We are super excited to share the third instalment in a series of blogs from photographer and author, Julie A. Martin, on her experiences worldschooling her two daughters, Zoe and Delia. This time a location post from their fabulous weekend in Fez, Morocco. You can check out Julie's work on her website, or follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
Traveling as a family & Worldschooling
While our family has been traveling the globe full-time for over two years now, and we consider ourselves really experienced when it comes to embracing new locations. We definitely had a few surprises waiting for us in Morocco!
I must admit I was a tad nervous going into Morocco, as Africa was a new continent in our travels. The culture was a departure from what we have known in Europe for the last couple of years. Let me tell you, though, Morocco really impressed us, after it totally overwhelmed our senses!
Because we were only there for a few days, we decided to stay right in the Medina (the Old City), rather than the more modern area of town. We stayed at an absolutely breathtaking riad called Riad Les Oudayas. (Side note: Riad means “garden”. Buildings here are very basic on the outside. Usually with just an unassuming door, but when you enter, everything is built around a stunning courtyard! The courtyards that have trees are called “riads”, whereas the buildings that don’t have trees are called “dars”. One of the many things we learned about Morocco this trip!)
We were welcomed with the traditional Moroccan mint tea and cookies and the hospitality never stopped. We ate dinner and breakfast here every day because the food was so incredible and the hosts so friendly!
The host, Rashid, even invited my 13-year-old, Zoe, into the kitchen to learn how to made the traditional tea, which she fell in love with this trip (and drank about 4 times a day!)
I knew that the medina was a maze of tiny little streets, and that Fez has the largest medina in Morocco, but those facts really don’t hit home until you get lost and can’t find your way back. There are over 9,000 little streets and micro alleyways that make up the Old City. The first day we had a guide, and if you visit, I highly suggest you hire one. If you don’t, you’ll have to pay someone off the street to guide you back to your riad (this was us… day two!).
Our guide taught us so much history and introduced us to several people that also infused our day with even more history, that we were equal parts fascinated and overwhelmed! This is just about as good as worldschooling can get! Learning about not only how Berber rugs are made, but why, really pulled at our hearts. (Many families spend years weaving rugs that tell the stories of their family or regions.
If they need money at any point, they sell the rugs through brokers on consignment. It was a little sad, really, to hear how much love and work goes into these, and they may have to part with them for financial reasons.) I caught myself holding my breath a few times while listening to the stories of some of these rugs.
In the Medina, you’ll also pass by the leather tanneries, spice merchants, shoe and clothing vendors, lamp shops, ceramic artists, and it just goes on and on... street after street until you have no idea where you are! If your tweens and teens like to shop, Fez is a really exciting place to do that. It’s truly an experience that must be embraced, and you can always take a sensory break on a rooftop restaurant to wind down a bit. From a worldschooling /homeschool standpoint, our girls had a very intense learning experience for two days!
Colour is everywhere you look in Fez, from intricate ceramics to beautiful rugs to leathers dyed with poppies. The architectural tile work is captivating, and when paired with the spices, fresh vegetables and textiles, it’s easy to be dazzled with a side of sensory overload. As a result, the girls weren’t sure where to look at times because there is so much going on all around you!
Hands down, the best food we have ever eaten in our travels was in Morocco. Even our picky tween and teen loved every single dish they ate... from vegetable tagine, to couscous, to the little appetisers they called “salad”. Food is serious business in Morocco, rich with slow-cooked flavour and exciting spices and if it’s a hit with both of our girls, you can be assured it’s fantastic!
It all comes down to the people in the locations we visit, and the Moroccan people are easily the friendliest people we’ve met. Everyone was so happy we were there and genuinely wanted us to love their country.
One thing to know when visiting Morocco is that everything revolves around tea! If you want to buy spices, you’ll be invited to sit for tea. If you are interested in rugs, you will be invited to have tea while being shown rug after rug. Buying a souvenir? Expect a tea invitation! (By the way, the tea is magnificent! It’s double brewed with green tea, fresh mint and a lot of sugar).
The girls were treated like princesses and they loved every minute. Even this gentlemen sharpening knives had the biggest smile on his face!
The Moroccan people are so warm and love to talk about their work, their country. They want to make sure you are enjoying yourself. As a result, the friendliness and hospitality and learning opportunities are really what make Morocco a special destination with tweens and teens!