Examine challenges shaping Morocco and the Arab world: authoritarian rule, human rights, democratic transition, economic liberalization, civil society, Islamic movements, multiculturalism, and constitutional reforms following the 2011 Arab Spring.
Examine issues shaping Morocco and the Arab world following the 2011 Arab Spring.
Morocco is changing rapidly, yet its diverse cultures are anchored in age-old traditions of community life, baraka (sacred blessing), fate, family, and honor. From the program’s base at the Center for Cross Cultural Learning, located in a seventeenth-century Rabat neighborhood, you will examine Morocco’s historic role in world politics, its current complexities and challenges, and its visions for the future.
Discuss current issues with Moroccan university students and learn what young Moroccans think about the changes happening in their country and the world.
You will discuss world affairs, Moroccan and American cultures and societies, women’s roles and feminism in Moroccan society, and stereotyping and racism.
Get a taste of Morocco’s cultural diversity by meeting Berbers, Jews, Arabs, and sub-Saharan Africans.
Moroccan society is a fascinating melting pot of cultures. The late Hassan II, king of Morocco, compared the country to a tree with roots spreading deep into the heart of Africa, a trunk solidly set in the Arabo-Islamic world, with branches reaching beyond Spain, Portugal, and France, into the heart of Europe.
Explore the dunes of the Sahara on a camel trek.
You will experience the ethereal beauty of the Merzouga dunes and learn about the area’s biodiversity and Ait Khabbash tribal culture. At dawn, you will hike to the highest dune to enjoy the sunrise and discuss Erg Chebbi cultural ecology.
Experience the breathtaking scenery and snowcapped peaks of the High Atlas Mountains and the cedar forests of the biodiverse Middle Atlas Mountains.
You will visit the biggest Atlas cedar forest in the world, where you will learn about forest protection projects and biodiversity.
See the medieval city of Fes and the fortune tellers, storytellers, and snake charmers of the oasis city of Marrakech.
Critical Global Issue of Study
Peace | Human Rights | Social Movements
There are no prerequisites; however, students with a background in French will find ample opportunity for French language practice while also learning both Moroccan and Modern Standard Arabic.
Key Topics of Study
Key Topics of Study
- The interplay between authoritarianism and human rights
- Tensions between secular and religious approaches to individual freedoms
- Liberal reforms (proposed and enacted) in areas such as ethnicity, women’s rights, and state violence
Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.
The program visits the Middle Atlas, the Southern Palm Tree Valleys, the Erg and Hmada Deserts, the High Atlas, and Marrakech, as well as universities and NGOs throughout Morocco. On these excursions, you’ll explore Morocco’s history, indigenous industries, impacts of tourism, development issues, environmental problems, civil society questions, cultural diversity, and interactions between Berbers, Jews, and Arabs.
During excursions, you will make observations and rapid appraisals, complete photographic essays and mapping exercises, and learn from lectures and presentations by experts and specialists.
The southern excursion covers a wide area; you will experience the cedar forest of the Middle Atlas, the breathtaking gorges of the High Atlas Mountains, and the desert. The excursion is punctuated by lectures and field study exercises on topics such as human rights and forest conservation plans, sustainability challenges, nomadic history and culture, and multiculturalism. You will engage with local communities and learn about their cultures, ride a camel across the sand dunes of Merzouga, watch the sunrise from the Erg Chebbi’s highest dune, and hear a performance by a Gnawa band in the heart of the desert.
A weekend trip to northern Morocco highlights the country’s cultural diversity, and you will learn about multiculturalism and human rights. You will visit Ouezzane, spiritual capital of the north; Chefchaouen; M’diq; and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.
Program in a minute-ish
Through the interdisciplinary coursework outlined below, students explore Moroccan society and culture, Arabic language, field research methodology, and independent research. The Multiculturalism and Human Rights in the Context of the Arab Spring course is divided into three components, each of which is coordinated by one or two scholars specializing in the field under question. Lecturers of renown as well as politicians and civil society activists are invited to talk to the students as part of this course. Intensive Arabic instruction is provided for students at many levels allowing all students to understand the culture more deeply.
The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.
- Multiculturalism and Human Rights in the Context of the Arab Spring – syllabus
- (AFRS3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course aims to introduce students to the major current debates in Morocco on the question of multiculturalism and human rights. The course focuses on the new political, cultural, and transnational context in the wake of the Arab Spring. The social revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East have led the Moroccan state to accelerate the pace of reforms. In July 2011, in a constitutional referendum, the people approved a new constitution that acknowledges Morocco's cultural diversity and institutionalizes the state's commitment to the respect and promotion of human rights and individual liberties. The course engages students in debates with Moroccan academics, artists, civil society activists, and policy makers on the development of a multicultural society in which Amazighi language and identity, Andalusian customs and traditions, sub-Saharan cultural roots and ethnicities, and Arab linguistic and religious mapping are equally celebrated in the public sphere. The course is divided into four main modules: History and Institutions of Human Rights in Morocco; Gender and Religion in Morocco, Post-Arab Spring; Multiculturalism and Social Movements; and Cultural Representations and the Arts. The objective is to facilitate forums to present and discuss a diversity of approaches, artistic and aesthetic schools, intellectual backgrounds, and political positions involved in the construction of Moroccan cultural identity and politics. Areas to be covered tackle the dynamics of Moroccan culture and society through an examination of manifestations of nationality, power, ideology, gender, class, ethnicity, and development. Overall, the approach of this course is multi-disciplinary, giving priority to understanding the multifaceted complexity of the questions raised. Its aim is to allow both the speakers and the students the freedom to relate the issues at hand through not only the readings but also through individual experiences and stories encountered in daily life and the challenging learning process across cultural boundaries.
- Beginning Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
- (ARAB1006-1506 / 6 credits / 90 hours)
- Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
- (ARAB2006-2506 / 6 credits / 90 hours)
- Advanced Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
- (ARAB3006-3506 / 6 credits / 90 hours)
- Emphasis on speaking, reading, and writing skills in Modern Standard Arabic through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, students are placed in intensive beginning or intermediate classes, with further language practice of spoken Moroccan Arabic (darija) in homestays, lectures, and field visits. Moroccan Arabic and Arabic calligraphy are also part of the course.
- Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
- (ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
- This course is designed to provide firsthand and experiential knowledge about the richness and challenges of conducting field study in Morocco. It provides the necessary conceptual and methodological thread that enables the student to learn from experience, to apply the knowledge and skills gained in language study and the thematic course, and to prepare the student to undertake field study in Morocco in strict observance of research procedure involving human subjects and the regulatory ethical norms defined by the Institutional Review Board. At the end of the course, the student should have the cultural understanding and the methodological tools to successfully complete their Independent Study Project. The course is also designed to answer specific concerns which the research on human rights generally raises. Multiculturalism and human rights involve minority groups, former political prisoners, families of victims of torture, policy makers, and international human rights organizations. The lectures address issues that pertain to research methods, confidentiality and anonymity of informants, data gathering and interviewing, and the safety and psychology of minority groups and victims of repressive systems. Individual meetings are scheduled throughout the course and aim to address research objectives and the expectations of each student.
- Independent Study Project – syllabus
- (ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
- Conducted in Rabat or in another approved location appropriate to the project in Morocco. The Independent Study Project (ISP) offers students the opportunity to undertake significant, specific, and individualized independent study; students apply the concepts and skills of experience-based learning articulated and learned in all other program components. Although the ISP is largely conducted during the last four weeks of the program, considerable planning and preparation for the ISP is done throughout the term. The Research Methods and Ethics course addresses concepts and rationale, methods and techniques, and evaluation of field study, all designed to introduce the student to the general background of field study and to assist them with ISPs that will be of interest to them and relevant to the program theme. The actual fieldwork for the ISP begins with the ISP preparation sessions and individual sessions on resource search and identification of appropriate contacts and resources. Sample topic areas include: international and local nongovernmental human rights organizations in Morocco: cooperation and activism; inheritance rights and Itjihad in Morocco's modern society; childbirth in rural Morocco; Sufi poetry; the politics of expression among women in rural Morocco; the culture of volunteering in Muslim countries; code-switching and multilingualism in Moroccan music; fiction and the Moroccan Jewish community.
Faculty and Staff
Faculty and Staff
Taieb Belghazi, PhD, Academic Director
Taieb earned his PhD in 1993 from the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University, where he was a Chevening scholar. He held a Fulbright postdoctoral scholarship at Duke University and was a member of the UNESCO-sponsored International Panel on Reading for All. He was director of the Centre for Doctoral Studies: The Human and Space in the Mediterranean, and professor of cultural studies and history of the present at the Faculty of Letters in Rabat. He has been visiting professor at universities including Duke; the University of California, Irvine; and the Ferguson Centre for African Studies and Asian Studies at the Open University, England.
Taeb has consulted for projects including the Diaspora as a Social and Cultural Practice and the UNESCO project on reconceptualizing Mediterranean dialogues. He is a member of the editorial boards of Time and Society (England), Current Writing (South Africa), and Al Azmina Al Haditha (Morocco). He has researched and published on the politics of recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East and on experiential learning. His publications include Time and Postmodernism; Dialogues Khatibi Weber (editor); and International Education and Global Justice: Rethinking the Politics of Sustainability (co-editor with Said Graiouid).
Abdelhay Moudden, PhD, Senior Advisor
Abdelhay earned his PhD in political science from the University of Michigan and has been professor of political science and international relations at Mohamed V University since 1978. He was academic director of SIT’s Multiculturalism and Human Rights program in Morocco from 1992 to 2013. In 1995, he founded the Center for Cross Cultural Learning and is its academic director. In 2013, he became Senior Advisor to SIT programs in Morocco. Abdelhay is a member of the Consultative Council on Human Rights and was a member of the Moroccan Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2004–2005). He has published articles on Moroccan politics and culture and two novels, the latest of which, The Farewell Sermon, won the Morocco book award for 2004.
Doha Lmachichi, Homestay Director
Doha holds a BA in Arabic language and literature from Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco. She has taught Modern Standard Arabic and the Darija dialect at the Center for Cross Cultural Learning since 1997. She is the homestay coordinator for all the programs at the center. Doha was raised in Rabat’s medina, where most of the program’s host families are located; she has coordinated SIT homestays for around a decade and knows every family with which the program works. She studies the profile of students and families before making assignments and remains a resource on homestay issues throughout the semester.
Wafae Drissi, Program Assistant
Wafae received a BA from the English department at Mohamed V University in Rabat, Morocco. She has also a diploma of Technician Specializing in Computer Programming and Development. Wafae joined the Center for Cross Cultural Learning in 2010 and works as program coordinator for multiple programs there. Her interests cover cross-cultural exchange and travel.
Bouchra Sahimda, Language Director
Bouchra received a BA in international relations from Mohammed V University’s Faculty of Law and brings years of language teaching experience to the classroom. She joined the Center for Cross Cultural Learning in 2003 as an Arabic instructor and became language coordinator in 2005. She supervises the Moroccan Arabic language placement test, meets regularly with language instructors and teaches when needed, and oversees the Moroccan Arabic program. She also supervises the training programs that are offered to new teachers on how to teach language to non-native speakers and is a certified ACTFL OPI tester from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Program lecturers are drawn from the following institutions:
- Mohammed V University
- Hassan II University
- Ibn Tofail University
- Center for Cross Cultural Learning
- National Council for Human Rights
- Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture
- Central Entity for the Prevention of Corruption
- National Library
- National Observatory for Human Development
- League of Muslim Scholars
- Anjib Association, Oulmes
...for me the Independent Study Project was phenomenal and hugely informative...
Morocco: Multiculturalism and Human Rights was a truly wonderful program. I picked the program for its research component, and for me the Independent Study Project was phenomenal and hugely informative. My Arabic class was one of the best language classes I have ever taken—well organized and fast paced. Taieb’s assistance, kindness, and patience made the program successful. I really cannot underscore enough how formative, wonderful, and inspiring my semester with SIT was. I absolutely loved Morocco and am already planning to return once I graduate.
The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.
The family is the center of life in Morocco. Living with a Moroccan family further contributes to an immersive Moroccan experience.
You will spend eight weeks with a host family in Rabat, where you can practice language skills and get a sense of Moroccan culture. You may choose to stay with your homestay family for a further four weeks during the ISP period. You will participate in your host family’s daily life. Activities might include attending family parties, visiting relatives, going to the movies with a host sibling, enjoying long dinners, socializing with neighbors over Moroccan tea, and exploring medina souks and the city center. Most host families live in the city’s historic medina and are a short walking distance from the Center for Cross Cultural Learning and the downtown area.
You will stay for six days with a host family in Ait Ouahi, a village of about 400 in the Middle Atlas Mountains. Most homes here have electricity and Turkish toilets. The village is near Oulmes, a small city known for its mineral water, livestock, and fruit. The middle school, high school, and hospital used by the villagers are in Oulmes.
Most of the residents of Ait Ouahi speak Tamazight (Berber), and a few speak Moroccan Arabic. Most families work in agriculture or ranching for local consumption. You will share in your family’s daily activities: farming, taking care of livestock, and cooking. You may also hike and receive a lesson in the local dance, Ahaidous, and then sing and dance in communal ceremonies. You will also contribute to community development at the village’s elementary school (e.g., planting trees or teaching English) and participate in group discussions with residents.
Other accommodations during the program include hostels, private homes, or small hotels.
Cost and Scholarships
Cost and Scholarships
SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.
SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.
The tuition fee covers the following program components:
- Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in the thematic course on Multiculturalism and Human Rights in the Context of the Arab Spring. Lectures may address the themes of:
- Visual arts in Morocco
- Arab Spring: protests, reforms, and elections
- Human rights
- Family and youth in Morocco
- Women, society, and change
- Social movements
- The Research Methods and Ethics course on research methods and Human Subjects Review, which prepares students for successful completion of primary field research in Morocco for the Independent Study Project
- Intensive language instruction in Modern Standard Arabic
- All educational excursions to locations such as the cities of Casablanca, Azrou, Midelt, Erfoud, Merzouga, Errissani, Nkob, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Essaouira, Ouezzane, and the Spanish enclave Ceuta in northern Morocco, including all related travel costs
- Independent Study Project (an appropriate stipend for accommodation and food)
- Health insurance throughout the entire program period
Room & Board: $3,035
The room and board fee covers the following program components:
- All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Rabat), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
- All homestays (eight to twelve weeks in Rabat and six days in a rural village)
- All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.
Estimated Additional Costs:
International Airfare to Program Launch Site
International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.
Books & Supplies: $120
International Phone: Each student must bring a phone with them to their program.
Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.
Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.
Alumni Stories: Hannah Rose
A diversity of students representing different colleges, universities, and majors study abroad on this program. Many of them have gone on to do amazing things that connect back to their experience abroad with SIT. Recent positions held by alumni of this program include:
- Professor at Yale University, New Haven, CT
- Global studies instructor at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, Richmond, VA
- Managing editor of Fikra Forum at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, DC
- PhD candidate in international comparative education at Stanford University, Stanford, CA
- PhD candidate studying Malhun music at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Independent Study Project
Independent Study Project
You will spend four weeks, including one week of intensive preparation, near the end of the semester on an Independent Study Project (ISP), pursuing original research. The ISP is conducted in Rabat or another approved location in Morocco.
Sample ISP topic areas:
- International and local nongovernmental human rights organizations in Morocco
- Inheritance rights and ijtihad
- The culture of volunteering in Muslim countries
- Fiction and the Moroccan Jewish community
- Human rights
- Islam in daily life
- Women’s issues
- Moroccan music and architecture
- The Arab Spring
- Cultural importance of cooking
- Informal economy
- Rural development projects
- Political pluralism
- Nongovernmental organizations in Morocco
- Rural schooling
- HIV/AIDS in Morocco
- Social organization among tanners
- The Sahara question
- Moroccan views of the outside world