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Go traveling with kids in Magical Morocco

October 11, 2010

On the first morning in Morocco my kids looked out of the window. “Everything is red!” they were shouting. Indeed, all the houses were red, the sand was red, magical….

Kasbah Ouarzazate

Morocco, one of the best examples of geographical diversity. Landscape of mountains, plains, dessert and oases, Morocco is still undiscovered territory for many travelers. The country is also home to a diversity of cultures: African, Islamic, Arab and European.

You might think that it’s not the most ideal place to travel with children. On the contrary, Morocco is one of the best destinations for you and your kids!

OK, I admit, in the beginning I also had some fears. It was the first time traveling with kids aged 4 and 6 years and Morocco is such a totally different world. But after reading my story you will be rest assured: Morocco is great and people are so friendly: go there with your kids!

Here are some tips when traveling to Morocco with kids:

  • Wander through Aït Benhaddou, location of great Hollywood movies.
  • Book hotels with a swimming pool (kids need to play after a long day out)
  • Visit Marrakech with its famous Djemaa El Fna square and horse carriages.
  • Watch the fishing boats return from their sea trips at Essaouira and go for a beach ride on a camel!
  • Don’t try traveling the whole country, focus on a specific region like we did (from Ouarzazate to Marrakech, ending up at the Atlantic coast in Essaouira).


morocco_map

Gazing at a different world

Waking up on the first morning after a late arrival. Opening the doors, one step outside on the balcony. Children become silent. This is a totally different world! Different smells, climate, sights and sounds…..now you know you have made the right decision…

Our travel starts in Ouarzazate, in the middle of the country, 200kms east from Marrakech. This is the threshold of the mighty Sahara desert. When we drive out of the city, our children keep gazing at the landscape: a combination of Monument Valley, the moon and the Sahara. This is absolutely not like home!

Tip 1 Visit the ancient town of Aït Benhaddou

After a beautiful drive along oases and kasbahs, we arrive at the ancient town of Aït Benhaddou. This is Unesco World Heritage and the place were movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and Alexander have been shot.

The town is build against a hill. The beautiful thing with children is to wander around its small and narrow streets. People actually still live here, so you can watch daily life. Play hide and seek and have fun!

Don’t forget to climb all the way to the top of the hill. The view is really breathtaking! Give your children their own bottle of water, they need to learn to be responsible for drinking enough water.

Ait Benhaddou

Tip 2 Book hotels with a swimming pool

Obvious, but important in these parts of the country. After a long day in the desert, children need to cool down and play of course. Book hotels with a swimming pool. Wash away the dust and have fun!

Also, when driving, take your time, get out of your car and let the landscape have its impact on you and your children.

Mountain road at Dades valley

Tip 3 Move through the bustling city of Marrakech

Marrakech is a city of taxis (petit taxis!). Let the children wave them down, they love it!

Make sure that on the way back to your hotel, you step in one of the many horse carriages. Riding in open air you can smell the city (yes, that’s part of the experience as well!).

There is so much to see in Marrakech: the Medina with all its shops and handicraft and the Djeema El Fna square with artists and musicians. The square really comes to life at night when it turns to one big open air restaurant!

Marrakech Koran school

Medina Marrakech

A great sight seeing tip is Ben Youssef Medersa Islamic School. Beautiful architecture, described in my post on this Hidden Treasure of Marrakech.

Visit the Majorelle Gardens, a truly peaceful haven in this busy city. Your children can really come to rest here. Don’t forget to drink your Moroccan tea!

Majorelle Gardens Marrakech

Moroccon tea

Marrakech is also famous for its white storks. We were surprised how many storks nested in the middle of the city. The children counted more than 30 when we paused for a drink!

Storks on kasbah

After the desert and the big city of Marrakech we traveled to the Atlantic coast (only a 3-hour drive). We spent our final days in the fishing town of Essaouira of which the Medina is also listed as an Unesco World Heritage.

Tip 4 Watch the fishing boats return from their fishing trips

That’s all excitement! In the town of Essaouira, sea-gulls are screaming while fishing boats find their place on the quayside and fishermen call out for help carrying fish (and of course claiming to have caught the best fish of the day!). Children love it! They watched tons of fish being unloaded and even posed on a picture with their Fishermen Friends!

View on Essaouira Fishermen Friends at Essaouira

Boats in Essaouira

Tip 5 The camel ride on the beach

My youngest son thought it somewhat scary at first, but after a couple of minutes you enjoy the waves of the sea, the salty smell, the sun on your skin and the endless, empty beach, all from the back of your own camel! What a great experience!

Afraid of camels - Essaouira beach Camel ride on the beach - Morocco

People everywhere in Morocco are so friendly. And I have to admit, when you travel with children doors open that normally stay closed. People love children, everywhere. Bringing your children to people’s home country is seen as a compliment.

Are you convinced? Don’t hesitate! Traveling with children is a great experience. They will be stunned about the different world out there, and you about the way they adopt to different cultures and people! It’s an experience they will never forget, for sure…

Light Morocco Moroccan door

This story was first published in March 2010 as a guest post on Cumidanciki.com. Thanks to Mei for supporting me and providing me that very first opportunity to write about my travel experiences.

On 11 October this post has been promoted to Freshly Pressed on WordPress.com.
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From → Africa

90 Comments
  1. great post! cannot get enough of it! LOL

  2. dear emiel & family, many thanks for this – only just came across it via a link from lonely planet. this is very much the type of helpful information those of us looking to travel with little children, but who are a bit unsure. in our case, we also have a 4 year old and morrocco is certainly on the list; we’re just unsure of where to go and indeed when would be best/easiest. do keep it up, and thanks again. best wishes.

    • I am happy to read that you have the intention to start traveling with your 4 year old child. 4 years old seems very young, but small children have far less problems adapting to the situation. More importantly, traveling with children opens doors that stay closed for other ones. Local people you meet are so happy that you brought your whole family to their country. Enjoy your travels!

  3. Great photos, and what a great way to make memories with your children. They’ll cherish that forever 🙂

    • Thanks Country Man’s Wife!
      Loved your post on South Dakota Summer nights, beautifully written. Just subscribed to your blog as well.

  4. Gina Mortenson permalink

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed…loved your post. The photo of your kids with their fishermen friends is priceless! Were you sure that the guy holding your son wanted to give him back? 🙂 Definitely going to put Morocco on our family travel list!

    • Thanks Gina, Freshly Pressed was indeed quite a surprise, an amazing effect! That Fisherman photo is indeed priceless..we had so much fun..

  5. Modern Funk permalink

    Love the photos. Very nice!

  6. Man, your kids are lucky! What a great thing to expose them to at such a young age. I’m sure it was very enriching for all of you — and in ways you might not fully understand for years to come.

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

    • Crystal, nice reading your comment. I know that indeed “we want it all”, especially travel experiences. For us these travels are indeed investments. Investments in life enrichment, learning about other cultures and fun!

  7. Looks wonderful! I have to go there someday…

  8. Wow what an amazing and enlightening experience to give your children. I feel we keep our children too safe these days and do not allow them to be world citizens as they were encouraged to be many years ago. Your pictures are fabulous and you have piqued my interest in Morocco. I know one day soon my son and I will see this rich culture for ourselves and i cannot wait to see our pictures as yours are fantastic – thanks for sharing

    • Good luck with your travel plans Amber. Show Riley the world! Indeed they need to become world citizens to better understand how it works on this planet.

  9. Sunflowerdiva permalink

    What an awesome way to spend a vacation! After reading this and seeing your great pictures, I’ve added Morocco to my list of “places to the visit.” Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed!

    • Thanks, unique teenage New Yorker! Great blog you have, do you have a Twitter account?

  10. I love that storks nest on the buildings — adorable!

    • Thanks Joy. These storks were indeed amazing. They kind of gave us a relaxed feeling. Their gentle way of floating in the air….

  11. sayitinasong permalink

    Great pics… Morocco has always been one of my “must visit” lists…loved the pic of your kids with the fishermen!

    • Keep Morocco on your must-visit list! And tell us later about the song that goes with that experience 🙂

  12. You’ve been up in in the mountains? 🙂 I so the pic – looks fantastic.

    Best regards

    • Hi Lenny, we indeed went up in the mountains. That area is fantastic, the nature scenery is stunning.

  13. Wonderful post, wonderful photos. My husband live briefly in Tangier while in high school, and we do plan to get there in the next couple years.

  14. hawright07 permalink

    Holli Wright

    I loved reading this post and learning about the different sites in Morocco. I think that it is very important to get kids into different cultures and allow them to see what life is like for other people. This seemed like a great place to bring your family and teach them about the different architecture and lifestyles. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Holli, indeed Morocco is such a totally different culture. And for us Europeans very close by! That makes it an ideal destination to show your kids.

  15. I visited Morocco a couple of years ago and it’s really really beautiful!

  16. I have only been to Casablanca so far, and only for 1 day, but I remember it as very lively and colourful! Definitely want to travel more and your article provides valuable advice.
    Thanks!

  17. How very refreshing to read about others who introduce world travel to their kids at an early age! I adore the way your children look so happy in these images. Great post, well done!
    Hope you’ll drop by and check out the discoveries we’ve done with our little ones in tow… here’s one about Morocco (we’ve literally been stepping in each other’s footsteps!)
    http://photito.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/magic-in-morocco/

    • Magic in Morroco indeed! Your blog looks great, I really love your photography. The circus, the Cairo tea house. Glad to see you here, as one of the ‘travel-with-kids’ promotors 🙂

  18. Thank you, it is great post & great photos. My uncle visited Morocco & tells me about it. really, it has a beautiful nature. Your post & photos make me I wish to visit it. Something else about Moroccan tea (green tea),i want to say that this tea is very benefits for health & weight loss if you want to know about his benefits you can visit my blog
    Best regards

  19. This is great! I’m so happy to see traveling with children put into a positive light. I don’t have a family yet, but it seems like people always tell me that exploring the world with little ones isn’t doable. You’ve proven them wrong!

    All these ideas look fantastic for traveling singles too!

  20. how about language?..n food?
    I plan to be there in couple of years..

    • Dear Hayadith,
      Hope you can make it in a couple of years. People mostly speak French and the food, well, it’s great! I love to try local dishes, it’s always an experience..

  21. Great trip! Such an interesting site to see! Indeed those buildings look red. Why is that so? Hmmm, I might try to google it… hehehe 🙂

  22. I love your photos. It simply shows how beautiful Morocco is…And Yes, it is all red. 🙂

  23. this is the great images and places thnks i realy appriciated

  24. Lovely! Thank you for sharing – Morocco has been on our list and this is helpful for our planning!

  25. Is nice in Marroco, i was there and it’s a wonder of planet.

  26. We are absolutely going to Morocco. How funny and ironic that I announced loud in our kitchen only recently “we are going to Morocco someday” and my hubby, who is a world traveler with me as you know Emiel, turned around and looked suspiciously at me and said, “hmm why!!? we shall have to see”….Now I have this blog post to present to him – if it’s safe for kids – and such adorable cuties you have…..! Thanks for a fantastic post. You wrote it in such a great helpful format for those who wish to visit. KEEP IT UP!!!!

    • Farnoosh, you tell your hubby that Morocco is now on the top of your list! Coincidence doesn’t exist…
      Yes, aren’t they cute 🙂

  27. Lovely journey… It would be unforgetable vacation for u n ur children.. Love the photos.. I hope i can be there some time. 🙂

  28. This looks fantastic!

  29. Wow, I wish I could be there …
    I’ll enjoy their food …

  30. Morocco is indeed a wonderful place! I went there and brought back home a beautiful, totally different and unexpected experience. It really blew me away! Did you guys visit Tangiers? The beaches there are absolutely breathtaking!

    • Hi C! Love your bucket of words 🙂 Glad you share the same mindblowing experience. We did not visit Tangiers, but thanks for the tip. I’m sure we will go back a second time.

      • Thanks! Yup! Be sure to visit Tangiers! And tell us all about your 2nd trip to Morocco! 🙂 Looking forward to your next post! 🙂

  31. I want to be there in this winter ..
    God help me with my finance lol

  32. nahniku permalink

    Thank for the tips but i am still afraid to go there 😀

  33. Thanks for sharing this – we’re about to start international travel with our three kids aged 3,5 and 7, so seeing this post is very inspiring. Morocco is added to the list!
    Cheers,
    Jess

    • Thanks for your comment Jess. What a great prospect and I’m sure your kids will enjoy traveling! Glad to know my post inspired you.

  34. Thanks for the post – brings back such happy memories. We visited Morocco two years ago when our son was almost 3, staying in Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains, scooting around the Tizi’n’Test pass and thereabouts. (We went in April, so didn’t need swimming pool.) The country is very, very beautiful, but what was even more beautiful was the friendliness of people. My son got so many smooches, from cute little schoolgirls, from chefs, and from bearded old shepherds. We even got invited in to a village school by a headmaster to say hello to the youngest class. Natch, my son loved it. He also loved the food. (As did we.) If you are wondering whether to go for it with young ones – I recommend it. pack a pram and go for it! Your post tempts me to go back, and visit Aït Benhaddou….

    • Great comment Heather, loved it! I can so imagine you must have had a fab time in Morocco with your only 2 year old son. Indeed traveling with children opens doors that stay closed for others. I read so many comments on parents that intend to start traveling with their children, your story will convince them even more!

  35. Sounds like a really exciting fun trip and I’m noticing you didn’t have to wear a hijab. Did the Muslims there ever harrass you for not wearing hijab as they tend to do in other Islamic nations? Sounds like they didn’t but that’s very surprising to me if so.

  36. the architecture and intricate designs on the window looks amazing!

  37. After reading your post it seems Morocco is my next destination after Bali. One quick question; did you find internet there? If yes, the whole of Morocco or in some particular locations?

    Thanks for the amazing post.

    • Thanks and indeed make sure to make it your next destination! Not in all parts of the country we found internet. If you travel to the Atlas mountains and further to the desert, it will become more difficult to find out. But in cities like Marrakech (and also other ones we didn’t visit) it probably won’t be a problem.
      Have fun preparing your trip!

  38. marhaban,
    we present you the first sociale bookmarking for Moroccan web pages and Webblogs. Your page shows a lot of very nice photos, thanks. We pleased also to see your blog on http://www.maroc-ads.com
    beslama

  39. Wonderful blog! I truly love how it? s easy on my eyes as well as the data are well written. I am wondering how I can be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which need to do the trick! Have a nice day!

  40. Morroco is a country rich in culture and history therefore, will be an educational trip for the kids. It is also a country with amazing landscaping and breathtaking views. I took my toddler there for our last vacation and he enjoyed every minute of it.

    • Thanks David. Indeed it was an educational trip. But honestly, every travel you make with your children is educational. They learn about different countries, people and cultures, so early in life. It makes them aware that the world is a place of diversity and that we are all part of it.

  41. Your posts are inspiring–especially as we begin to think of starting a family. I love the idea of letting your children “soak in a Moroccan landscape.” I can only imagine the wonder you experience seeing such broad and beautiful places through the eyes of your little ones.

    Thanks for unlocking this door–and causing me to reckon w/some of the selfish reasons I’ve balked at starting a family.

    Thanks Emiel,
    –m

    • Emiel permalink

      Mark, thanks. I am so glad this post helps you in a certain way. Deciding to have children or not is far from an easy choice, especially if you love freedom, flexibility and of course traveling (and I know you do!). The first couple of years with children will be without any serious traveling (at least, that’s what we decided for). But after that, it’s a great experience as traveling with children opens doors that stay closed to others!

  42. Nicole permalink

    Hi Emiel,

    Your trip through Morocco sounds exactly like what we are looking for. We want to go to Morocco next October, but we only got 6-7 days. How long did your trip take? How much time did you spent at your different locations?

    Thanks, Nicole

    • Hi Nicole,
      Great you’re having plans to visit Morocco!
      We spent in total around 12 days: 2 in Ourzazate, 1 in Dades valley, 2 in Ait Benhaddou, 3 in Marrakech and 2 in Essaouira (and 2 days for traveling :). If you need some more information just let me know.
      Emiel

  43. camilla permalink

    stumbled upon your site while looking for destinations for a family holiday in early June (kids aged 2 and 5), thank you, lovely! Would you mind sharing info on the hotels (w pool!) where you stayed in Ourzazate, Ait Benhaddou, Marrakech and Essaouira? What about car hiring / seats for children?

    • Hi Camilla,

      Thanks and no problem to share those details. I will send you an e-mail!
      We did not drive a car ourselves, but the traffic in that part of the country is not very busy. From Marrakech to Essaouira we went by local bus. Have fun and let me know what you decide!

  44. Thank you for your interesting article. I came here by chance.

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