The Sunday Family Travel Series: A Trip to MoroccoPosted on Jul 10, 2011 | 4 comments
What do I know about Morocco?
Not much really. The world's a big place and I just haven't managed to get around to expanding my travel knowledge to Morocco.
So, I asked Emiel van den Boomen from the travel blog Act of Traveling for a bit of education on this mysterious land. Here Emiel has given us some great stories and tips he picked up on his family's journey to Morocco. There is just something so otherworldly about Morocco, just look at Emiel's photos. Definitely a destination our family will be adding to our world travels.
Thanks to Emiel for all the help and Enjoy Morocco!
I have heard that Morocco, in particular Marrakech, can be a overwhelming and aggressive for travelers.
Was this your experience? Did you find a big difference between Marrakech and other Moroccan cities?
Absolutely NOT! Overwhelming yes, but in the positive sense of the word. Aggressive? No Way.
We decided to not start our trip in one of the major cities in Morocco. So we kicked off in Ourazazate, close to the Atlas mountains and the desert. The beauty of the landscape was overwhelming: red rocks, long straight roads crossing the desert, beautiful!
Of course Marrakech is a big city, so you automatically encounter lots of traffic and people wanting to earn a buck from you. That's normal but I have to be honest that we expected a lot more hassle. People wanting to sell their stuff, trying to get you in their store. We were warned about the souks: “Don't talk to anyone because you cannot get rid of them once you have shown the slightest interest in their products”, they told us. The reality was totally different. Even in the soukhs we could easily walk around with our kids, no problem at all! We looked at shops, bought something if we wanted to and the kids had a great time. You can even take a horse and carriage to get you back to your hotel, it's a nice way to view the city.
We actually like bigger cities, because of the buzz and the many people to watch. Really, Marrakech to us was never aggressive. I know Marrakech seems an inappropriate destination right now, after the bombing that killed so many innocent people. Our experience dates from before that.
I know very little about travel in Morocco. How did you get around while during your travels?
If you want a bit of luxury travel, you just rent a 4 wheel drive. Bags and suitcases go on top. You will see many of these cars crossing the country as it's a popular way for travelers to get around.
In Marrakech it's very easy to get a taxi. So-called petit taxis are allowed to carry only 3 people (plus the driver). Negotiate on beforehand about the price and just take another one if you believe they ask too much.
From Marrakech to Essaoiura (on the coast) we took a local bus. You can choose between local busses or somewhat more luxury busses. The last one is excellent when you travel with kids. It will take you to the coast in less than 3 hours and still for a very low price!
What did your children think of their time in Morocco?
What were some of the highlights and lowlights for your kids?
One lowlight turned into a highlight quickly for our youngest son (4 years at that time). We went for a camel ride on the beach of Essaouira, but my son was so scared of the camels at first! Look at the picture! But after a couple of minutes he started to smile again, enjoying being a Prince of Persia!
The children remember the desert, the camel ride, the cultural differences (“Dad, why are these women wearing clothes when they swim in the sea?”). The travel to Morocco was terrible, as we had a six-hour (!) delay before we could continue with our flight from Casablanca to Ouarzazate. And I can tell you, there is nothing to do at Casablanca airport! Lowlight for sure...
The culture is very different in Morocco when compared to the Netherlands.
What culture differences stood out or surprised you, both good and bad?
Of course the culture is very, very different. When we waited at the airport, a man got on this knees and started to pray. Time after time he bowed his head, almost touching the ground. My son asked us: Dad, is there a hole in the ground? Hilarious! Of course we explained about the Muslim culture and so we did a couple of more times during our trip.
I might read a lot of guidebooks before embarking on a trip to Morocco.
Tell me a few popular places I should feel free to skip and some Moroccan destinations or experiences I must partake in before I leave the country.
Popular places are Ait Benhaddou, a must-see place also for your kids. Our kids loved the climb up hill with a spectacular view of the country.
Also popular is Essaouira, a nice pitoresque city, but certainly NOT a place to stay if you want to lay on the beach and enjoy the sun. It's windy and therefore a popular place for surfers!
The highlights for me was the part from Ouarzazate into the mountains (Dades valley) and the desert.
In Marrakech, go to the Marjorelle gardens. An oasis of peace where you can take a rest after walking the busy streets. Be prepared, it can become very busy. At night, you MUST go to the Djem El Fnaa square in the middle of Marrakech. Every night the square turns into an open-air restaurant. Don't worry, the food is safe. We experienced it ourselves.
A lot of families I know are going to be cautious of traveling to Morocco with kids in tow.
What can you tell them about your own experiences that might ease their concerns?
We chose Morocco because for us it was a totally different world yet very close by (3.5 hours flight from Holland). We decided not to travel the whole country, but only a limited part. Morocco is great because you can easily combine large cities with smaller towns and elongated landscapes.
When you decide to travel to Morocco, make sure to get your vaccinations. But after that, and I am very honest here, we did not encounter anything that got us worried. You will immerse in a totally different world.
What are your 3 best tips for families traveling to Morocco?
1) Don't start in one of the big cities like Casablanca or Marrakech. Start smaller and work your way to the big city. It helps your kids to get used to a different culture.
2) Focus on a smaller part of the country and do not try to travel all the major cities, plus the desert, the mountains and the beach Stay in places at least 2 or 3 days.
3) Book hotels with a swimming pool! There is nothing more needed after a dusty day in the desert to play in the water!
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