When you’re ready to dip your children’s tiny little toes into Africa, Marrakech, in the heart of the former French colony of Morocco and a short skip from Spain, is where to begin. With its wide Parisian-style boulevards in the new part of the city and its narrow rabbit warren-like donkey cart runs within the old walls of the Medina, it offers both first world luxury and developing world charm.
You want to stay outside the old city of the Medina. Although it’s a magical place to visit, it’s not an ideal pitching up place for young children, as cars can’t reach far within it so you need to walk everywhere. And, at rush hour, which tends to coincide with restaurant-hunting hour, the little alleyways become a motorway for motorbikes and donkey carts, terrifying when you are under a meter tall.
This three-bedroom house from HouseTrip.com is in a gated ‘Spanish-style’ resort complex within a few metres of the Medina walls. You can spend the morning relaxing and hanging out by the pool and the afternoons exploring the real Marrakech. Arranged over three floors, like a typical riad, this newly-built property has a lovely lounge to sit in at night whilst the kids are asleep, and a great roof terrace, complete with barbecue. The only downside is it doesn’t have a bath.
If you’re travelling with toddlers and young babies, a villa in the ‘Beverly Hills’ area of the city, the Palmeraie, may be more appropriate as there will be fewer stairs making it easier to watch over little ones. The Palmeraie is a beautiful green area of Marrakechwhere President Sarkozy is said to stay. This villa looks like a great option.
Teenagers will probably enjoy really living like a local in the heart of the Medina. And this riad will ensure that you stay in the lap of luxury whilst doing so. Bag the roof-top suite with plunge tub before the kids do though.
The beauty of staying in a holiday rental with HouseTrip is that you get to meet your host or a representative of your host and grill them for local tips. With my schoolgirl French I discovered the following gems:
Avoid the main square of Jemma el-Fnaa at night. You don’t want to be taken unawares by a man throwing a monkey or snake around your neck for a photo-op; arrive instead just after midday when the stalls have all opened up and you will have more control over who is trying to entertain you.
The kids will be delighted to see the snakes being charmed, the monkeys performing their tricks, and the traditional street dances.
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There is also a chance to take a horse and cart ride around the city from here too, but remember to haggle down the price as haggling is a way of life in Morocco. I’m not sure if the treatment of animals in Morocco is quite up to the standards of various Western protection agencies though. If you don’t think you can stomach it, avoid the square altogether.
The Koutoubia Mosque on the outskirts of the Medina is an impressive building just outside of the main square. You may get to hear the melodic call to prayer whilst walking in the rose gardens of the park alongside it. Then let the kids have more of a run around in the Cyber Park just next door, whilst you check your emails – there is free wifi access here.
Le Jardin Majorelle, in the grounds of the former home of designer Yves Saint Laurent, is amazing too. The colours and the cacti in thisbotanical garden are incredible, but my kids spent most of the time seeing if a cat would succeed in catching a goldfish from the pond. Each to their own.
Take in one of the many souks scattered across the Medina. They are a series of Aladdin’s caves of wonder. Beautifully crafted shoes, necklaces and traditional dress jostle for space with stalls mounted with spices, fruit and sweets.
Next stop the El Badi Palace to check out the impressive mosaics. Our host offered to arrange a guide for us, but I don’t think that young kids have the concentration span for this so we went along by ourselves and managed to spend a few minutes tagging along withan English speaking tour.
There is also a very nice clean toilet in here, grab them while you can. But don’t go to any toilet in Marrakech without change, as the attendant expects a tip.
Just around the corner from the Palace, a local boy offered to show us the way to the synagogue. Marrakech used to have a bustling Jewish quarter within the Medina, but now all that remains is the old temple, which is beautifully decorated in turquoise mosaics.
None of us expected to see a family of tortoises waiting at the entrance though! As we were constantly told, there is always something to surprise you here.
Editorial Note: This trip to Marrakech was sponsored by House Trip. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino.
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