Morocco, we drove down into the Todgha Gorge, which is a river carved deep into the Atlas Mountains over thousands of years and created a stunning, vertical gorge that was one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. Being from Colorado, I’ve avidly hiked for the majority of my life in ravines, gorges, and along creeks like the one we saw, and this definitely reminded me of home. Being on my cane slowed me down, but it didn’t stop me!
We got to sample the fruits (figuratively and literally) of the area during lunch, when we had beautiful tagine, and for dessert, a plate of oranges and bananas! Fruit has been served to us for dessert many times, and that’s honestly something I could get used to. Fruit here doesn’t look the same as it does back home. It’s much smaller and the oranges are more green on the outside despite being perfectly ripe.
We shopped in small stores and street vendors along the bottom of the gorge buying things like handcrafted jewelry, rugs, clothing, and trinkets. Haggling has been a blessing and a curse. You can get some amazing deals on things, but you can also get bullied into overpaying.
I have loved Morocco so far. Everything I’ve seen has been beautiful. Sweeping desert views, the immense Atlas Mountains, and the ancient cities all are perfect postcard views. I’ve been able to use the French I know more than I did when I was actually in France! I won’t get to see everything Morocco has to offer, so I know I’m coming back some day.
Camels Into the Sunset
October 23, 2019 – by Molly Edwards
I was full of fear and excitement as soon as I got onto my camel. Riding a camel into the dunes to watch the sunset in a Moroccan desert is not something you do every day. I was exhilarated for what was to come.
Getting onto the camel was easy, but letting him get up while I was on him was something else. Camels do not stand up/sit down gracefully, so I held onto whatever I could to make sure I did not fall off. It did not take too long before I got comfortable and we took off for the dunes. Carl, my camel, led my pack to the top of the dunes. Once we “parked” our camels at the bottom of a dune, we climbed to the very top where we watched the sunset.
The sunset over the dunes in the Merzouga Desert was breathtaking. We all sat at the top of the dune and watched the day turn into night, and the stars slowly came out. I was living in the moment and soaking in the pure bliss. My heart, mind, and soul were all at peace. As we got back onto our camels and started back for camp, our guide told us to “hold on because the camels will dance like Shakira going down the dunes.” I cannot express how wide-eyed I became after he said that. As we went back down, I quickly learned that he was not wrong. Carl was walking sideways and dancing and I was holding on for dear life.
We made it back to camp and the relief was all too real. I ”parked” my camel and gave him more love. We headed to dinner and, about halfway through, some entertainers came to our table and we joined them. We danced, sang, and laughed. After we finished, a small group of us decided to head back to the dunes to look at the stars.
We walked to the dunes with our heads looking towards the sky the entire way. We laid on our backs on a sand dune and gazed at the sky. I have never seen so many stars and so much beauty in a night sky. It was so clear; we even saw the Milky Way Galaxy and multiple shooting stars! I do not think I have ever admired something so simple, yet so complex at the same time. The stars shone so brightly that we were not in complete darkness. I hope everyone gets the chance to have an experience like this because nothing compares.
October 22, 2019 – by Isaac Thomas
Today our entourage traveled to the Mausoleum of Moulay Ali Schalife, a location which I can not underestimate the historical importance of. The Mausoleum of Ali Schalife is located in the small city of Al-Risani, and serves as the tomb of Sultan Mouslay, the founder of the current Alawite dynasty of Morocco founded in the 17th century. Buried with the sultan are his sons. The Mausoleum features sophisticated wall tapestry and a fine sense of design. Although by all accounts a ruthless “lord” of Morocco, Moulay Schalife is considered widely to have been an effective leader, as his reign saw the recapture of key Moroccan territories such as Tangier from the Portuguese. This location is a quiet and very peaceful place; however, non-muslims are only allowed to peek into the mosque. The building is an architectural marvel in and of itself, and I truly wonder if it is the patterned designs or the apt color contrast that is more visually imposing. Within the courtyard of the mausoleum, which was very much accessible to us, are many plants of varying species. I believe that I identified a few of them as being closely related to ferns and palm trees. Our guide was a great help and a very knowledgeable person of the history of the Alaouite dynasty. This mausoleum’s presence is a great symbol of the Kingdom of Morocco’s current dynasty, as examining our surroundings, there were not any other monuments, obelisks, or memorials of which to speak, thus leaving the mausoleum to speak for itself.
Present here in this photograph is an image of our Model Arab League travel group posing in front of the entrance to the Mausoleum itself. Looming behind us are the sturdy cedar gates of the mausoleum itself which were emplaced circa 1967. On a very exciting sidenote, I am the fellow standing in the rear, fifth from the right, in front of Doctor Glazier.
Here we are at the very entrance to the inner sanctum of the Mausoleum itself. Only Muslims it seems are permitted to enter into this section of the facility, and the attentive observer will note the pile of shoes in the background. Our guide within this photograph can be seen explaining the origins of the Mausoleum’s functions and material composition.
Heading into the Desert
10/21 & 10/22/2019 – by Ryan Bourgoin
It’s 10:30 pm. We were supposed to start loading all our stuff onto the bus at this point, but we’ve learned by now to regard meeting times as suggestions. Besides, no one seems too bothered by the idea of sitting around and doing nothing for another indeterminate amount of time; when else in our careers will we get to spend a Monday night like this?
It’s minutes to midnight when the bus pulls out of the parking lot. We have an 8-hour drive ahead of us, and those who can sleep, do.
Before long we’re climbing. The windows begin to feel like the inside of a refrigerator. Outside them, the mountain pass stretches up and away. When the rises no longer fit inside your vehicle glass, your sense of scale become a little more accurate.
4 am: we stop at a convenience store. Here, we see our first squat toilet of the trip. For the most part, everyone seems unphased. There’s no lollygagging at this altitude; within a few minutes we’re off again.
By 8 am, we’ve stopped in Errachidia City, but only for long enough to eat breakfast and catch glimpses of the squat, flat-roofed clay houses that populate the outskirts. Then, it’s to Erfoud. The houses start to become squatter, more flat-roofed and made of clay. We stop to admire an oasis, which Saad (our guide) tells us has over a million trees. Wherever it ends, it’s far beyond our sight.
Erfoud is more conservative, not just in terms of architecture. Practically every woman passing in the street wears a hijab, and one or two are in a burka. The buildings are flat-roofed and often resemble the traditional Moroccan buildings mentioned earlier, even if they’re made of the same stuff as most other modern buildings.
We visit an artisan house that makes tables, plates, and other neat things from rocks and fossils. Trilobites, ammonites, other primordial creatures—this is what your grandpa means when he talks about “the good ol’ days.” They show us the yard, where a few dust-coated men polish and grind the prehistoric back into life (old denim attached to a motorized wheel does the trick). I’m tempted to buy a trilobite, but I can’t stomach the absurdity of an animal older than the dinosaurs traveling on an airplane.
After lunch, a squadron of 4x4s comes to take us into the desert. We cram our bodies and our overnight bags in together by sixes, and after zooming down the highway (we have to get to the Auberge before dusk), we cross down onto the hardpan. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride, partially because the driver wants to see us laugh. It works.
We see dunes of sand piled here and there, and after stopping momentarily at a tent where a woman and young man serve us tea, we’re on our way again. We push on, over more rough terrain, until the dunes reach the height of mountain foothills…and we see camels.
A Day in Rabat
10/21/2019 – by Madison Rodgers
The day after we completed a very fun and successful conference, the UA Little Rock Model Arab League team had the pleasure to spend some time in the wonderful city of Rabat. We checked out of our dorm rooms at 9 am and crammed ourselves into the bus by 9:30. Throughout our bus ride, we saw many wonderful sights throughout the city. It gave us a very different perspective of life in Morocco, as the last 3 days we have been on the UIR campus. We saw many types of animals such as goats, horses, cows, and chickens in nearby fields as well as different types of architectural structures. We also saw an art museum with a written message displayed, one that stuck with many of us, which stated, “As long as following our rules is more important than following our hearts, I will be a feminist.”
Our team then got off the bus and got ready for an amazing day! After many students purchased sim cards to have service for our desert adventure (coming to you soon in a future blog post), we gathered together for a delicious lunch at Dar Naji. We started off with a platter of salad that had a multitude of options for everyone at the table, followed by three large platters filled with varying foods that are common in Morocco. We left our lunch site with a full stomach and a smile on our face. After our meal, we went to the Medina of Rabat which has a market with vendors selling almost anything you can imagine, from traditional Moroccan objects to fake Gucci belts. Our group had the opportunity to shop through this market for about 2 hours, allowing us plenty of time to rack up souvenirs for friends and family as well as for ourselves.
After finishing up a wonderful time of shopping, we loaded back up onto our bus. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Rabat, and now we are eager to begin our desert adventure! Stay tuned!
Conference Award Ceremony
October 21, 2019 – By Madeline Burke
The Model Arab League Conference was hosted by the International University of Rabat. After two days of hard work in council sessions to create resolutions on various issues relevant to the Arab World, we had an awards ceremony to recognize the best delegate from each committee as well as the best delegation. The best delegate from each committee is based on votes from the other delegates in the same committee. The best delegation award is determined by the chairs.
Two students from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock received awards: Sydney Brazil, who is a philosophy major, won the outstanding delegate award for her notable efforts in the Council of Social Affairs Ministers. She represented the country of Tunisia. Madison Rodgers, who is a political science major, won the honorable mention delegate award for her excellent work in the Council of Economic Affairs Ministers. She represented the country of Oman.
All the other delegates from the University were also recognized for their impressive participation at the International Model Arab League Conference.
The conference theme was “taking action and initiating change for a brighter future in the Arab world.” I was impressed by all of my classmates as well as the other students who participated in the conference because it was clearly evident that they all have a passion to make a difference in the world. I also noticed that everyone had the ability to not only demonstrate leadership skills, but also to work efficiently in a team. Their passion, leadership and critical thinking skills, and ability to work in a team make me feel optimistic about the future of the world.
After the Model Arab League Conference Award Ceremony, the International University of Rabat hosted a gala dinner to celebrate.
Overall, I am extremely proud of all of my classmates’ hard work and the conference was a wonderful experience especially since it was my first time participating in Model Arab League.
October 20, 2019 – By Mariam Bouzihay
Conference sessions have finally ended!! These past few days went by so fast. This conference was a completely different experience than any of the previous conferences I’ve been to. We had people from all over the world competing this weekend, who all had different levels and experiences with participating in Model Arab League (MAL). I had the honor to represent Morocco in the Palestinian Affairs Committee, where we discussed multiple topics that concern the Palestinian people.
Other delegates from our UA Little Rock MAL team were placed in the Social Affairs Committee, Economic Committee, and Special Council on Women and Children while representing either Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, Kuwait, and Sudan.
As a MAL veteran, it was so exciting to see first-time MAL classmates compete. It was great seeing how their confidence grew and for them to see all their hard work from the classroom transition to the committee room. There was so much I learned from this conference and I’ll never forget! But the adventure has only begun, tomorrow kicks off the beginning of our Moroccan tour!
October 19, 2019 – By Prince Beasley
Today’s the day! It’s the official start of the conference, and I’m beyond nervous. I’ve learned more about Palestinian Affairs in the last nine weeks then I’ve learned my entire life. We had the opening ceremony last night, and I was astonished to find out I’m not the only one who is new to the world of Model Arab League. Even though I’m quite nervous, I can’t wait for the learning experience I’m about to receive through this conference and trip. Rabat and the Université are two of the most beautiful places I’ve ever laid eyes on! The atmosphere is welcoming and so are the students.
The conference leaders have made the transition even smoother. They’re so accommodating and warm-hearted. They’ve made the transition into conference a wonderful one, so there’s no doubt in my mind that I won’t have a hard time adjusting. Conference is off to a great start if I say so myself!
After going into session, I’m completely mind blown by the preparation and passion of some delegates. I walked into session thinking I was prepared with the research I’ve completed. As if! MAL-1/ Me-0. And I didn’t really get a chance to talk about everything I wanted to, but that’s another topic for another day. But like I said, I can’t wait for the learning experience; and I’m definitely getting it in my committee.
Navigating Rabat, the Capital of Morocco
October 18, 2019 – by Katie Zakrzewski
As far as traffic noises go, Rabat was the New York City of North Africa. Cars dangerously close to one another’s bumpers, honking in an anxious melody.
Our class stood at the mouth of the train station. Good news! The bus from the International University of Rabat was here! Bad news– it was across 3 to 5 lanes of bumper to bumper traffic. This was anything but a problem to the organizers and students who had rescued us– we were going to move through the traffic like a school of fish, suitcases and all.
We stepped into the street and, like water, the cars around us began to change course to accommodate our path to the bus (which I managed to take a picture of here).
The Moroccan students themselves were immensely relaxed– honestly, they were saints. All of us were jet lagged, irritable, and shrieking about finding the Wi-Fi password. But the Moroccan students were not only patient, but immensely welcoming. A fire recently damaged some of the dorms, meaning that some of us had to share rooms with Moroccan students. I hope that all Moroccans are as kind and as patient as the students are– we still have much to learn in the upcoming week.
October 17, 2019 – By Colin Davies
Well, today is finally the day that we get to travel to Morocco. After weeks of talking about it in class, the day has finally come! Getting up this morning and eating breakfast, all I could think about was taking my first step on Moroccan soil. When I got dropped off at the airport in Little Rock, I was greeted by my fellow classmates who had looks of excitement on their face. After we checked our bags and got our boarding passes, our professor, Dr. Glazier, informed us that the news wanted to do a story on us going to Morocco and representing UA Little Rock at an international conference. I was so excited! You can check out the story here: UALR student fly to Morocco serving as international diplomats. Our flight from Little Rock to Atlanta was short and overall really pleasant, but then came our flight to Paris from Atlanta. Talking to some of my other classmates, I realized that this would be their first time going out of the country or even being on a plane in general.
The flight from Atlanta to Paris was really smooth and they had a really great movie selection to pick from. The food that was served was also good, but my favorite part of the flight was looking outside the window and seeing the ocean for miles. It was really peaceful and calming. When we landed in Paris, I could tell by the look on everyone’s face that they didn’t get any sleep, but Dr. Glazier’s positive energy kept us going! We found our plane to Morocco in the Paris airport, and when we started to board, I looked at my clock and saw that it was 5:30am, but it didn’t even feel that early.
Our flight to Morocco from Paris was much needed, because it gave everyone a chance to catch up on some sleep. When our wheels finally hit the ground in Morocco, everyone’s face lit up with excitement and happiness knowing that we finally made it. After clearing passport control and taking a group photo of everyone in line, we were ready to head off to our host university. I cannot wait to see what adventures are ahead of me in Morocco, but I am ready to take them head-on and meet the wonderful people who live here in this great country!
Preparing to Depart
October 16, 2019 – Brittany Fugate
My first time out of the country… What to bring? The endless lists crowd my iPhone notes as I make sure I have everything. I’m about to leave for Morocco to attend an International Model Arab League conference hosted at the International University in Rabat. Excitement and nervousness are only a few of the emotions I feel. I’ll be gone from the 17th until the 26th. On top of packing, I have been emailing professors to get assignments turned in if they are due while I am away. I have never been out of the country before and I did not realize how much went into this process. From calling my bank to get a travel notice on my account, to texting my friend to watch my apartment and cats. So many boxes to check off and so little time.
While I am excited about this new adventure and am ready to see Morocco, the stress of packing was overwhelming. I had to trim down my outfits at least three times to make sure I had enough room for souvenirs. Also trying to decide what to bring in my carry-on and what to pack in my suitcase was hard because I have never done this before. I am very thankful for the advice given by my fellow classmates about packing and what to bring because I would have been lost without their guidance.