My senses were piqued in Morocco. The sights, smells, sounds and tastes were different and extraordinary—at times even overwhelming in all their newness. My family had come to Morocco looking for a different kind of family vacation, and we weren’t disappointed. There was something for us all in this North African country to marvel at and enjoy. Here’s a look at some highlights of visiting Morocco with kids.
Djemaa el Fna Square
This main square in the old medina of Marrakech was alive with exciting sights: snake charmers, women painting henna, wandering colorfully-dressed men selling water from their dangling, musical cups. Decide beforehand if you want your children to get henna tattoos; they will be asked a lot!
We had several tasty meals at the cafes lining the square, and our favorite was actually above us. The rooftop restaurants were a welcome escape from the crowds and the view across the city to the mountains a beautiful backdrop to our pigeon pie and chicken tagine.
We also enjoyed visiting the Marrakech Museum, just off the square. It is a beautiful old palace, the tiles and fountains full of vibrant colors and patterns, and the courtyard was a relaxing place for mint tea.
Shopping in the Souks
The souks are a traditional covered Moroccan market, full of the everyday as well as the bizarre. We gave our daughters each some pocket money and they learned about negotiating prices and choosing carefully. The first treasure spotted at one stall was quickly forgotten as soon as another trinket caught their attention.
Know before you go that the souks are a maze of tiny alleys and it is very easy to get lost. Local guides may offer to show you out for a fee or take you by way of their cousin who’s selling carpets. Though it can be worrisome, it’s all part of the experience and economy in the souks.
Over the Atlas Mountains
After two days in Marrakech, we left the city behind and traveled over the Atlas Mountains into the heart of Morocco. We hired a guide who drove us and spoke English and became a friend by the end of the journey. The highlight was a thoughtful home-cooked meal at his parents’ home, the men in one room, us women and children in another. The many aunties fussed over my daughters and ensured they learned how to form their couscous into bite-sized balls with their right hand.
The Berber culture was prevalent in the countryside, and I smiled to see the women laughing and tending sheep in the fields, a nearby campfire heating a pot of tea. We stopped at a village guest house for the first of many wonderful meals of cous cous and conversation with the owners. Everyone along the several days journey was friendly and hospitable.
Camel Trekking in the Sahara Desert
One of our favorite experiences was riding camels into the Sahara and camping in Bedouin tents. It did get a little nerve-racking after about two hours, when I realized we were lost, but all was well in the end and a roaring campfire, millions of stars and another flavorful tagine awaited us.
Taking Unfamiliar Paths
As with all new experiences, there can be some anxiety involved. Morocco pushed our travel limits and guided our family to explore unfamiliar paths. Once we found our landmarks in the medina and learned our way around its winding streets, we felt more comfortable. We had heard stories about being harassed to buy or use a guide, but we found little of that. Know that if you are taking pictures of performers in the square, they expect a tip. Children giving you items also expect a tip. Marrakech has become a popular tourist destination with Europeans and tourism is a large part of the economy. While some of our experiences were stressful, I never felt unsafe, and pushing ourselves to try new things was what it was all about for our family.
I do recommend a private guide if you tour south and into the Sahara. Having someone navigate the roads, translate, and bring their home country alive for us was priceless. I highly recommend the travel guide we used, Journey Beyond Travel. They put together an amazing itinerary in Southern Morocco for our family. This was our first experience using a travel guide and it made for a unique and intimate experience that we will always treasure.
My entire family carried home lasting memories from our experience in Morocco. My 10-year-old’s favorite part: the food. My husband’s: buying wine in a back alley, speakeasy type establishment in Zagora. Mine: the drive over the Atlas Mountains, through the Berber countryside… and the tagine my husband carried home so I could attempt to duplicate the cooking. As for my six-year-old daughter, she wants to have her entire family go to Morocco again for her tenth birthday to ride camels together. It’s good to have dreams, especially ones involving camels and Bedouin tents in a magical Sahara desert.
Would you visit Morocco with kids? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!
Dee Andrews and her family recently returned to Boulder, Colorado after living in Spain for a year. You can read about her family’s experiences moving and living abroad, traveling throughout the Mediterranean, and embracing change at Travel and Travails, www.travelandtravails.com.You can see more photos of the Andrews’ journey in Morocco by clicking here.