During the school holiday in mid-April, a group of the older boys and girls at Centre Afaq got the opportunity to explore another historic southern Moroccan city for the first time â Ouarzazate, at the entrance to the Sahara Desert.
It has become tradition over the past couple years for the team at the centre to make a residential trip in April, around the time of the International Day for Street Children (12th April). This year, it was a smaller group â the majority of the newly-formed boys and girls groups at the centre.
Packed into 2 minibuses, the group of 21 young people and 8 volunteers left Taroudannt early on the 17th April to make the 6-hour journey east to Ouarzazate. With lively singing en route, the group enjoyed seeing the change from mountains to desert scenery, the first time for many. Upon arrival, the group was warmly received at a centre for handicapped children run by a local charity, where they had been extended free accommodation for the evening. The directors of the centre explained how they work with children in difficult situations, even providing a handout on sign language and asking one child to speak about his experience at the centre in sign language. In return, one young person from Centre Afaq explained his experience accessing services at the centre in Taroudannt. For most of the young people from Centre Afaq, this was the first time getting a chance to explore sign language.
This warm reception was followed by a lunch together at a nearby traditional restaurant, another new experience for some in the group. Others in the group were also impressed by the differences to eating in a restaurant in Taroudannt. To pass the hottest hours of the day, all of the boys and girls took turns dancing and playing the drums to some of their favourite popular group songs. All of the volunteers were impressed at how creative they were and how active all the participants were!
The evening included a group wander by foot through the town, exploring the new sights and sounds together. This included a large festival in the main square of artisans and their traditional Moroccan wares from across the country. The majority of the young people shared their intrigue of how much Ouarzazate made Taroudannt seem like a lively, working town in comparison to a serene, touristy town.
More singing and dancing, a couple group games and a group dinner cooked and shared at the centre was a great way to end the long day. An early on the 18th allowed for exploring the Ouarzazate kasbah and visiting the Hollywood of Morocco â a film studio used in many films such as ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Upon meeting the young people and team for refreshments at a cafe, the director of the museum at the studios kindly granted free entry to the entire group. Everyone then joined in posing and taking each other’s photographs with props and on film sets!
Trying to fit in as much as possible into the two days, the group also stopped in Ait Ben Haddou, a short distance from Ouarzazate on the drive back to Taroudannt. After a quick picnic in the ravine with a beautiful view of the UNESCO-protected kasbah, the group made the trek up to the top of the kasbah to take in the sunset and the views. Nearly everyone thought that it was even more beautiful than Ouarzazate!
The group arrived back in Taroudannt very late and very tired. The staff who joined the volunteers on the trip, including the director of Centre Afaq, commented that it was wonderful to see how relaxed and happy the young people were in exploring a new place together. They had many happy memories to then share with classmates upon return to school this week.