Take your tide/me…
A relatively short flight away (3,5 hrs) but culturally a world apart. We went to Morocco when we were expecting our 2nd child, with Luc being 2 years old. The diversity of desert, city and beach was what attracted us and the relative ease of traveling. An extra bonus is the food: Delicious, sweet and a treat to the eyes and nose, a tasty tajine is never far away :-).
Time of year: November
Time spend: 12 days
Means to travel: Rental car, guided tour
- Sahara desert
- Atlas Mountain road
The journey – Where we went & Stayed the night
The joy of Morocco is that it has some very traditional Moroccan overnight options. From riads in Marrakesh (beautiful innercity colonial style houses with a pond/pool in the center courtyard) to bedouin tents in the desert and anything in between. We decided to stay in Marrakesh a few nights before taking a guided tour to the desert. After this we rented our own car and took a great circular drive including the Atlas mountains and the Moroccan coastline.
Our accomodations in order of the trip
- Marrakesh – Riad Kalinka Lotus; a nice walk away from the city center, meaning it is close enough to get to, but far enough to be away from the crowds. The riad is warm and welcoming and has all the trimmings of that first encounter with Moroccan style and comfort.
- Desert trip – We booked this trip through an agency and in hindsight we could have done it ourselves by rental car (but hey, highly pregnant + 2yo remember ;-)). The drive is epic, through the Atlas mountains and making stops along the way such as Ait Ben Haddou and the Todra Gorge. From Merzouga, we took a long drive back to Marrakech for an overnight in the same riad, before picking up our rental car. The accommodations were fine, but if you go at it yourself, some tips:
- Tinghir – Perfect stop after a day of driving from Marrakech through the Atlas mountains and passed Ait Ben Haddou. Many accommodations to be found, but we suggest you opt for some luxury here if you are going for a basic tent in the desert or vice versa.
- Merzouga – THE place to hop on a camel and ride into the desert for a stay in a Bedouin tent. Again, many options from very basic to superdeluxe. We opted basic which was a fantastic experience. Make sure there is dinner and breakfast included in your booking, or you may be surprised by a hefty dinner bill (you are out in the desert remember… no other place to eat in the neighbourhood).
- Taroudant – Hotel Riad Taroudant; Simple but pretty, another riad on our trip after the stunning drive from Marrakech. Nice and central to visit the rest of the town.
- Mirleft – Ayour Apartments; Sleepy beach town Mirleft was a great place to unwind, enjoy the beach and take a laid-back approach to Moroccan life. No frills and basic, but it did the trick after a day of exploring or beach bumming.
- Agadir – Hotel Royal Decameron Tafoukt; For our final night, we splurged a bit on this coastal all-inclusive hotel. All the trimmings you would expect and the possibility to upgrade your AI to a nicer a la carte option by the beach.
Ah Morocco, with its 1001 nights atmosphere, there are many things to do and see and so little time to go see them. We focused our trip on Marrakech and the south, and within that area, these are our highlights in order of must-see:
- Desert night out – There is something magical about walking into the desert on a camel and staying the night in a tent under the stars. Don’t worry, they have beds and even bathrooms with showers, so there is nothing basic about it, but the tajine dinner and music by the fireplace is an experience you have to put on your list.
- R203 Marrakech to Taroudant – The drive is epic, through the Atlas mountains with fruit orchards, lakes and mountain passes, and at the end the curvy descent to the city of Taroudant. We took one day, stopping at a beautiful restaurant along the way for an elaborate lunch in their lush garden. But multi-day trips with hiking are certainly a great idea as well!
- Marrakech – The noisy, smelly, crowded Soukh, the mesmerizing snake handlers at the Djemaa el Fnaa Square, the royal, grand El Badii Palace… So many sites and all within walking distance of each other, with tons of eateries and hidden backyard cafes to fill your stomach along the way. A literal feast!
- Moroccan Cuisine – Tajines are the way to go, and can be found everywhere in any way, shape or form. Vegetarians especially can really be pleasantly surprised with the Moroccan cuisine which is filled with herbs, eggs, tomato (sauce) and vegetables, often with a dose of dates and nuts. It is also very child friendly as the spices are mild and often sweet, so a great family destination where no-one will go hungry!
Morocco is a typical North African country with crowded streets in the city and quiet towns dotted over the countryside. If it is your first experience in this region, and you are not used to it, take a moment (or a few days) to find your bearings in a city such as Marrakech as it can be quite intimidating. Some tips and experiences:
- Don’t drive at night – Lighting is poor outside of the city (and goats and donkeys are known to wander onto the warmed up tarmac for the night) and drivers are quite reckless… During the day you can feel that already, but at night it is just not smart to try your luck or be caught up in a dispute over a fender bender.
- Hissing and kissing – While being very pregnant helped, as a western looking woman you are still often very publicly ‘appreciated’. Don’t fret, it is all very harmless, so keep cool, smile and wave and go about your business. The kissing is more related to our little boy, who was showered with love from the (mostly elderly) locals. Patted on the head, kissed on the cheek, hugged and stuffed with food, the Moroccans are mad about children and you will feel very welcome, but keep an eye on your kid as our boy got fed up with it after a few days…
Have a look at other African destinations or check our blog section for more on Morocco and the adventures we had!