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The faces of landscape


The workshop “The Faces of Landscape” was implemented some years ago within the context of promoting the internationalisation of geography studies and reinforcing their applicability. It is offered as an optional subject worth 6 credits for 3rd and 4th year students of the Bachelor's degree in Geography, Town and Country Planning and Environmental Management. Since its inception, the subject has varied, as it is subsidised by European collaboration grants with other universities. Below, we offer you a summary of the current project, which consists of a 10-day trip to Morocco, this year in its second edition, in addition to a summary of former projects organised under the subject carried out in countries like Finland, Poland and Slovakia

More information on the subject


Morocco 2019

Like the previous year, this subject focused on Morocco. In 2019, 11 students in the third and fourth years of bachelor's degrees, 4 doctoral thesis students and the teacher of the subject, Josep Vila, took part.

The trip took place between 22 September and 1 October, and the itinerary was similar to the previous year's. The focus on the first and a large part of the second day was the city of Tangiers and its surrounding area, a very well developed area economically with Renault and Nissan plants, newly-formed cities, non-stop building works -a constant companion for most of the trip- and Tangier MED 1 and 2, a major port for both the Mediterranean and the entire African continent, and still under expansion. The itinerary took in the fortified Ceuta on the way to the second destination, Tangiers, a stopping off point on the way to Chauen, known as the blue city. There, Fatima Bouchmal, conservator of the city’s citadel, explained its history and how tourism is having positive repercussions on the city. The following day took in Fes, spiritual capital of Morocco and home to the biggest medina in the Arab world. The students spent two days there hosted by a teacher from Fes University in Laouanne. After immersing themselves in culture, the students turned to immersing themselves in nature, in Iframe National Park in the Middle Atlas, with its cedar forests (Cedrus Atlantica), including the most ancient cedar in the world (which died in 2003), Gouraud. On crossing the high volcanic plateaus the party reached the gorges of the river Ziz in a landscape of contrasts, including the famous palm groves. The following day, the students went on by dromedary to the spectacular Merzouga desert, where they spent the night before going to the tourist capital of Morocco, Marrakesh, having crossed the country from east in west. During the trip, the students were able to enjoy some spectacular landscapes, including a gorge with vertical walls way over 70m high and the citadel of Aït well Haddou where series such as Game of Thrones and films like Gladiator were filmed. The landscapes did not finish there because to get to Marrakesh the party had to go along a road considered as one of the most beautiful in the world, where it was time to leave the mobile phone a while and look out the window. In this last destination, where they spent two days like in Fes, the students were also accompanied by local geography teachers.

In this subject, each student had to previously prepare a subject of their interest about the country and make a short presentation of it during the trip. Later, the subject matter chosen had to be further developed, consolidated by what they had learned during the trip, along with a personal diary explaining any pertinent experiences and reflections. In all, an unforgettable and enriching experience recommended to all bachelor's degree students. Learning about a territory’s geography is not something we do every day and so going to another country for a few days is a priceless experience. 

Morocco 2018

From 14 to 24 October 2018, a group of ten students and two members of the teaching staff at the Department of Geography took part in a study trip to Morocco in collaboration with geographers from Abdelmalek Essaâdi University in Tétouan and Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Fes. The trip was organised as part of The Faces of Landscape / Les Cares del Paisatge subjectThe Faces of Landscape , which has been taught as part of the internationalisation of Geography studies for the past 12 years.

As we know, travel has been a fundamental instrument in geographical knowledge since time immemorial. This participatory subject covers a holistic interpretation of geographical knowledge, incorporating both the human and the physical side of complex and diverse Moroccan landscapes. The trip started with a visit to the mythical city of Tangiers in the north of Morocco and a look at the Iberian coast from Morocco. The second day focused on economic development and landscape transformations on the outskirts of Tangiers, looking in particular at the urban case study of the Tanger Med megaport and urban expansion. This was accompanied by a guided tour of the outskirts of the enclave of Ceuta and the dynamic and changing Martil coastline, finally taking the group to the ancient capital of the Spanish protectorate, Tétouan. The third day saw participants take a guided tour of the city of Chefchaouen, known as the blue pearl of the Rif region. Later, attention shifted to the city of Fes, Morocco's spiritual capital, and its extraordinary Medina, a World Heritage Site. Next, the trip took attendees to the Natural Heritage site that is the Middle Atlas Mountains, as well as to the city of Azrou and the cedar forests (Cedrus atlantica). After spotting macaques (Macaca sylvanus), the group crossed the volcanic and arid high plateaus to reach the High Atlas Mountains, following the Ziz Gorges. These arid landscapes are a stark contrast to one of the more exuberant and complex cultural landscapes: the palm groves. The trip was rounded off with a visit to one of the most spectacular dunescapes in the country, Erg Chebbi. The return journey took the visitors to one of the most famous traditional cities in the region, the Ksar of Aït Ben-Haddou, which was the starting point to again cross the High Atlas Mountains through the Tichka pass (2,260 m). This route led the group to Morocco's tourist capital, Marrakesh, which captivated everyone until it was time to head back home after 11 intense days of study and new experiences.

The projects and specific thematic contributions of students as they draft works on various aspects and cities of Morocco complement the contributions of the Moroccan teaching staff. The new knowledge gained will be consolidated in a trip journal combining acquired knowledge and shared experiences.

group photo

Photo of the group at the airport

Ksar of Aït Ben-Haddou

The Faces of Landscape 2017 - 2018: Towards Low Carbon Societies in Joensuu, Finland.

The 2017 – 2018 edition of The Faces of Landscape, to being completed in Poznan last year, has returned to Joensuu this year within the framework of the European project Erasmus+ Towards Low Carbon Societies.

Between 4 and 16 February, two teachers and eight students from 3rd and 4th years of the bachelor's degree in Geography, Land Planning and Environment Management at the Universitat de Girona, took part in this project in the Finnish city of Joensuu.

Three academic institutions (University of Girona, University of Eastern Finland, Adam Michiewicz University) and organisations linked to territorial organisation have worked together with the aim of creating and promoting professionalizing educational structures to meet the challenge of progressing towards a low carbon society  in the area of land uses and landscape to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climatic change.

group photo on an excursion with snowshoes

group photo in a snowy meadow

group in a cookery class

the audience during a talk

You can follow the 2017-18 version of The Faces of Landscape through the project’s different social networks accounts:

Former projects

The Faces of Landscape in Morocco

Once the European stint was completed, the subject moved to Africa. To discover a very different reality to the one that we are accustomed to, with landscapes full of contrasts and a very characteristic culture, over the course of 10 days in the first semester of 2015, “The Faces of Landscape” was carried out for the first time in Morocco. The 2015 edition was a success, will be repeated again in 2016.

 group photo strolling through the sand dunes in the desert with a camel

Participating pupils have to prepare an essay linked to an aspect of Morocco, which must also be presented orally to their classmates (for example, the protected spaces in Morocco, biogeography of Morocco, economic geography of Morocco, agriculture in Morocco, about some of the iconic areas: the Atlas mountain range, the Erg Chebbi dunes, the Rif, and so on; the evolution of the political situation, religion, the role of the Spanish protectorate, etc.). Furthermore, students must keep a travel diary/write up a personal report, summarising all the information/notes from talks and presentations made by colleagues in addition to the graphic elements that each student considers important: maps, photos, etc.

map of Morocco with a dotted line marking the itinerary of stops

2016 itinerary:

  • Thursday 21 April: TANGIER (teacher to be confirmed)
  • Friday 22 April: TETOUAN (teacher Chikhi and Boulifa, University of Tetouan)
  • Saturday 23 April: TETOUAN - CHEFCHAOUEN. (Ms. Fatima Bouchmal, curator of the historic citadel)
  • Sunday 24 April: CHEFCHAOUEN - FEZ 
  • Monday 25 April: FEZ (teacher Mohamed Laaouane, University of Fez)
  • Tuesday 26 April: FEZ - AZROU - IFRANE
  • Wednesday 27 April: IFRANE - MERZOUGA
  • Thursday 28 April: MERZOUGA - AIT BEN HADDOU
  • Friday 29 April: AIT BEN HADDOU – MARRAKESH
  • Saturday 20 April: MARRAKESH (teacher Hassan El Mbarki, University of Marrakesh)
  • Sunday 1 May: return (to Barcelona)


Country of contrasts, unforgettable experience

The subject The Faces of Landscape, imparted on the Bachelor's Degree in Geography, took place this year in Morocco where, over the course of 10 days, enrolled students were able to see the face of this African country.

The journey across Morocco as part of The Faces of Landscape he reached its conclusion. Header by professor Josep Vila and Carla Garcia, a doctoral student at the Department of Geography, the 10 enrolled pupils arrived in the African country on Thursday 21 May, atTangiers airport, to visit the city known as the Moroccan Babel given the wide variety of languages and cultures. Here, they experienced their initial contact with the reality of the country, and no less important, food: harira, couscous and tagine.

On the second day of the trip, three teachers from the University of Tetuan guided an interesting tour from Tangiers to Tetuan, stopping on the way in one of the new planned cities to receive the manpower required by the large industries in the north of Morocco, including Renault-Nissan. The great port infrastructures close the Strait of Gibraltar (Tanger Med), the city of Ceuta and the terrestrial border with Spain and the marshes of Martil, were just a few of the stops. 

In Tétouan, students enjoyed a thrilling visit to the MedinaOne of the ones best preserved in Morocco. Dinner was at the Casa de Espana, and breakfast in the Ensanche district, while at Hotel Africa, students could sample a relaxing tea and typical Moroccan whisky (tea with mint). The expedition set off towards Chefchaouen from the big Royal Palace of Mohammed VI, stopping on the way at some old Spanish barracks that presided over one of the great valleys of the Rif.

group photo

When they arrived in Chefchaouen, the 12 travellers were left amazed. The blue pearl of the Rif wholly lives up to its nickname. Fatima Bouchmal offers a tour of the citadel of the city, before showing students some of the most beautiful corners of the patchwork of blue alleys. In the afternoon, the students enjoyed wonderful panoramic views of the city from a Mosque.

The following day, on the way to Fez, they crossed the former border between the Spanish and French Protectorate, and traversed different agricultural areas offering amazing landscapes similar in many ways to those we are accustomed to at home. Having arrived in Fez, professor Mohamed Laaouane from the University of Fez offered a guided tour of the different streets and trade areas in the spiritual capital of Morocco; students visited traditional ironmongers, a balcony to look at the dye pits before treating the host to fried fish lunch on the outskirts of the biggest Medina in Morocco.

Leaving the flatlands behind, a new day started heading towards the Middle Atlas mountain range towards Ifrane National Park, home to the coolest area in Morocco. Once in French Switzerland, they discovered cedar forests, and more importantly, their hosts: the Barbary macaque. From Ifrane, the group headed off on the most spectacular journey on account of the amazing contrast on offer: the desert forests.

After crossing the oasis of the Valley of the Ziz, having arrived in Merzouga, Mohammed presented the local means of transport: camels. Once aboard, the 12 adventurers headed into the dunes of Erg Chebbi in Merzouga (Sahara Desert). They spent the night under a spectacular starry sky, with dunes as far as the eye could see. Finally, after watching the sun rise, it was time to head back on the camels to Merzouga before hitting the road with Halib, our driver.

landscape photo of dunes in the desert - at the bottom the group’s shadows can be seen on the desert sand

Once the group arrived in the province of Ouarzazate, they came across the largest Thermosolar Plant in the world, and after seeing the huge studies of African Hollywood, they arrived in Aït Ben Haddou to spend the night there and to explore the city of mud the following morning. On the way to Marrakesh, they crossed the High Atlas at Col du Tickha, at an altitude of 2,260 meters.

And so, the last city visited was touristic capital of Morocco, where Hassan El Mbarki, a professor at the University of Marrakesh, organised an interesting route. Finally, on Sunday morning after having discovered the main square, Djemà-el-Fna, and its touristic atmosphere, it was time to head home bringingthe best subject that according to the 10 students they have ever studied and will ever study, to a close.

Border landscape across Europe

In 2009-10, the project received support from an Erasmus Intensive Programme involving the University of Presov (Slovakia), consequently undergoing a change in format and name, going on to being called The Faces of Landscape. In spring 2010, geography students from the three universities completed a workshop, under the direction of professor Josep Vila, in Girona. The following year, the workshop was held in Joensuu (now known as the University of Eastern Finland) before being carried out at the University of Presov in 2011-12.

To get an idea of the activities carried out in editions held abroad, consult the following videos:

Landscape Workshops in Joensuu and Girona

Imparted as a joint optional subject as part of Geography studies at the University of Joensuu (Finland) and the Universitat de Girona, the subject was first offered in 2006-07 as a landscape workshop. For three years, students spent a week in Girona and another in Joensuu, completing fieldwork and analysing the evolution of the landscape from a historical point of view and with a comparative perspective. 

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