Kids were happy to return home – leaving behind homeless cats and dogs, haggling and tuc-tucs
MARRAKECH: My very enthusiastic daughter Lilly who is almost 11 who embrace travelling with open arms and Ludo. He is an eight-year-old boy who doesn’t get impressed easily. He´s also worries about all the details I can’t explain but reassuringly tells him he would have to wait and see till he gets there. Then off to Marrakech with kids.
On the plane to Marrakech there was a sense of good atmosphere and we landed in the evening and the airport lit up with its impressive architecture. But I wasn’t impressed yet. As an experienced traveller it takes more than the airport to wow me.
I told that it could be a haggling start. Here every price can be discussed and we soon agreed. I was given the oldest driver, quite likely 75 years old with a hat and a sore throat. He stuffed us into his car which was the most dodgy one. That certainly woke the kids up and on the way there we passed grandmas and whole families with new-borns on scooters.
Riad Safa was an escape from noises outside. Eight rooms, two pools, decorated in natural colours, nice home-cooked breakfast and friendly staff. Lilly was a bit scared when we sat on the bed. I want to go home. It is scary here, she said. I calmly said tomorrow you feel different.
Early next morning I jumped out of bed as my heart pumping. It was the start of the daily prayers from the minaret, mosques. The voice of an old man shouting or praying I should say, in a megaphone. This was the usual routine, five times a day.
Shopping. We were here for six nights. The first day after breakfast we were off to explore the markets. We bought handmade hats with personalized names, tea pots, herbs and spices. Just what Marrakesh with kids is all about.
One guy spoke fluent English and asked us to see a baby chameleon. My kids had already stopped by his two cages with turtles and chameleons. He put it in their hands and took me aside. Spices, herbs, look this is lemon tea leaves, crush it, you can smell it? Paprika, cardamom, Chanel perfume bars, menthol, crystals, smell that too, all natural. I ended up with the lot.
Before I knew it I had paid and my daughter was given a green lipstick that changes colour by touch. He was a great salesman what can I say. If I had a shop I would have employed him. But I was ripped off and I learned. Next time I was going to say no and walk away. And then haggle.
Place Jemaa El Fnaa, a huge popular market with snake-charmers and monkey handlers. I didn’t get too close to them as I heard they will only ask for money. But we were unable to escape from the Henna ladies. One lady took my hand and started to draw Henna, natural washable tattoo, before I could say anything. Another took my daughter and then my son. This didn´t come cheap, we paid with our pocket money and left hearing angry voices in Arabic.
Day 2. Traveling to Marrakech with kids in October is perfect timing. Degrees 30-35 Celsius and hardly any shade. Going during the summer months would have been painful as temperatures reach 45 Celsius.
A minivan took us to the Agafey desert. Only one hour drive out of town. Marrakech camel ride was a good move and scored highest amongst the kids. We were greeted by again, Mohammed, and his five camels in the middle of nowhere. Lilly rode alone and I rode with Ludo on camels called Fatima and Banana.
We rode the camels for two hours with our guide Mohammed holding the ropes. Always smiling. After the ride we were escorted to a homemade sofa next to a tent. With the view of Marrakesh in front of us we had more sweet tea. A little later we had our tangine dinner inside the tent with candles, two girls from USA and three men from Spain.
Day 3. After a long day riding camels, we woke to more prayers and sore bum. Taking it easy was on the menu, and a visit to the souks, seeing new things and just absorbing our surroundings. The kids no longer wanted to go home and in the evening we went to restaurant Le Foundouk.
Day 4. Marrakech with kids include exploring a real Hammam. My problem was that I was a single mum with a son and daughter. Hammams are usually segregated. I couldn’t let my boy go by himself so I found Heritage Spa, an old well reputed spa in Bab Doukkala. We entered a dark charming place and sat down for tea. My son wore his swimming trunks while my daughter and I to our surprise had to wear a disposable thong. My daughter said I will never wear one of those again and laughed.
We laid down on marble tops. Two younger ladies scrubbed us thoroughly and covered us with a menthol wrap. My son didn’t like it as it was too strong for him and he needed to pee. The woman later came in and washed us some more, hair, face, bottoms. Left us again with a mud wrap and washed us again. When it was over, the kids said we are not doing that again. We relaxed in a quite dark lounge with cushions for some mint tea and Moroccan sweets. A different woman came and whisked me off to a relaxing essential oil massage while the kids got themselves dressed and moved to the lounge where they could watch their Ipads. Yes, I know, Ipads while exploring but it can occasionally save me some space of time.
Day 5. Mostly we soaked up the atmosphere and not more sightseeing. The kids walked a lot and in the heat we didn’t fancy seeing all the beautiful architecture. Although, I wished I had seen Jardin Majorelle, a blue house of the famous designer Yves Saint Laurent.
We took a taxi to the restaurant Dar Essalam which was the movie director Hitchcock’s favourite place. Lots of tourists but that was understandable. Good service and even a belly dancer. We were given a huge menu but it turned out they only really had lamb in every form. No pigeon, turkey or chicken. The tangine and skewers of lamb tasted so good with hints of cardamom and cinnamon.
A ride on tuc tuc back to Riad Safa which was another highlight for the kids. The driver navigated through tight alleys, nearly crashed a few times and used its weak horn to make its way. Sure, the kids understood the Moroccan way of life.
Day 6. The last morning. A last visit to the souks, picked up a couple of tangines and camel puffs. This time I haggled so hard even the guy sitting next to the shop, nodding saying that was a good deal. I also bought a traditional turquoise cotton dress. I was conforming.
Back at the Riad, the kids were ready to go home. It gave me a taste of more. I thought, when I retire I must come here. Buy a Riad, have some friendly staff, invite all my friends over, learn proper French, some Arabic, rent out rooms, relax, have tea and appreciate life.
On the flight back home with Norwegian there was still some sense of an atmosphere. Marrakech had made an impression. Colours, clothing, noise, smell, camels, herbs and spices.
Marrakech with kids
My kids returned happy to their reality world, leaving behind homeless cats and dogs, haggling and tuc tucs. But Marrakech with kids did wow me, even though it is touristy. It has a natural charm. Unique. Nowhere in the world will you find anything like it. Anything is possible. Anything can be handmade. Old and new.
I’m definitely going back. To see more of the culture sights. Book a noisy-free Hammams and massages, drink mint tea and write another article – without kids.
Read more: After dark, life goes wild on the market