Your most frequently asked questions - answered!
1. Who's coming?
7. Who are the August "Marrakesh Quiz" competition winners?
1. WHO'S COMING?
Registration for the annual world conference is open until August 15; however, as of August 6 we have delegates from 21 different countries signed up.
U.S. delegates make up the largest group so far, although the Australians might yet catch up! We also have groups from: South Africa, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Morocco, Japan, and Indonesia. There are also individuals or couples coming from Belgium, Chad, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, New Caledonia, Sierra Leone, Taiwan, Tanzania, Uganda and the United Kingdom. While there are still four months left to register, make sure you secure your space now.
With all that we read in the news, it's understandable that people feel nervous about travel these days. It's very important, as it has always been, to thoroughly research any destination and to exercise caution when we travel. The staff at FFI are committed to your safety; we monitor governments' sites and news resources, and talk to people on the ground so we can stay up-to-date on your exchange and conference destinations. To get the local perspective for our members and staff heading to the world conference in Marrakesh, we talk regularly with our contacts who live and work in Morocco.
FFI has worked with Experience It Tours for ten years now; manager Aaron Johnson lives with his wife and two young sons in Fes: "We've been monitoring the situation here on the ground and all here in Morocco still has a sense of calm and “life as usual” feel. There has been an increase of security presence throughout the country, especially monitoring all ports of entry. Morocco has done a great job of stepping up with appropriate security measures to ensure the ongoing safety and security of the Kingdom of Morocco. Our drivers take seriously their job to ensure the well-being of each client...We continue to have clients arriving and departing daily without any problems."
Khalid Sabiki of Menara Tours in Marrakesh echoes this sentiment: "Like the rest of the world, Morocco has increased security; this is visible everywhere from the airports to nightclubs to city streets. We feel safe, yes, and my friends and family here in Marrakesh continue living our daily lives as normal. The city seems not to have any less tourists or conventions, and our streets are full of locals and foreigners who happily go about their day."
Lotfi Lamrani, president of The Friendship Force of Azrou, had this to say last weekend: "I spend about the half of my time traveling and I have never worried about my safety or that of my family, a wonderful wife and seven children who I leave on their own at home - sometimes for weeks. Visiting groups from overseas have enjoyed their time travelling here without incident. The people of Morocco invite our Friendship Force friends to experience and enjoy our Moroccan peace and serenity of life. Indeed you will find for yourselves how Morocco is a safe and tranquil country."
For a thoughtful and broader perspective about travel in the world today, check out award-winning U.S. travel journalist Wendy Perrin's very educational article from March. The article is written for U.S. readers but the overall message is relevant to all of us, no matter what country we call home.
Classical Arabic may be the official language of Morocco, but French is pretty common too, so much so that it’s the city’s main unofficial language. Of course, if you are in the main tourist areas, then English speakers abound, particularly among the younger generations and businesses or individuals dealing regularly with foreign visitors. Even the merchants in the markets know enough English to negotiate a sale! However many taxi drivers only speak Arabic, so it's important to carry your hotel's business card with you, or to ask the front desk staff to write down your intended destination in Arabic. And don't underestimate the effectiveness of mime!
As you start to wander away from the larger cities, English quickly becomes less common. So if you intend to travel independently or explore less-frequented areas of the country, basic phrases in a more common language come in handy. In a few weeks, look out for part two of FFI's Learn Before We Go series entitled "Moroccan Arabic: Language and Phrasing for Conversing with Locals.”
~ Touching the right hand to the heart when greeting someone is a sign of respect
~ Always greet and eat with your right hand, as your left is traditionally considered unclean
~ Kissing cheeks is practiced between friends of the same sex only
~ It is offensive to show the bottoms of your shoes or feet, so keep your feet flat on the floor and be prepared to take your shoes off before entering some buildings
~ Using your index finger to motion a person to approach you is considered impolite; Moroccans beckon someone by placing the palm downward and sweeping the hand toward themselves
~ Taboo conversation subjects include the royal family, the political situation in the Western Sahara and Algeria, and drugs
~ Casual clothing is widely accepted in urban areas, however revealing the shoulders or legs above the knee is considered disrespectful (except when at the beach or poolside of course)
~ The respectful procedure when offered food is to politely decline and, if offered again, to accept a small portion; to decline an offer of food, simply pat your stomach and shake your head, followed by "La, shukran" (No, thank you)
~ It is considered polite to leave a little food on your plate at the end of a meal.
The Friendship Force has a long and successful history in Africa, and a conference on her shores is long overdue. Morocco is one of our most frequently requested exchange destinations on the African continent and, with its relative proximity to Europe and north America, its warm and welcoming people, its beautiful weather, and its renowned cuisine, it makes perfect sense to invite the Friendship Force family to celebrate 39 years with us in this magnificent country. It is also very significant that by having this year's conference in Morocco, we are privileged to have the opportunity to learn more about Muslim people and their culture at a time when greater understanding and acceptance are critical to the world. We look forward to using our time in Morocco to refocus on our mission and extend the hand of friendship.
(a) To celebrate the Friendship Force in Africa and learn from our African members
(b) To connect with Moroccan organizations and individuals for future development
(c) To give more people the chance to experience this high-demand country and culture
(d) To hear from our new CEO and President, Jeremi Snook about his plans for our future
Friendship Force member and experienced conference attendee Dee Gustavson created this document about how to prepare and what to expect. It may be especially helpful for those of you who are attending our conference for the first time. Thanks Dee!
Congratulations to our winners!
If you have questions about the world conference or Marrakesh, please send them to Conference Director, Debbie Powell, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ready to register? Great! You can access the online registration form here.