educational tours to Morocco
May 13-22, 2022
Come and join us on our next Illuminated Tour to Morocco, led by Omid Safi & Courtney Erwin!
We are cautiously optimistic that the global situation of COVID-19 may allow us (insha'Allah, God-willing) to resume our tours to Morocco in May 2022. We are now registering interested participants with a deposit.
If you seek to go beyond mere cliches
and instead desire to experience the beating heart of this ancient and sacred tradition
in a way that is gentle, educational, and spiritual, join us.
The goal of these Illuminated Tours is not to merely see the highlights,
but to experience their inner light.
If you are interested, email us at [email protected]Secure your spot
Are you looking for something far beyond common touristic experiences, and getting into the heart of Morocco? Join us!
What do you get by coming on an "Illuminated Tour" instead of going on your own?
Morocco, maybe more than any other culture in the region, is one where immense beauty is hidden on the other side of modest walls. Come with us to explore the inner beauties of this luminous and sacred culture. The inner beauty awaits you...
Come with us on Illuminated Tours to get more out of the experience when you are part of an experience to discuss the inner meanings of the sites, the deeper teachings of the religious traditions, and the fascinating historical context of Morocco, all along being led by someone with over 20 years of bringing groups to these wonder-filled sites of awe and beauty.
When you are in Marrakech...
It is easy to get caught up in the "Red City" touristic aspects, Jama' al-Fana (Jemaa el-Fnaa), and more. Let us go deeper. Come with us to learn about the spiritual teachings of the seven "friends of God", including sages like Jazuli whose works are read all over the Muslim world.
When in our beautiful Riads...
...No chain accommodations here! Stay in these "garden" boutique hotels that give you an aesthetic of having a paradise behind the hustle and bustle of the urban energy of Marrakech.
When walking through the Medina of Fes...
Fes is one of the world's truly great medieval cities, with a layout that has remained largely unchanged for a thousand years. We will visit sacred shrines, and learn about how Moroccan society was build on traditional crafts.
When in Moulay Idriss...
We will do a collective pilgrimage to this ancient shrine, in many ways the beating spiritual heart of Morocco, and learn about the profound and ongoing connection to the Prophet...
Why explore Morocco with us?
Over the last twenty years, about a thousand friends from twenty countries have joined us in these journeys to Turkey and Morocco. These gentle explorations of sacred cultures are designed to rejuvenate your heart and soul, engage the intellect, and refresh the spirit. Our Illuminated Tours to Turkey and Morocco are designed to be a gentle and deep immersion, far beyond touristic headlines and cliches. Our goal is nothing less than learning about the heart of this rich, ancient, and thriving sacred culture, and in the process, your own heart.
Our Tour Leaders:
Omid's love for the traditions of Morocco and Turkey is contagious, and has ignited a love for these sacred places in the hearts of both those new to this place and seasoned travelers alike. He is a professor at Duke University specializing in Islamic spirituality and contemporary thought. Omid has published extensively on the foundational sources of Islam and Sufism.
His Memories of Muhammad is a biography of the Prophet Muhammad. His most recent book is Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition (published by Yale).
Omid is an award-winning teacher, having been nominated ten times for professor of the year awards. On Illuminated Tours, you will receive the same passion for sharing of knowledge and enthusiasm in creating a community.Learn more about Omid
Courtney Erwin has lived in Morocco for over seven years. Her journey "home" began over twenty years ago when she was studying in Madrid and took a trip with friends to Morocco. She was so enchanted with Fes that she told herself she would return to live in its Old City someday. After pursuing degrees in International Affairs, Islamic Studies and International Law, she spent time doing interreligious work in Washington, DC, and New York City, and then moved to Qatar to build an international legal program dedicated to protecting education in conflict zones. When it was time to leave the Gulf, she made her way back to Fes and then to Rabat, the country's capital, where she works with an institute of Islamic scholars; coordinates a transitional justice legal exchange between the US and Morocco; teaches international law; guides retreats; studies Arabic, French, and Sufism; and continues to live a life of adventure and wonder.
What might you get to see & experience?
We will begin our journey together in Marrakech, spend a few days exploring this magnificent city, then go for a magical overnight excursion in a desert oasis, before moving to Fes. Along the way, we will have a stop over in Rabat. In Fes, we will explore the medieval secrets of this magnificent city, and undertake a pilgrimage to Moulay Idriss (Zerhoun). We arrange for all the logistics of your travels inside Morocco. In every city we will combine on-site lectures with evening discussions.
Marrakech is a feast for the senses, and the heart. We will explore institutions of learning such as Madrasa Bin Yusuf (Ben Youssef), explore the ancient Jewish quarter, and visit the iconic Kutubiyya (Koutoubia) Mosque. We will also use our profound connections in Marrakech to explore rarely visited Sufi shrines, and the most extraordinary women's NGO in Morocco, AMAL. At every turn, you will know that you are having access to places that few visitors to Marrakech do.
Fes is a gem. It may well be the world's best preserved medieval medina (traditional Islamic city). The thousand year old city lay out is itself a work of marvel, and will fill you with a sense of awe. You know you are in a place with a different sense of history when you realize that the "New Fes" (Fes el-Jedid) hails from the 13th century. We will visit ancient 14th centuries universities like Madrasa Bou Inania and Attarine. We will look for an old master, the Last Comb Maker, who may be a key for understanding the transmission of sacred arts. Some of us may visit the Qarawwin, which may well be the oldest university in the world--and one founded by a woman. Or the Tijani shrine which is a major pilgrimage center for Sub-saharan Sufi pilgrims. Or who knows, maybe we will visit the very mosque that the great Ibn 'Arabi used for his retreat. And God-willing, we will have a private Sufi ceremony one of our last evenings.
Morocco has a rich connection to the Prophet, including the family of the Prophet. The grandson of Imam Hasan (the Prophet's grandson, the son of Imam Ali and Hazrat Fatima) was the first major Islamic ruler of Morocco. He is buried here, and began a profound connection among the people of Morocco and descendants of the Prophet (Shurafa').
It is hard to pick a highlight for the trip, but our time in the desert might be one. You've never had an experience like this. Imagine a desert oasis that is at once rustic and luxurious. We will sit in the shade of trees, share in sacred conversation, take a dip in the pool for those inclined, and eat a meal cooked on wood fire.
To close the circle, we will have one last dinner together in Fes, before we bid each other farewell. By that time of your departure, we hope that you might agree: you came to see Morocco, but you will leave with deep and meaningful friendships as well.
Let us explore these sacred places together, rejuvenate your soul & make lifelong friends.
Our sacred Caravan - A Word about Group Travel
Some of you are veterans of traveling in a group context, for others this is a new experience. Our programs are by intention intimate, designed to foster a sense of community and collective seeking. Most of our travelers have never traveled in a group before, and you may not have either. But together we can undertake this journey, and insha'Allah make life-long friendships.
It is admittedly an unusual experience, where for a few days you will spend many hours in the company of new friends. Many people, I dare say most, find it extraordinary how friendships can form and deepen in such a short amount of time, and you may well come away with friends for a life-time. Others may become mindful of how they need a few hours each day for private reflection and solitude. There is no one right way, and we will honor each others' needs.
It is the qualities of our journey (openness to cultural exploration, spiritual seeking, and refinement of community) that have attracted our participants. Those common qualities often serve to form meaningful friendships.
We ask all of us to treat our group as a community, and to look out for the welfare of all. These simple acts of kindness go a long way towards making a happier experience for everyone.
Here is one of the lovely hidden gems of our sacred caravan: Many have dreamt of coming to Morocco. In retrospect, they also talk about how meaningful the friendships they have made have come to mean to them well after the safe return home.
*COVID UPDATE: We are cautiously optimistic that the situation of COVID-19 may allow us (insha'Allah, God willing) to resume our Tours to Morocco in May 2022. [We hope to have a separate program to Turkey in June 2022.] Participants will be asked to follow the guidelines of the CDC & WHO, plus the policies of Illuminated Tours. For further details, check the FAQ at the bottom of this page.
Cost & Registration
We are honored you read all the way until here. If this journey sounds like a good fit for you,
we would love to have you email us using the link below to answer any lingering questions and help your get registered.
Cost of Land-only portion, per person, based on double-occupancy:
$1,000 of the above cost is needed as a deposit to secure a place.
Further details about the refund policy are in the FAQ section below.
There is a $1,000 single supplement for those desiring a single room on this journey.
The single rooms are on a limited basis.
Who can come on these tours?
Do I need to have any reading material?
What background do I need to have?
What’s the language of these tours?
I'm not Muslim, and have never traveled to the Middle East / North Africa region. Can I still take part?
What if I am coming alone? Will I be alone?
Can children come?
Steps for registering
What is, and is not, included
Testimonials from past Participants
Over the last twenty years, about a thousand friends from twenty countries have joined us in these journeys to Turkey and Morocco. Here are just a couple of feedbacks from past participants:
Gol Joya J.
"Dr. Omid Safi's Educational Program and Tour was immensely rewarding for me. I had the opportunity to see and do things which would not have been possible otherwise: visits with Sufi scholars, trips to little known mosques and shrines; and learned things I would not have found in a guidebook: insights into historical sites and monuments. Dr. Safi's poetic and mystical commentary brought a whole new meaning to seemingly lifeless objects in museums. In addition to all this, I met a wonderful group of people of all ages, from whom I learned, but also had a really fun trip."
"Luckily, after my initial day of acclimation, Illuminated Tours welcomed me and diverse travelers with open arms. From get-to-know-you orientations, to readings of and about Sufism, to shared family-style Moroccan meals inspired by faith and freshly picked food, our group became like a family over 10 days. Our visits to the shrines of Marrakech and Fes were purposely slow and prayerful, as our guides elaborated the history and religious context for each shrine. We were privileged to share in prayers with several local Islamic communities. And our riads served as serene places for reflection, refreshment, and respite with new friends. Omid and Courtney (...) are patient, kind, generous, inspired, experienced, and knowledgeable -- perfect for such an excursion. (..) Courtney Erwin is a longtime resident of Morocco with degrees and 20 years of experience in international law, Islamic studies, human rights, and interfaith relations. I counted on her for many practical details of my journey, as well as her love of Moroccan culture in all its idiosyncrasies. Thanks to them, I am not only determined to explore Istanbul with Illuminated Tours in the future, but also to explore Morocco again and reinforce the spiritual and cultural lessons of my first trip."
Prof. Tehseen T.
"Prof. Safi considers it a privilege to share his immense knowledge of the aesthetic and historic aspects of the many, many places you experience and people you get to know in these weeks. He has a gift for teaching through stories full of rich anecdotes and much humor. Along with this careful guidance he makes sure that everyone has the space to be their own guide. I learnt so much, from everyone. The entire trip is impeccably organized with the utmost care given to detail."
“This tour was merely the beginning of a lifelong journey of understanding and reflection, I can’t think of a better guide on the path than Omid and Illuminated Tours.”
It would be a joy to share Illuminated Tours with you!
As our Turkish friends say; Ashk Olsun! (May it be filled with love!)
Copyright of Pictures:
Dalā’il al-Khayrāt of al-Jazūlī is from the Royal Library of Morocco, Rabat.