29 pupils in Year 11 and the Sixth Form were bound for Morocco at the start of the October half term as Pitsford School organised its first overseas school trip since the start of the Covid pandemic. Full of enthusiasm, the group arrived to a 35-degree heat in Marrakech. Following an initial taste of Moroccan cuisine, we were taken on a tour of the city. The tour included the souk with its myriad of street merchants selling all manner of goods and a traditional apothecary where shopkeepers demonstrated the healing properties of a variety of herbs and spices (including argan oil which turned out to be a panacea for everything from cold sores to arthritis).
Our hotel in Marrakech was the well-appointed Hotel Akabar where the swimming pool was an instant hit with the students. Our evening meal was cooked for us by a women’s co-operative on the edge of the city. A buffet style meal featuring traditional Moroccan tagines was followed by a variety of exquisite pastries. The relaxed garden atmosphere provided a perfect setting to reflect on the adventures of the day.
We spent two days in Marrakech, taking in the Marjorelle Gardens with its collection of exotic cacti and succulents, water features and architecture. The gardens provided a short, but welcome respite from the noise and heat of the city. Whilst in Marrakech, we enjoyed an excursion into the High Atlas Mountains. A short trek into the hills above Imlil provided us with an opportunity to take in some much needed exercise in what appeared to be an endless round of lengthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The steep climb enabled those in the group having completed the Gold D of E programme to reminisce about their experiences in Snowdonia. Some sharp souvenir sellers tried to sell their wares to one or two of our number who delighted in haggling the price. Finally, a visit to Marrakech is not complete without savouring the sights and sounds of the many musicians, acrobats, snake charmers and other street entertainers in the main square which we did on our last evening, after a lovely meal in a city centre restaurant where the entertainment ranged from belly-dancers to fez-spinning drummers.
The second half of our tour was spent in the cooler and more laid back coastal resort of Essaouira. Famed as a filming location for Game of Thrones, the city possesses a fine sandy beach and numerous souks which the pupils were able to explore by themselves. The food in Essaouira was more of an adventure with some of the fish-based dishes not going down particularly well with some of us, particularly as some dissection was required beforehand. The visit to the harbour with its over-powering smell of fish and kamikaze sea gulls will also last long in the memories of many. A few of us enjoyed riding a camel on the beach, not the most comfortable 15 minutes admittedly with the constant threat of being catapulted across the sand. The beach provided a good opportunity to unwind, play a game of football with the locals or paddle in the sea.
The intention was to provide the students with a safe and exciting experience of a very different culture. For many it will have been their first visit to Africa. I am indebted to the help and support of three colleagues, Mrs Kirk, Mrs Lyon and Mrs Jacques, who ensured that the trip ran smoothly and whose main concern at all times was the well-being of the pupils. Now that we are most definitely in post-Covid times, I am sure it won’t be long before the school sets its sights on new horizons with similar adventures in the offing for other year groups.
Written by Mr Lewis, Head of Geography