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Sand sun and Raine’s schoolkids head for Sahara adventure

PUBLISHED: 13:00 17 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:53 05 October 2010

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THE kids in Miss Dawson’s geography lesson were curious about how people of the Sahara live. So she took them off to Morocco to see for themselves. The pupils swapped their classroom in East London for the sand dunes of north Africa for the best geography lesson of all

ABOVE: Riding camels to their Sahara Bedouin campsite was an adventure of a lifetime...

BELOW: Trekking through the Atlas Mountains on mules... the only way to get around...

By Mike Brooke

THE kids in Miss Dawson's geography lesson were curious about how the people of the Sahara fringe live. So she took them off to Morocco to see for themselves.

The pupils from Raines Foundation swapped their classroom in East London for the warm subtropical sand dunes of north Africa for nine days of the best geography lesson of all.

It was part of their Year-10 GCSE course, flying into Marrakech, then setting off on an adventurous journey to the Zagora region of the Sahara. They rode camels to an oasis to see how a Bedouin community live and met Moroccan schoolchildren in the town of Skoura.

The expedition included trekking in the Atlas Mountains to a Berber village before returning to the fabled city of Marrakech.

"Trekking in the Atlas Mountains was a real challenge," recalled Ann-Marie Dawson. "But the views were amazing, especially the sunset. We even crossed a river by mule.

"We walked through the famous market square in Marrakech where we were slightly shocked by the snake charmers and Mrs Hoggett having a barberry ape thrust towards her!"

There was plenty of time for bartering for souvenirs before the kids got down to the serious stuff of updating their daily diary.

They noted: "The weather in the desert itself is very hot in the day, but at night very cold. We had to sleep in our socks and jumpers. We expected it to be cold In the mountains, but were pleasantly surprised to need our Factor 50 sunscreen when out walking, yet still able to do without jumpers at night."

There seems to be a scarcity of hospitals, they learned, especially in the mountain regions. The nearest hospital to the village they visited was 30 miles away.

"People don't have much hope of a healthcare service that will save them in time," wrote one. "They have to wait an hour for the emergency service and try and bear the pain."

Most teenagers like Islamic and classical Arabic music, they found, but some listen to Michael Jackson, Beyonce and Rihanna. "A big hit in Morocco is Akon," the kids wrote. "We also heard a lot of remixes of old songs which were big in the charts many, many years ago."

Miss Dawson's pupils learned that "most cars are Renaults because it's French and Morocco was a part of the French Empire."

One pupil added: "The ideal transport in the desert is a camel or a 4x4. People prefer camels because they don't need refuelling!

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