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A school expedition to Morocco – a student’s perspective

Want to know what it’s like to go on an expedition in Morocco? Harry Pearce, a 14-year-old student from Wiltshire, found out when he joined a seven-night World Challenge Expedition to Morocco in July 2023.

Read his account of climbing North Africa’s highest mountain, discovering Berber culture and exploring age-old medinas in the capital…

“The day before the Expedition, we met at school to go over team-building activities and safety briefings. Our group – consisting of 17 students and three adults ate dinner together in the food rooms before heading to the bus stop for our overnight National Express trip. Our coach stopped at Gatwick in the early hours of the morning where we waited for our flight – nervous but excited. The time had arrived – we boarded the plane to Marrakech, Morocco.

Discovering the Red City

“When we arrived, we spent the day exploring. It was easy to see why Marrakech is nicknamed ‘the Red City’ – so many of its buildings are pinky-red. We joined locals in the markets, tasted Moroccan food and took in the beauty of the city. We saw the Koutoubia Mosque with its wonderful, 77-metre-high minaret towering over the city. In the souks, we soaked up the sights and magical sounds of these exotic marketplaces, which sell everything from spices to carpets.

Marrakech market stalls

“The following day, we laced up our walking boots, grabbed our daypacks and piled into a minibus headed for the Atlas Mountains. We were dropped off in a small town with beautiful scenery, friendly locals, and perfect weather – not too hot or cold. After exploring the town, we made it to the gite where we spent most of our time over the next two days. Our group spent the evening playing games, laughing, and tasting Moroccan food.

“The next morning, our leader took us on an acclimatisation walk. This helped us get used to walking in the heat. Trekking at altitude can be tough – and we were eventually going to reach the summit of Toubkal – at 4,167m, it’s the highest peak in North Africa.

One of the views on the acclimatisation trek in Morocco

“Time to go higher. The next day we left early and hiked towards the base camp, following a zigzag trail through the national park to our camping spot at 3,000 metres. It took almost six hours! It was tough, especially as we reached higher altitudes with less oxygen, but we worked together to keep team morale up and push through it. We played games, sang songs and had conversations to keep our spirits up. 

Taking on Toubkal

“Finally, the day we had been both dreading and looking forward to – summit day. We woke up at 4am, ate breakfast and left by 6am. The walk had many different types of terrain, with many different elevation levels. What made the trek so tough for me was how thin the oxygen was at 4000m. After over four hours of walking, we reached Mount Toubkal’s summit (4,167m). The views across Africa were unimaginably stunning.

Summit of Mount Toubkal

“The group spent around ten minutes at the summit, taking photos, eating bread and cheese, and just talking while taking in the beauty of the Atlas Mountains. When we all were ready, we started the trek back down to base camp, which took another four hours. Everyone was so proud of reaching the top – but also couldn’t help missing their family and everything back home.

“Morning came by again quickly, the trek back to the gite was ahead of us and we all were excited to return. Many of my friends spent the nights at the gite playing football with the locals or having conversations, sharing information about each other and the similarities and differences in British and Moroccan culture. Back in town, we looked around the local shops and a women’s cooperative. Here we discovered how the women create argon oils and natural soaps to help support the local community.

Reflecting on an epic expedition

“Our journey back to Marrakech was long, but intriguing as it gave us the opportunity to take in even more of the natural beauties. Keen to see more of the Red City, we went on a sightseeing walk to experience some of its landmarks, like Djemaa El Fna Square with its medicine men and open-air food stalls. We had saved a bit of our budget, so we splashed out on a big final meal. We wolfed down bread and olives for starters, tajine for the main and ice cream for dessert – all washed down with water and either Coca-Cola or Sprite. We spent the rest of our night exploring the souks and spending our remaining dirham.

Jemaa El Fna Square, Marrakech at night

“As we headed to the airport for our flight home to the UK, I reflected on our epic expedition. I had conquered Toubkal, made deeper connections with my mates, and forged brand-new friendships. It was an incredible experience that will stay with me forever.”

Written by Harry Pearce, edited by Ellie Ross