Experiencing Moroccan Diversity - Past and Present

By Caroline Hoffmann, Report & Public Information Officer

September 8, 2015

The following post describes a visit by American high school students to cemeteries in Essaouira, for the purpose of developing an understanding of Morocco's rich history.


American high school students on scholarship to study Arabic toured the historic Christian and Jewish cemeteries in Essaouira on Sunday July 26, 2015. The group of students, thirty in all, spent their final week of a six-week intensive Arabic program in Essaouira. The program is focused on Arabic study, specifically Modern Standard Arabic, but students were also introduced to Moroccan culture, history, and society through volunteer activities, living with host families, and cross-cultural panel discussions.

The visit to the cemeteries in Essaouira contributed to a greater understanding of Morocco’s rich and diverse history of religious coexistence. The students visited the old Jewish cemetery, where they also received a short presentation on the history of Moroccan Jewry from the group’s Resident Directors. Students also toured the new Jewish cemetery, visiting the shrine to Rabbi Haim Pinto.

At the Christian cemetery, students learned more about Morocco’s colonial history in the twentieth century. They also learned about the High Atlas Foundation’s commitment to cultural diversity programs, and how the Foundation uses the participatory method to identify and achieve projects with local communities.

Students were especially interested in the history of coexistence in Morocco. One student, Lucy Moberly from Michigan, offered this observation:

“Everyone on our program had enough knowledge of the culture to know that the Arab World wasn’t completely made up of Muslim people. The important thing about the trips to the Christian and Jewish cemeteries was that it provided us with real life examples we could use when trying to explain to someone back home about the diversity of Morocco and beyond. Of course I could just tell someone “not all Arab people are Muslim,” but it’s much more convincing when you have firsthand examples to draw from.”

Special thanks to the High Atlas Foundation for facilitating this visit and helping enhance American students’ education and perception of Morocco and its rich history.


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