Over Spring Break, I participated in the Doing Business in (DBi) Morocco and North Africa course in Casablanca and Marrakech, Morocco, which is a 1.5-credit DBi course that enables students to explore how business is conducted in another country and develop a deeper understanding of the issues, opportunities, and challenges faced by businesses operating there. These one-week or two-week intensive programs include classes, corporate visits, speakers, and cultural visits.
The DBi Program plays a significant role in Stern’s globally-focused academic positioning and sense of community. Through DBi, students gain an awareness of the kinds of differences one may find when doing business in other parts of the world. These unique, transformative experiences broaden students’ cultural awareness, change their worldviews, and create a lasting sense of community within their cohorts.
This was my first and only DBi course during my MBA program at Stern and it surpassed every expectation I had, prior to attending the trip. While in Casablanca, we attended lectures at ESCA École de Management on topics ranging from business opportunities in North Africa to the economic, political and legal considerations of Moroccan business models. Highlights of the trip also included corporate visits to Lesieur Cristal as well as a tour of Hassan II Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world.
A group of students and I started the trip a weekend early and traveled to Fez before the program began. Fez is the second largest city in Morocco and one with the most ancient culture and traditions. While in Fez, we toured the ancient medina, and it was incredible to see the way small business owners operate in Morocco, producing and selling their artisanal crafts and wares in the marketplace. It was also amazing to experience Moroccan culture firsthand and to participate in their bargaining way of life, and all of us left the medinas and souks of Morocco with armloads of gifts and souvenirs ranging from spices to scarves to lanterns to rugs to pottery, and more.
After Fez, we headed to Casablanca for the first half of the trip, where we attended lectures at ESCA. Our lectures ranged across Moroccan and North African history and business model evolution, opportunities and challenges of doing business in Morocco and North Africa, business opportunities through hospitality and tourism, and investing in Morocco. But DBi courses are so much more than class time, and we also had cultural visits and tours while in Casablanca, which included: a visit to the Hasan II mosque, the third largest mosque in the world, which was absolutely breathtaking, a Moroccan dinner show complete with belly dancers and traditional Moroccan tagines, and a corporate visit to Lesieur Cristal, and evening downtime where we got to really immerse ourselves in Moroccan food, culture, and nightlife.
We left Rick’s Café (the famous site of the movie Casablanca) behind and headed to Marrakech for the second half of our trip. In Marrakech, we had a lecture in a café on investing in Morocco, held by a Moroccan real estate entrepreneur, and had a corporate visit touring many local artisanal businesses, where candles, soaps, lotions, lights, and ironworks are made and distributed. We also visited the famous and beautiful Jardin Majorelle, which was dedicated by fashion designer and icon, Yves Saint Laurent. In Marrakech, we toured the massive souk and medina and our enthusiastic and involved professor took us for a genuine Moroccan street food meal at one of the best spots in the souk night market.
When we weren’t shopping for crafts in the medina, trying the local cuisine, experiencing the best luxury Morocco has to offer on the terrace at the gorgeous Mamounia hotel, in a rooftop restaurant with a view of Marrakech while sampling local Moroccan Gris, or staying overnight in luxurious, stunning riads, we were forming friendships with each other that will last long after the trip ends. DBi courses allow you to experience life from a new perspective and visit and experience places you would never have otherwise visited or experienced, all while building lasting relationships and creating irreplaceable memories with your fellow Sternies. While the course taught me so much about this often misunderstood, complex, diverse, and immensely interesting part of the world, and the ways in which business is done in the region, I also gained new friends with whom I shared something that cannot be taught or experienced inside the confines of classroom walls on Washington Square, and that is what the DBi experience is all about.