Frequently Asked Questions
Who can come on the program?
The program is open to anyone and everyone. You do not have to be a university student.
The most important criterion is “fit.” There are lots of tours out there, with very different orientations. This Illuminated Tours are intended for people who are seriously dedicated to experiencing the richness of a Muslim culture, and want to learn by immersing themselves in the history, literature, religions, art, spirituality, and politics of a place.
Do I have to be enrolled at a university?
No. The Illuminated Tour is a free-standing educational tour, and does not require university participation.
Do I receive academic credit for the trip?
No. The program has no course credit granting (and tuition charging) relationship with any university. That is part of why we are able to offer it as a reduced cost, by not paying university fees. Basically, you receive expert lectures from academics, without having to pay university tuition!
Do I have to be in the United States to participate?
No. We have had participants from many different countries. If you do not wish to start in North America, you can meet us at the beginning date in Marrakesh.
Is there an age requirement?
We have had participants as young as eight years old, and friends in their 70’s come on the program. Children have to be accommodated by their parents/guardians. There is a fair amount of walking involved through small alleys and crowded streets in the "medinas" or old cities of Fez and Marrakesh. Participants have to be fit enough to handle that amount of walking.
Do I have to know Arabic?
No. There is no Arabic requirement, although learning even five words of Arabic will go a long ways towards letting you enjoy the famous hospitality of the Moroccans. Please note that Morocco has a rich linguistic heritage. You will encounter conversations in Moroccan dialect ("darija"), classical Arabic ("fusha"), Berber ("Amazigh") dialects, French, Spanish, and, increasingly, English.
Is there a religion requirement?
No. We have had Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian, Zoroastrian, Agnostic, Atheist participants in this program. We do spend a good bit of time exploring the varieties of the religious traditions in Morocco, and a respectful and open spiritual demeanor in a variety of faith settings is one of the most important qualities needed for participation.
Do I need a visa?
Many nationalities (American, Canadian, European, Arab League, and African Union) can obtain a visa at arrival at the airport. However, please check with your embassy in Morocco to confirm as some nationalities must secure a visa prior to travel.
I am a vegetarian. Will I have a problem?
No! Moroccan food is delicious, and quite varied. There are amazing varieties of vegetarian cuisines.
In addition, for non-vegetarian friends, there is a whole world beyond the usual meat tajines—including vegetarian couscous, salads, seafood, and more.
What kind of places will we be staying in?
Very nice ones! Due to our strong local connections, we are able to negotiate very reasonable rates in some of the most desired hotels in Morocco. All of our accommodations are four-star riads.
What is included?
The program includes: your hotel stay for the entire time in Morocco, your breakfast/brunch every day, your local transport (plane travel between Marrakesh and Fez; local buses), a few of the dinners, all the admission ticket costs, 4-5 hours of on-site lectures by Omid Safi on various aspects of Sufism and Islamic religion, licensed Moroccan tour-guides in Marrakesh and Fez. All accommodation rates are based on double-occupancy.
What’s not included?
Typically, your lunch and some dinners. Your drinks and snacks. Obviously, any souvenir shopping you might want to do is also not included.
Also, since the participants come from different origins, and those airfare costs vary considerably, international airfare is not included. The cost is the "land-only" portion, covering your expenses in Morocco.
How much “free” time do we have?
We will try to make sure that every day there will be about 4-5 hours of unstructured time to give you an opportunity to explore these magical cities on your own.
Any clothing requirements?
In most sites, we will wear long pants or long skirts. In religious sites (churches, mosques, synagogues, shrines), we will not wear shorts and we will also wear sleeves to the wrists. Women will cover their hair in the religious sites, so please ensure you bring a scarf.
What have the experiences of people before been like?
Good question! Check out the “Testimonial” page on this site, to hear from a few dozen participants in the Turkey program over the last dozen years. Here is the link:
When do I have to pay?
A Deposit ($ 1,000 for Morocco; $ 500 for Turkey) is required to guarantee a spot for you. The rest of the full payment is due between 3 and 4 months before the trip begins.
What’s the refund policy?
We have to make arrangements in Morocco for airline and hotel reservations, and as such, require an advance payment for the program. Therefore, all participants will be asked to make a $1,000 non-refundable deposit. If something should come up and your circumstances change, there is a refund policy. You have until 60 days before the trip to get a refund minus the non-refundable deposit. After that time, there will be a partial refund issued.
The refund policy in Turkey is similar: There is a non-refundable $ 500 deposit that will be used to purchase hotel blocks and an internal flight. Up to 60 days before the trip, there is refund available for the expenses minus the deposit. After that time, there is a partial refund issued based on how close to the beginning of the program we are: 60 days, everything but the deposit. 30 days: 50%. Less than 30 days, deposits can only be returned as credit towards a future Illuminated Tours spot.