If you thought Morocco was just for adventurous types, think again. Today this is a hugely popular destination offering the whole family a holiday full of adventure and exotic culture. Its bustling souks, ancient kasbahs, rugged mountains and endless desert dunes gives everyone something to enjoy. Here are my tips on making this a family holiday to remember.
Planning your trip
With the bustling crowds and colours of its ancient cities and the vast, magnificent beaches of the Atlantic coast and long distances in between, it’s a good idea to plan your trip in advance. It’s a question of Agadir vs Marrakech – in Agadir, you can enjoy modern, luxurious resorts, together with six miles of golden sands, or head to Marrakech for history and culture, as well as the majestic Atlas Mountains on its doorstep.
Where to stay
Wherever you stay, you’re guaranteed an extremely warm welcome. Marrakech has plenty of family-friendly hotels both inside its historic medina and surrounding areas, and there are all-inclusive hotels and resorts dotted along the country’s coastline. For an authentic experience, families can stay in a riad – a traditional, elegant Moroccan home built around a central courtyard. Of course, nothing brings the family together more than camping overnight in the desert dunes with a camp fire and traditional music.
Marrakech is a feast of sights, sounds and smells. Ancient monuments including its mosque and the medina are not to be missed, along with the spectacular Bahia Palace. Take an hour’s drive and reach the foothills of the Atlas Mountains to explore traditional mud-walled towns. Essaouira is a charming old fortified fishing town with ideal conditions for windsurfing. And there are many architectural and cultural highlights with day trips to Casablanca and Fes, medieval Meknes and old fortress Agadir Kasbah. Everyone will feel like they’ve hit Hollywood at Ouarzazate – the setting for films such as Gladiator, and the gateway to the Sahara Desert. Plus kids will love nearby ancient desert settlement Ait Ben Haddou, as seen in Game of Thrones.
Embrace a new culture
There is a natural history lesson at every turn in Morocco. Many of its ancient ruins have an amazing history stretching back centuries – royal tombs from the 16th century, ancient dungeons at El Badi Palace and huge Roman city Volubilis to bring it to life. Morocco’s indigenous people, Berbers, still speak their own language and have kept their traditional way of life alive. You’ll soon open your children’s eyes eating with a local family, seeing bread baked the traditional way or visiting a local school. Trying out a few words in French or Arabic will have everyone smiling, but a few lines of Berber and you’ll make friends for life.
Build a spirit for adventure
There is no end to family adventure in Morocco. Trekking and biking in the Atlas Mountains with smaller children riding on donkeys is a great way to experience the authentic, rural side of the country. And there’s plenty of opportunities to raft down rivers or learn to surf off the Atlantic coast. Wander through the Toubkal National Park for a sense of the wilderness, or sandboard down gigantic Saharan dunes for an exhilarating experience. Make a camel your main form of transport and join a caravan of camels and guides, stopping off for mint tea, Berber storytelling and music in the dunes.
Eating out and shopping
During your holiday in Morocco, you must try the delicious food. Many dishes are fragrant and mild that children will love and at very little cost. Traditional fare is tagines, tender meat slowly cooked in an earthenware pot with aromatic couscous and vegetables. Other favourites are gazelle horns, a hard-shelled pastry filled with almond paste or traditional meat pie, a pastilla. And Moroccans love their sweet mint tea.
The family will love browsing and haggling in Morocco’s many souks and stall-lined alleyways where you’ll find everything from brightly dyed slippers and mounds of spices to delicate jewellery and handwoven carpets, often surrounded by snake charmers, jugglers, flame throwers and acrobats.
From striking landscapes, delicious food to the effervescent nature of its people, Morocco has all the right ingredients for a fantastic family holiday.
Feature photo by Hollywood Reporter