Words by Rowena Carr-Allinson
While it might not seem like the most obvious of destinations for a family holiday, Morocco is packed with family-friendly things to do and has such an exotic atmosphere, it’s a must-do for a short-haul sunshine break.
Definitely outside of your usual ‘comfort zone’, the bewitching sights, smells and flavours will have you and the kids smitten, but fear not, the creature comforts are all there – and then some! Thanks to the luxurious resorts, great tour operators and services, travelling to Morocco with kids has never been easier.
THE SOUK’S CHAOS AND COLOURS
There’s nothing like the narrow, chaotic alleyways of the Medina’s souk, bustling with bikes and scooters, mopeds and men, all eager to get somewhere. The crowds mean you need to hold onto younger kids, but the assault on the senses, the colourful, crazy stalls and the buzz of life is something the kids will remember forever. It’s a real-life Aladdin’s cave of goodies, full of slippers, lanterns and toys – plus the odd chameleon or feral kitten zig-zagging through the lanes. Fascinating and mesmerising, you can also book a guide who will make sure you don’t get lost. Older kids will also enjoy the friendly haggling.
THE INCREDIBLE KIDS’ CLUBS
Having travelled all over the world with little ones in tow, the kids’ club facilities are often high on the priority list. Never have I been so impressed. The staff are kind, helpful and creative, while the activities are plentiful. At the five-star Mazagan Resort near El Jadida, Junior was able to go mini- karting within the confines of the club, make the most of an amazing playground, whizz down a slide into a kids’ pool and spend hours creating various arts and crafts, as well as play some video games on top-notch equipment. At the Royal Palm in Marrakech, he played in a beautiful wooden treehouse, hopped over life-size wooden sheep, discovered the joys of the Wii and decorated the turtles’ compound with the cheerful team who became his new best friends. It was too cold for a dip, but they too have a kids’ pool. There’s also a kitchen for cooking classes, with mini-chefs outfits.
THE LEGENDARY PLACE JEMAA EL-FNA
At the heart of Marrakech, the famous Jemaa el-Fna stretches out, packed with human souls and the odd snake charmer. This is where one really gets the sensation of the crossing of ancient trading routes. Some might enjoy a session with a Henna artist, others may prefer a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice or buying some souvenirs. Beware of the photo opportunities with monkeys – not to be recommended, but possibly a useful lesson in how not to treat animals. And, of course, the kids won’t fail to be impressed by the snake charmers, complete with black cobras, baskets and flutes. You don’t see that in Piccadilly Circus every day!
THE EXOTIC GARDENS
Whether you get into the 17 acres of La Mamounia’s pristine gardens, or stick to your resort’s grounds, the exotic flora in Morocco is a sight to behold. Who knew a cactus could provide the kids with such joy? Wander the red gravel alleyways and spot turtles amongst the lily pads. Mazagan, set alongside the beach, is also a trove of interesting flowers, and even the odd free roaming pony. For real beauty, take the kidsto the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, now one of the most visited places in Morocco, where the artist Majorelle created an oasis of vibrant blues and incredible plant life. Most famous as the one-time home of Yves Saint Laurent in the 1960s, children will love ambling through the narrow paths, amidst the giant bamboo, and spotting frogs, lizards and birds between water features.
It wouldn’t be Morocco without spotting a few camels. To ride one, head into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains or to the vast Palm Grove outside town. The gentle giants will take you for a slow, wobbling wander in the deserted landscape. My son loved meeting young camels and hanging out under the tent with a handful of locals. He also liked the traditional tea (poured from great heights) and magic tricks – all in a day’s work for Epic Morocco, who took great care of us and really made it a day to remember!
HORSERIDING ON THE BEACH
Gallop along the wide, empty beach that stretches out as far as the eye can see. At Mazagan, the resort has its own tidy stables a few steps away from the 7km long sandy beach. Beautiful creatures await for you to become ‘le cavalier’ for an hour or more. You can ride in groups or go for a one-on-one ride with the instructor. Kids can ride from the age of five on one of their smaller ponies.
THE PRACTICAL CHILD-FRIENDLY SERVICES ON OFFER
Don’t want to pack the pram? Not to worry, resorts like Mazagan will loan you one on the spot, while outside tour operators like Epic Morocco will provide baby car seats for your transfers. With a little forward-planning, a lot of the hassle can be taken out of travel.
FINDING LUXURY ON A BUDGET
“Kids go free” is a wonderful thing! At Mazagan, the kids’ clubs are free and the baby club will even organise pureés and soups for lunchtime at no extra charge. Ditto at the Royal Palm in Marrakech, where kids under five eat for free at the kids’ club – and the food is out of this world! On the menu: delicious tender chicken filets, classic pasta, smoked salmon finger sandwiches, skinny fries and awesome mousse ‘au chocolat’.
THE RELAXED ATTITUDE
Yes, of course security is important, but sometimes it’s nice to live a little without the restrictive rules and regulations that have become our every day. For example, it’s totally cool for Daddy to take a five-year-old quad biking in the dunes – with a helmet, of course, but somehow I doubt that would happen back home…
Euripides said travel is an education in itself, and there’s no doubt that travel broadens the mind, but also the tastebuds. Give the kids some credit and let them try new flavours. You’d be surprised how easily a mild, curried chicken skewer goes down, a couscous and even a tagine – never mind the local crispy pancake, like M’smmen smothered in honey, or the delicious crumpet-like breakfast Beghrir. The freshly squeezed orange juice available at every corner is almost worth making the trip for alone.
THE LOCAL’S FRIENDLINESS
We’ve heard it all before. Every country claims to have the most hospitable people, but the Moroccans are extraordinarily friendly and welcoming, especially of children. Their indulgence for kids knows no bounds, which means that whatever the situation, you’ll get a friendly smile and, even better, a helping hand. Having the children with you is a surefire way to break the ice and cut across cultural differences because, kids are all the same, wherever you are, and that shared knowledge creates an instant human bond.
THE VERY EXPERIENCE OF TRAVEL
To be fair, this can be applied to any destination, but the great thing about Morocco is that it really feels like an adventure. Even if you stay within the confines of a luxury resort, with all its easy (and very welcome) amenities and luxuries, the children will get a taste of something very different from home. And the best bit? They make your journey more fun by helping you to see everything through fresh eyes, never jaded or blasé. Their naïve joy is a pleasure to see and infectious – possibly the best reason to take them…anywhere!