The Journey began in Tangier, the hometown of Ibn Battuta, on May 5th, where a Youth Writing workshop was held at the Palais des Institutions Italiennes. 26 aspiring young writers from across the country joined the workshop to hone their craft and learn about fiction and Poetry. The workshop was taught by Karim Alrawi (Egypt/Canada), Chris Merill (USA), and Kiki Petrosino (USA), and delved into questions related to productive reading, the art of Poetry, and the unleashing of creativity. The workshop was wrapped up by a meeting with international writers from the USA, France, Russia, Turkey, Portugal, Nigeria, Spain, Pakistan, and Holand, who all were eager to share their knowledge and mingle with the young writers. The conversation expanded to lunch, as questions unfolded and the meeting evolved into a nurturing bubble around creative writing, sharing, and the love of literature that brought them all together.
The Next stop was in Kenitra at the Ibn Tofail University. Around 200 students attended a Panel discussion on creative writing. Kiki Petrosino (USA), Chris Merill (USA), and Ukamaka Oliskawve (Nigeria) discussed topics related to creative writing, shedding light into the questions of craft and theory. Besides, the delegation read excerpts from their work; this, for the majority of the attendees, was a first. Soufiyan Bertoune, one of the students who assisted to the event, said: ‘This is one of the crucial moments in my life. It was a chance to attend this panel discussion with American Writers and one Nigerian writer who gave us valuable advices. Not only, we learnt through their personal experiences, but also I could read my Poem that I’ve recently written: “It’s all in my mind”. They liked it a lot. I remember Professor Kiki’s words: “Wonderful Poems”. These two words will be inscribed in my head, inspire me, and push me towards the right path, I will never stop writing and I will keep improving myself. It was the best moment of my life, I’m happy I didn’t back down and from now on, I won’t hold back’.
The next stop then was Fes, Morocco’s medieval city and the country’s spiritual capital. The students of Dhar Elmahraz University attended a creative writing workshop, instructed by the aforementioned delegation of writers. Upon the visit, the professors inaugurated a creative writing club, deemed a huge success amid the tour. A second workshop was held at the American Language Center. It tackled the teaching of creative writing, a topic that was of a great interest to all the participants, among which were the ETII (English Teaching Initiative Internship) volunteers, whose job consists of instructing English to artisans in Fes.
Casablanca, Morocco’s industrial hub, was the last stop in the Tour. On the morning of May 11, at the Ben M’sik University, the delegation got to meet MA and PhD students, and discuss with them on topics related to creativity, education, poetry and creative writing. Comedian Bassou, who is also a PhD student, was among the participants. He threw a spotlight on creative writing through the lenses of his sketches.
In the evening, an American-Moroccan public poetry reading was held at the American Language Center of Casablanca. The event featured the poets: Kiki Petrosino (USA), Aicha Bassry (Morocco), Chris Merill (USA), Fouad Chardoudi (Morocco), Mounir Serhani (Morocco), ELhabib Louai (Morocco), and Ayoub Maliji (Morocco). The event tremendously emphasized the coexistence between the three languages (Arabic, French, and English), and helped build long-lasting ties between the American and the Moroccan literary community. It failed not to bring into discussion to what extent hearts can be united through the vehicle of poetry.
The tour was made possible thanks to the support and efforts of the following organizations and Individuals:
International Writing Program (Iowa University): Christopher Merill (Director), Kelly Bedeian (Senior Program Officer). Department of State. US Embassy in Morocco. Maison Des Institutions Italiennes, Tangier. American Language Center, Casablanca: Richard Martin (Director). American Language Center, Fes: David Armster (Director). ETII: Peter Boller, Founder. Ibn Toufail University: Dean PR.Zerrou. PR.Eddouada. PR.Gouati. Dhar Elmahraz University:PR.Moubtassime. PR.Akdim. Ben M’sik University: PR.Rguibi. PR.Bouziane. Loubna Arrach (Alumni Coordinator at the US Embassy). Mohammed EL WAhabi (Project Coordinator).