JWU College of Hospitality Management

My Moroccan Adventure: A Trek Through the Sahara

Students on camelback enjoy the Sarhara sunset

In every Tourism & Hospitality Management students’ academic career at JWU, they have the opportunity to travel abroad with fellow classmates on the trip of a lifetime. This trip, known to students as a FAM trip, is the highlight of many students’ experience at Johnson & Wales.

FAM is short for Familiarization Tour, which is a tour that people in the travel industry take to explore a new destination to ensure their expertise to their clients. But, at Johnson & Wales, there’s a twist. 

“Because every region of Morocco was so vastly different, each day felt like its own adventure.” 

Rachel Jordan takes in views of the wide-open desert

Students in the Tour Management Operations course  actually get to plan part of the trip themselves! In the fall, it was finally my turn to take the class, and after a few short weeks into the term, Assistant Professor Tiffany Rhodes took our FAM class to the sunny, exotic country of Morocco. Because every region of Morocco was so vastly different, each day felt like its own adventure. However, one day stood out the most as everyone’s favorite.

Left: Asst. Professor Tiffany Rhodes, center, with Maggie Quinn, left, and Jill Silva at Aït-Ben-Haddou; Right: Genesis Maramis, left, and Rhodes on camelback

About halfway into the trip, we boarded our private bus for a 10-hour journey to the Sahara Desert. I stayed awake, talking with my newfound friends, and watched as the landscape went from lush hills to rugged mountains and eventually to sandy dunes for as far as we could see. We then climbed on camels, strapped on our overnight bags and prepared for the hour-and-a-half-long trek through the Sahara to our Berber-style campground.

Treking through the Sahara between the shadows

Finally, we arrived at the camp where we eagerly jumped off the camels and raced towards the nearest dune to watch the sunset. About a third of the way up we realized that sand is not the easiest thing to run uphill on, and it quickly became a fight to reach the top. After what felt like a marathon, we finally landed on the sharp edge of the dune and looked out over the vast landscape of the Sahara, with the sun closing in on the horizon. We relaxed in the warm sand and listened to music while appreciating how beautiful the dunes looked with shadows cast in every direction from the sun.

Olivia Rancourt, left, and Giana Cunsolo relax with the beautiful Sahara sunset

Once it was dark, we started to slide back down the hill, some of us choosing to roll down, and then gathered in a tent to play bingo and drink traditional Moroccan mint green tea. Maybe it was the tea or the excitement of the trip, but there has never been a game of bingo that was so intense. While playing, people were laughing and telling stories, and though we didn’t realize it at the time, we were becoming a FAMily.

The night ended with a traditional Moroccan meal of tagine with loads of potatoes and vegetables and the perfect amount of spice. What’s nice about Moroccan food is that it’s exotic, though oddly comforting, and it always leaves you wanting more. We devoured the delicious food to the tune of the drums that our camel jockeys were playing. Eventually, the drum beats drew us outside, around a fire, where we danced along to the drums underneath the perfectly clear Milky Way, spotting shooting stars streaking across the sky.

JWU Student tour guides for the day, in student-designed T-shirts, join the group for dinner around a desert campfire

Once the fire died down, we reflected on our fantastic day in the desert. A few of us decided to pull together our pallets, layer ourselves with blankets, and snuggle up underneath the stars, laughing and talking until all of us drifted off to sleep.

Related Reading
Destination: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand
Adventures in Portugal: Hospitality Students Loving Lisbon
Africa or Bust! My Fall FAM Tour Experience

Climbing in Aït-Ben-Haddou in southern Morocco

Bags of spices for sale in Fez

L to R: Jill Silva, Genesis Maramis, Rachel Jordan and Maggie Quinn in Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace in Marrakech

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Topics: Hospitality Study Abroad Travel & Tourism