Thanks for joining me! Here I am sharing my backpacking trip to Morocco in December 2017 with my 3 kids (I the mum and 8-6-4 year old). Being a mother, while I do get worried about the safety of my children, I also want them to travel and face adventures in life, while staying safe. Our Morocco travel has been a wonderful experience and I would like to share my journey details here for other families who would like to give this experience to their children too. Specially, because before travelling I searched a lot for an adventurous itinerary with kids but couldn’t find anything useful.
Marrakech is the most people’s first taste of Morocco and what an introduction it is! Somewhere between the donkey-cart severing Souq action, the tilework and the marble monument overload, and the hundredth time you find yourself lost amid the medina’s doodling alleyways, this great city of the Maghrib will work its magic on each one of us. When we finally found our way out of the old city, Marrakech, for us was a jumping-off point to some of Morocco’s most stunning landscapes, set against the souring peaks of the Atlas Mountains. In Imlil we hiked along craggy clifftops to tiny Berber villages in the High Atlas. We then moved forward to Ait Benhaddou and Kasbah Des Caids to explore the palm-studded Draa Valley and its slumping mudbrick Kasbahs and Ksour on our way east to the Sahara. Our final destination was Khamlia, where at sunset sitting atop the achingly beautiful sculpted dune of Erg Chebbi we pondered upon the perfect orange-hued curtain call to this extraordinarily beautiful country and its friendly and hospitable people. (Source ; Lonely Planet Guide)
Day 1 and 2 – Marrakech – We arrived in Marrakech in the morning and took a taxi (100mad) to centre where a person carried our luggage in a hand driven cart to Riad Hiba for 20mad. My kids also got into the cart and had a good ride. On our way, some old ladies from the street offered us fresh warm bread, which we most gratefully accepted. Riad Hiba had excellent location as we were only 5 minutes’ walk away from the action of Jamaa El Fna. After putting our luggage, we immediately set out to explore Marrakech…we had our first tagine…my son found the pleasure of eating cactus fruits (prickly pears) from a cart and got addicted to them. He was literally eating them throughout the day….we just explored lazily…danced with the snake charmers, got bullied into getting our hand painted by some very persistent henna ladies, looked at monkeys, turtles, lizards and iguanas…drank bucket loads of orange and pomegranate juice. It is one of our travel ritual to get my son a haircut from the local barber…so we looked around a found a reasonable priced barber. He gave my son a very handsome ‘Moroccan boy’ haircut. We found a shoe shop selling fake converse and so I bought my first pair of converse (fake) while the kids watched nanny McPhee at the shoe shop on a very tiny television which was about the size of a shoebox. Our first day in Marrakech was all about immersing into the life of the people living in the country that we were visiting.
Jamaa El Fna Dinner Theatre – At night new life gets injected into Jamaa El Fna with all the food stalls, Berber musicians taking their place. We enjoyed the fresh meat kebabs and Sausages from the stalls. We did not dare to try snail soup, sheep’s brain and skewered hearts! It is sure to say that Jamaa El-Fna’s entertainment has not changed much in centuries, including snake charmers, astrologers, Berber potion sellers. Later we walked through the square and my daughter became part of a band that was playing music in the square. She danced to their tunes for hours and we just sat down and enjoyed the music until late night. We love desserts, so we asked around for a patisserie and were told that Patisseri- Al-Jawda is a nice sweet shop. So, we went on a mission to find this place and finally got in there…it was a delight! We enjoyed the cakes and Moroccan patisserie.
Next day, after breakfast we set out again towards Jamaa El Fna and made our way into a small alleyway from the Main Bazar…we did not mind where we were going and just kept on exploring the streets of Marrakech and sampling the food on our way. I bought a Moroccan Jacket (Jalaba) for my son so he will feel more at home. We also got leather sandals made at a shoemaker’s shop. We spent about an hour in his shop watching him how he made the shoes and looking around at people. It was again a very lazy day just immersing ourselves into the life of Moroccan people. At night, after we enjoyed the fresh meat sausages my daughter again found her way to her favourite band and danced to her heart’s delight. We kept on drinking orange and pomegranate juice throughout the day and not to forget my son eating cactus fruit…
And when our legs started to hurt we haggled and got a good price for a horse carriage ride around the Marrakech city centre. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful day!
Day 3 and 4 – Imlil – The next morning we made our way to the grand taxi stand and shared a taxi to go to Imlil (not knowing what to expect). I paid 200 mad to the taxi man…if your kids are car sick it is a good idea to keep plastic bags as Imlil is at a height. Imlil is the main trekking base for Mount Toubkal. We stayed in a hilltop Berber village in the lovely family home of Lahcen (Imlil Authentic Toubkal Lodge). Lahcen came to pick us up from the road side and took us up the hill to his beautiful home. The walking path passes burbling stream, stone houses and shady orchards. It was reassuring to stay with a family with children. my kids immediately became friends with Lahcen’s nephews and nieces and they started playing. Lahcen offered us lovely lunch and my son went to pray the Friday prayers with him. Looking at snow covered Mount Toubkal and getting the warm sunlight in the balcony has been the highlight of my trip..it was beautiful to see snow covered mountains from such a close distance and feel the warm sunlight too…later Lahcen prepared a demonstration of making the mint tea and Moroccan bread which we all ate with great appetite with lovely olive oil. The dinner was beautiful, and my daughters ate bowls full of barley soup. The next day Lahcen guided us on how to tour the valley…we had a lovely time in Imlil, exploring the mountains, getting lost and finding our way back…Lahcen was very thoughtful to provide us with hot water bottles and make the dining room warm and cosy before the dinner…he also arranged for a very skilled driver to drive us to Ait Benhaddou…all in all it has been a wonderful trip. Thanks a lot, Lahcen…whenever we visit Morocco again, Imlil and your home will definitely be part of our trip…
Day 5 – Ait Benhaddou – On the 5th day we took a taxi to Ait Benhaddou (900mad). The UNESCO protected red-mud brick Ksar seems frozen in time. Despite being the filming place for Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, Jewel of the Nile, and Gladiator, we got bored of it in one day and instead of staying 2 night we just stayed the night and left for Kasbah Des Caids. I don’t think there was much to do for us and we were getting a bit bored of this place. We were the only guests in the hotel and it felt a bit creepy with the dogs howling all the night.
Day 6 – Kasbah des Caids – Perched on a hill 6km from Agdz is the beautiful sleepy village of Tamnougalt. It is a 16th century fortified village that’s among the oldest mudbrick ksour still standing.
We arrived in Kasbah des Caids from Ait Benhaddou (400mad). The entrance to the Kasbah was very surreal…I was trying to imagine what the place would look like as I knew that Oscar winning movies Babel and The English Patient have been filmed in this place. After parking the car we entered a dark tunnel and kept on going for a while through the tunnel…my kids were getting a bit scared and I was trying to act normal…we then entered a room with a very high skylight roof and candle nook. We then started climbing very narrow mud staircase. It was all very dramatic, and, in my heart, I was getting a bit worried about the kind of place I was getting into with three very young children. Once we reached the maze of rooms, I insisted to see Hassan as I wanted to make sure that there would be some more guests staying at night. Hasan was amused and ensured that all the rooms are occupied. Once I was relaxed I started appreciating the beauty and spirituality of the beautiful building we were in…the rooms were beautiful, the terrace was wonderful…I could see the whole valley, the beautiful oasis, at night the sky was filled with million stars…my kids loved playing their imaginary role-play games in the terrace…the tagine was the best I had in Morocco and the yogurt with date syrup would be a highlight of my Morocco trip. Kemal and Abdo had such beautiful smiles on their faces and they were happy to accommodate all our requests….later they played wonderful music to all the guest and my kids slept while listening to their music…the next day we explored the Kesbah in detail and walked to the fields…all in all it was a wonderful trip…we spent another night while going back to Marrakech and the starlit sky at night was amazing. I would recommend this place to everyone and I wish Hassan and his team all the best in renovating this amazing building.
Day 7 and 8 – Khmalia – Nestled sleepily between Khamlia and Taouz, is the village of Khamlia, whose inhabitants are believed to be descended from escaped slaves. This frontier town is home to notable Gnawa musicians. We made our way to Khamlia (1200Mad taxi) and stayed in Khamlia Desert Hotel owned by Suzanne and AbdulRehman who made sure, from the start to the finish, to take care of each detail of our trip. we ended up staying 8 nights in Khamlia. Despite being a tiny village, Khamlia had so much to offer. the sand dunes were just across the road (we spent our 8th day playing in sand), there was always the chance to listen to and dance with Gnaoua musicians. I even managed to learn how to make carpet from Abdulrahman’s mum and lovely Moroccan bread from his sister in law…ohhhh…I miss Khamlia 🙂
during our stay in Khamlia we regularly visited the Gnaous musicians and made a small carpet as a memory of our trip.
Day 9 and 10 – Desert overnight stay in Erg Chebbi – When a wealthy family refused hospitality to a poor woman and her son, God was offended and buried them under the mounds of sand called Erg Chebbi. So, goes the legend of the dunes rising majestically above he twin village of Merzouga and Hassi Labied, which for many travellers fulfil Morocco’s promise as a dream desert destination. The classic Merzouga excursion is to head into the desert and overnight in safari tents. Suzanne (Khamlia Desert Hotel) arranged a wonderful overnight camel trip for us to the dunes and accompanied us as well.
Ahmad walked all the way with us to the dunes and made sure that we have wonderful dinner and breakfast in the desert. I spent my birthday in Ouberia oasis in Erg Chebbi under a starlit sky, in the middle of the dessert, listening to live Gnaoua music and surrounded by my kids who sang lovely birthday songs to me. The beauty of the rose gold dunes of Erg Chebbi cannot be explained in words. One must be there to feel its majestic beauty and spirituality…seeing the shifting sand was amazing…following beetle’s footprint was exciting and sliding down the sand dunes was exhilarating. I did my sunset prayers on the dune, praising the glowing stunning shades of orang, pink and purple as the sun descended. Desert is simply one of the most beautiful creations of God…and I am grateful to have the chance to see and appreciate the ethereal beauty of desert.
Day 11 – People watching in Merzouga – Merzouga is just a short taxi ride away from Khamlia and we spent a day walking around and people watching in Merzouga. there was free WIFI in a cafe and my kids watched tintin’s adventure in Morocco on Netflix. It was nice to be in Morocco and watch Tintin having his adventures there too.
Day 12 – Fossil Hunting in Taouz – One of the highlights of our Morocco trip is Fossil, crystals and dinosaur bones hunting in Taouz. Hundreds of millions years ago the Sahara desert was submersed under a deep ocean. The first occupants of what is now Morocco date to prehistoric times, when enormous dinosaurs wandered. This area is now virtually an open air, once-underwater, world incredibly rich in beautifully preserved fossils from all kinds of creatures such as trilobites (ancestors of modern insects, spiders, centipedes, lobsters and crabs) and Orthoceras (a kind of squid-like nautilus covered by a cone-shaped shell). Instead of buying them form a shop, we decided to head to Taouz to get into real action. This is the day that my kids remember the most when we talk about our Morocco trip. For hours we wandered picking up and breaking stones and shouting with joy when we found a fossil or a mineral or even a dinosaur tooth!
Day 13 – Souq Day in Rissani – We accompanied Suzanne to the Souq day in Rissani where we visited the spice shops and the Baa Souq (Goat and donkey Market). Although, Rissani of today is a dusty shadow of its former self when between the 14th and 18th century it was the famed desert capital where fortunes in gold and slaves were traded. Still the echoes of the past can be heard in the epic haggling over birds, sheep, donkeys, spices and desert jewellery on the Souq days. We just roamed around lazily, going from one Souq to another immersing our self in the slow-motion life of Moroccan people.
On our way back we stayed in Kasbah Des Caids for a night and made our way to Marrakech (the taxi charged 2500mad from Khamlia to Marrakech). Our last night in Marrakech included again visit to my daughter’s favourite Berber Musicians, the cactus fruit man was now selling peanuts and my son was very disappointed. W are fond of desserts and we again made our way to the fabulous patisserie Jawda for our cakes.
Our shopping during the trip included two wool Moroccan Jellabas and Moroccan leather slippers for my husband, spices, fossils and crystals that we found during our hunt and bought some from the guide. A painting of our family with the desert and camels in the background (from a street artist in Marrakech)….a black embraided Berbari dress and scarf for myself that I wore much during my trip (I bought it from Ahmad’s sister in Khamlia and she made it herself)….
All in all, it was a wonderful experience for me and my kids and we would love to go back again….
Raising open minded and global children…