16 Mar 2018
Moqrisset, Morocco
Sustainable Tourism

In northern Morocco, there is a mountainous place called Moqrisset. Its natural beauty is untapped, and greenery weaves a tapestry over the hills. Pools of cerulean blue are flanked with large rocks, and mist hangs in valleys. The region is home to 44 tribes and 10,000 residents, people who are largely cut off from the outside world, and depend on agriculture to make their livelihoods. They cultivate honey, figs, plums, olives, olive oil, and aromatic herbs, yet still struggle with poverty and unemployment.

In Moqrisset, you will also find an inn that looks less like a hotel and more like a hobbit habitat. Built with natural materials like stone, wood, straw, and hemp, the inn blends into its landscape. The furnishings have been made by volunteers using recycled materials such as wood pallets and wheels.

This inn is called Djebli Club, and it is a place where the old and new worlds meet, where knowledge is exchanged instead of money, and where a new form of sustainable tourism has been born.

How Djebli Club was created:

Djebli Club founder Allae Hammioui was born and raised in Berkane, Morocco, and lived there until he was seven, when his family moved to Salé. He went to college at the IFIAG Vocational School, where he studied the administration of computers and networks. He worked at the school for awhile, but kept switching careers.

I changed my job many times because of the ideas that haunted my mind,” says Hammioui. “I worked as a director of training, as a commercial director, and as a consultant. I was trying to find my own path.” In search of his calling, he moved to France, but could not find a rhythm there, either. Eventually, he returned to Morocco.

“I don’t believe we just live to eat and sleep and do basic things,” he explains. “We are all on this Earth because we have our own mission. I thought maybe my mission was helping people, trying to change people’s lives. I wanted to teach people how to find their own path.”

Hammioui knew he wanted to be closer to nature and the land, to encourage people to travel, and to provide economic support to a region that was struggling.

Combining those passions, he founded Djebli Club, a small inn that hosts people from around the world. Guests come to the inn not to pay for a luxury experience, but to really understand the community. In exchange for their stay, they teach.

Each resident of Djebli Club is required to devote two to three hours per day to workshops or trainings for the local community. These trainings are based on a guest’s area of expertise. It is a form of collaborative tourism, where people pay in knowledge rather than in cash.

“If you’re good at marketing, you teach that. If you know architecture, you offer a class on that. It really depends on the person,” adds Hammioui. “Then, the people of the region gain that knowledge so they don’t always have to stay unemployed.”

Djebli Club’s community impact:

Founded in 2015, Djebli Club is already changing lives. Since opening, 800 guests from 18 countries have arrived to stay, learn, and teach. These guests have hosted 150 workshops.

“That’s a direct impact on the people of the region,” expands Hammioui. “At the beginning of the school year [the organization] distributed school bags with needed books. Some of the best students received scholarships. One of them is studying aerospace engineering.”

Djebli Club also hosts ongoing projects, including workshops for children with themes of respect for the planet, citizenship, and human rights. There is a theater day, and a study has been launched into development in Moqrisset.

Karim El Hamri is founder of an NGO called Ta7rir, which aims to solve social problems through art and creativity. He stayed at Djebli Club, and said it was a wonderful experience, providing a calm, eco-friendly place to work.

“I became addicted to it and stayed for one week, to meet people and see what they do there,” he said. “We had the opportunity to organize a graffiti session for the locals, and it was an amazing experience.”

 

El Hamri adds that Djebli Club has a vision to impact local citizens by proposing alternatives for education and soft skills, and by promoting mobility and exchange to bring more talent and opportunity to the region.

Djebli Club aims at showing a model that links entrepreneurship, social work, and ecological work,” he said. “The project promotes inclusivity and cultural exchange, which is exclusive in Morocco and needs to be encouraged.”

Hammioui also hopes this initiative helps advocate humanity, a return to basics, respect for nature, and sharing as an essential part of living together.

“My hope for this project is that it becomes an eco-village that will improve people’s lives,” he says. “Right now, we have four rooms, but in the future I want to have 20 or more. Certain rooms would be for people who want to stay and live, not just visit.”

The project is currently running on crowdfunding support alone. In the future, Hammioui hopes to diversify its funding by opening a shop to showcase local arts and crafts.

“The secret of traveling is that it gives you time to observe, hear, meet, and discover who you really are. To see humanity in each one of us human beings,” Hammioui says. “Traveling made me find myself in nature — a part of me that belongs to the land and that needs to get back to it. We usually miss the fact that we belong to the Earth and that we won’t exist without it.”

 

Learn more about Djebli Club on their Facebook page.

Photos: Courtesy of Djebli Club and Lotfi Souidi

Djebli Club Sustainable tourism
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