Traveling with Kids | Morocco

by , posted on March 7th, 2013 in Traveling With Kids




things to do in morocco

A few days ago we arrived home from an amazing trip to Morocco in North Africa. I fell in love with Morocco many years ago when I was a backpacking 20 year old and I have been looking forward to the day I could return with my family.

Morocco is a country full of vivid colours, warm and friendly people, aromatic and earthy smells and tastes and a culture that is so unique and different to the one we live in.

We spent a little less than a week in the warm North African sun and the rest of my family has fallen in love with Morocco just like I did years ago. My kids have already informed us that they want to return to Morocco for our February breaks from now on. Guess we better start the Morocco fund for 2014 now.

morocco

For us living in Italy (and Europe) Morocco is an easily accessible and affordable destination. We flew with the low cost airline Easy Jet from Milan and the flight was a mere three hours long (and quite inexpensive). In general the accommodation and restaurant prices are much lower in Morocco than in Europe and North America.

Our trip was broken into two destinations. We spent the first few days in the Atlas Mountains and the last few days visiting the city of Marrakesh. Today I’ll be writing about our time spent in the mountains.

hiking in Morocco

We left Milan early on a Monday morning, in the middle of a snowstorm, and arrived in Marrakesh at 9am. The relatively newly reconstructed Marrakesh Menara Airport is a stunning piece of modern architecture. After admiring the building and changing our euros into the local currency, the dirham, we picked up our rental car and headed out on the streets of Morocco. I was expecting chaotic busy roads with crazy drivers (like it was 20 years ago) but surprisingly enough the roads were quite calm and easy to navigate. Without any problems we made our way out of the city and headed towards our first destination.

From the first minute in the car the kids were enthralled with what they saw around them. The donkey carts riding next to us on the streets, the vendors on the side of the road in their hooded djellabas and brightly coloured leather slippers, the blooming cactus fields and the herds of goats that seemed to show up on every corner. The kids’ enthusiasm at everything they saw was contagious. There we were driving in the warm sun with the windows down and huge smiles on all of our faces.

We spent the three hour drive to our destination in awe of the varied mountainous landscapes, the sand coloured stone towns and the little roadside shops selling everything from Berber carpets to locally made ceramic bowls to the famous Argan Oil.

things to see in morocco

We stopped for a little lunch at a mountainside restaurant and enjoyed our first real tagine, Moroccan flat bread, olives and bottles of orange Fanta (special treat for us). Before leaving for Morocco we had lots of rules of not eating any raw fruit or vegetables, no olives or preserves and not eating from roadside kiosks etc. It took less than two hours for all those “rules” to fly out the window. In the end we ate and drank everything we saw and enjoyed it all immensely (except the tap water).

tisselday morocco

Finally, after some very curvy and nauseating roads, we reached the town of Tisselday and our accommodations for the following few days. We were very warmly welcomed by the guesthouse owner Kamal who immediately invited us to sit on their outdoor terrace and enjoy a traditional pot of Moroccan sweet tea with him.

moroccan tea

Kamal and his family run the guesthouse Dar Isselday and they offer everything from comfortable accommodations, to Moroccan cooking classes, to treks in the mountains and desert (his specialty). Kamal and his family spoke to us in French and I was amazed at how my kids managed to communicate and understand everything he said. Those daily French classes at school all these years have really paid off.

Moroccan room

Moroccan room

After having tea and getting settled into our rooms Kamal took us out for a walk in the local area and mountains and showed us his family’s organic gardens and orchards. We also hiked to a small stone town, only accessible by foot, where he taught us about the local traditions, the Muslim religion, how they bake their bread in outdoor ovens and their daily way of life. At a certain point his cousin came along and generously invited us to his home for tea and bread.

That evening Kamal’s sister-in-law Najat made us the most wonderful meal which was served in the Inn’s inner courtyard. While sitting on benches of colourful cushions and surrounded by traditional Moroccan lanterns we dined on a special Sauteed Zucchini Salad with Olives, Lamb Tagine with Figs and for dessert Pancakes with Candied Oranges. Absolutely delicious.

traditional-moroccan-cooking
traditional-moroccan-food

One thing I did notice about Moroccan homes is that there is no central heating of any kind. So although the days are nice and warm, the evenings tend to cool down quite a bit. After dinner we all got into our pyjamas and dove into bed in order to keep warm. I think we all fell asleep at 8:30pm that first night

After an amazing sleep (considering the cold) we got up and had a wonderful breakfast in the sun on the outdoor terrace. We were served pancakes, bread, omelettes and an assortment of homemade jams and preserves. Kamal sat with us and chatted about what the area had to offer and we decided to spend the day doing a camel trek and visiting some ancient Kasbahs.

kids in morocco

So off we went with Kamal to meet our chamelier (camel driver). Mohammed met us with his three dromedaries and prepared the kids with their head scarves (to protect against the wind and sun). I had assumed that the kids would be on the camels while we walked alongside but in the end I found myself teetering on the top of a frisky camel who seemed to have a bit of an attitude.

taking kids to morocco

We spent the following hours slowly trudging along on these massive camels and enjoying the views of the mountain ranges that surrounded us, the ancient and abandoned towns and the Kasbahs. After a rest and a snack of oranges and bananas (Kamal comes prepared) we left the camels and Mohamed to rest while we visited the famous Kasbah Ait-Benhaddou. Kamal took us around and explained the history behind the site and my son was immensely impressed when he heard that Gladiators, Alexander and Indiana Jones were all filmed there.

Kasbah Ait-Benhaddou Morocco

Kasbah Ait-Benhaddou Morocco

Then it was back on the camels (ouch) and back to the Chamelier’s house for a picnic lunch of marinated grilled brochettes, tomato and onion salad with cumin and a special Berber omelette. I have to admit that the food was one of the highlights of our time in Morocco. Even my daughter who is a picky eater raved about everything she ate on the entire trip.

After arriving back at Dar Isselday we decided to hike up the rocky mountain directly behind the Inn to visit another ancient abandoned Kasbah (no, we don’t let our kids rest on vacation). After a steep hike of almost an hour in the burning sun we arrived at the Kasbah and explored around the almost 1000 year old buildings and gardens and enjoyed the stunning views over the mountains.

hiking in morocco

Kasbah

morocco-with-kids

That evening the girls and I enjoyed the sunset while we played cards on the outdoor terrace while my son played football with Kamal’s nephews. Later on Najat made us another wonderful meal of Sautéed Eggplant Salad and Chicken and Vegetable Couscous with Raisins. After dinner we sat with Kamal drinking tea and chatting about our respective lives and cultures. A very lovely evening.

The next morning we enjoyed another delicious breakfast, packed up our things and headed out towards Marrakesh. I’ll be honest, none of us wanted to leave Dar Isselday and we seriously thought about forgetting our plans to go to Marrakesh and staying for the remainder of our trip in Tisselday.

vising morocco with kids

This area in the Atlas Mountains has so much to offer travellers of every kind. There are cities such as Ouarzazate to visit, tons of treks in the mountains and numerous historical sites such as Kasbahs to discover. Life is still lived in the old fashioned manner and you really get a sense of stepping back in time in this fascinating culture and landscape.

I’m already mentally planning our next trip to Morocco and especially this region. I guess the kid’s idea of going back every February isn’t so far-fetched after all.

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17 Responses to “Traveling with Kids | Morocco”

  1. Cindy H Says:

    March 7th, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Maybe it’s naïve of me, but I feel like if there were more cross cultural experiences like this in all of our lives there would be less war. (It was the smiles in the head scarf wrapping photo that made me think about this.) What a wonderful thing you are doing for your kids. Great story, thanks for sharing it!

    Jillian in Italy Reply:

    I am so grateful that I get to give my kids the opportunity to have these cross-cultural experiences as part of their childhood. They talk about them often and I often find them reading books books or stories about the countries we’ve visited.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    I’m with you Cindy! I think that’s part of why I love this series so much.

  2. Giulia Doyle Says:

    March 7th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Ahhh Morocco. I was there 23 years ago and I still have fond memories. We spent time in Agadir at the ocean, which was beautiful, then we took a trip into the mountains. I remember the donkeys we used to get up the mountains, the narrow paths and the steeeeeep decent. And we also finished our trip in Marrakesh, which was crazy, especially when they shut down the souk to let former President Reagan and Nancie pass through all the stalls. They walked right past us.

    Jillian in Italy Reply:

    That sounds very familiar to my trip there about 2o years ago! We visited Essouira which is just up the coast from Agadir and loved the beaches and laid back environment. That area is on our list for our next trip to Morocco. Funny about seeing President Reagan there!

  3. Nicola Says:

    March 7th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    This sounds like such an adventure. You have really convinced me to make sure we visit Morocco while we are living in France. Love that your kids revealed hidden depths to their French knowledge too!

    Jillian in Italy Reply:

    You guys should really go! So close and so exciting for the kids to see such a different culture.

    And I was absolutely amazed at the kid’s French (being their 4th language and all). My son was there with the hotel owner chatting away and asking all sorts of questions. So sweet.

  4. Deepa Says:

    March 8th, 2013 at 10:52 am

    This looks like such an awesome trip. Morocco has been high on my must-visit list for quite some time and I’m really hoping this will be the year! We’ll probably opt for something more laid-back though (no hiking!) as we’ll have a baby to consider.

    Jillian in Italy Reply:

    I’d go visit the coast area if you want a more laid-back trip. I don’t know if Marrakesh would be the best place with a little wee one. But I’ve heard of a great little town up the coast from Agadir that is supposed to be very beautiful and relaxed.

  5. Giova Brusa Says:

    March 8th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    What a lovely trip. Although I’ve been two times to Morocco I’ve never been to the mountains, and I hope I can visit Mr. Kamal’s house really soon. I love Morocco ever since I visited for the first time (your girls age)! This is really one of the best gift parents can give to their children!!

    Jillian in Italy Reply:

    Definitely go visit Kamal! He made our trip absolutely perfect.

  6. Judith Says:

    March 12th, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Looks like an awesome trip! The travels of my childhood (often to France ;) ) are such a big part of who I am today. I think it’s wonderful that you’re taking your kids around the world and showing them all these treasures… Beautiful colorful pictures too, Jill!

  7. Wendy Says:

    March 28th, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Thank you so much for posting this – I love Marrakech but have been hesitant to take the kids thus far. Now I think I am ready! Wendy x

    Jillian in Italy Reply:

    Do it! You’ll have a great time.

  8. Nancy Says:

    April 1st, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Thanks Jillian for your storie and this beautiful photos The first time I was in morocco that’s 8 years ago. I was there with my son and visited friends in Casablanca. Together we made a trip in Marrakesh and Essaouira. To see the life in Marrakesh; that was something I’ve never seen anywhere before and so it was for my son. But I wanted to see more about morocco,the nature the life far away from the big tourisme. I found this when I travelled to Ouarzazate, passed the Atlas with the little berbervillages. This time the guesthouse Dar Isselday didn’t exsist yet, but we had the chance to meet Kamal in Ait Benhaddou. My friends, my son and me liked the place and the accompinement of Kamal so much that we stayed there; talking, laughing and playing the drums with some guys of the village. Since there, I retourne every year to visit the familly of Kamal in Tisselday and to travel with Kamal who knows so lot about the region .

  9. Jillian in Italy Says:

    April 2nd, 2013 at 5:39 am

    That’s so great that you know Kamal! He really does make everyone’s stay in his area very special. We have friends who were there just last week and they absolutely loved their time in Tisselday. My kids are busy mapping out and planning our next trip to explore more of the area.

  10. Adventures in Learning | Living(room) Global: Morocco Says:

    November 4th, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    [...] Morocco… -Traveling with Kids [...]


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