Morocco has plenty to capture a child’s imagination. The souqs of Marrakesh and Fez are an endlessly fascinating sensory explosion, and nights around a campfire or camel rides on the beach are equally memorable – but factor in some time by the hotel pool at the end of a hot day.
Best Regions for Kids
All generations can retire to pool, park, horse-drawn calèche or camel back. The Djemaa el-Fna is Morocco’s carnival capital.
- Atlantic Coast
The Atlantic Coast offers plenty of beaches and water and wind sports. Agadir’s long, sandy beach is popular; mix it with somewhere more colourful such as Essaouira, with its fun-to-explore ramparts and medina.
- Drâa Valley
Tour Ouarzazate’s film studios and kasbah, then head down the valley for dunes and dromedary rides.
With souqs, ruins and gardens, this is a relatively mellow slice of urban Morocco. Attractions include the beach, amusement park and pony rides.
- Middle Atlas
For mountain scenery, waterfalls, forest walks and less hair-raising passes than the High Atlas. Easily visited from spots such as Azrou and Fez.
Morocco for Kids
Morocco is ideal for parents who once travelled to intrepid destinations, and don’t necessarily fancy a Western poolside now they have knee-high travelling companions. Compared with Asia, Morocco is easily accessed from Europe and North America; Marrakesh is less than four hours from London. And when you touch down, you’ll find that children open numerous doors, getting you closer to the heart of this family-oriented country.
Meeting the Locals
Moroccans love children so much that you may even want to bring a backpack to carry smaller kids, in case they grow tired of the kissing, hugging, gifts and general adulation. Locals have grown up in large families, so children help break the ice and encourage contact with Moroccans, who are generally very friendly, helpful and protective towards families.
As you travel the countryside, women may pick up their own child and wave from their doorway. Such moments emphasise your children’s great benefit: having yet to acquire any stereotypes about Africa and the Middle East, their enduring impression of Morocco is likely to be its people’s warmth and friendliness.
Of course, this certainly doesn’t mean parents receive special treatment from the salesmen in the country’s souqs. However, even the grizzliest shopkeepers generally welcome Western women and children, as it gives their store the image of having a broad, family-friendly appeal. Letting your kids run amok in carpet shops can also be an excellent bargaining technique!
Adapting to Morocco
Morocco is a foreign environment and children will probably take a day or so to adapt, but it has plenty of familiar and fun aspects that kids can relate to. In the countryside, simple things like beehives and plants endlessly fascinate children. Dedicated play facilities in parks and public gardens are very rare.
Taking your Time
A key to successful family travel in Morocco is to factor in lots of time to acclimatise at the beginning, and to just relax and muck about at the end. Trying to cram everything in, as you might if you were by yourself, will lead to tired, cranky kids. Distances are deceptive due to factors such as bad roads, and you need to build in contingency plans in case children become ill. However, having to slow your pace to that of your kids – for example, having to stay put in the hottest hours between noon and 4pm – is another way children draw you closer to the Moroccan landscape, people and pace of life.
Tajines contain many familiar elements, such as potatoes and carrots. Although you may want to encourage your child to try Moroccan food, you may struggle if they don’t like potatoes or bread; in which case Western foods, such as pasta, pizza and fries, are available. High chairs are not always available in restaurants, although staff are almost universally accommodating with children.
Be careful about choosing restaurants; steer clear of salads and stick to piping-hot tajines, couscous, omelettes and soups such as harira (lentil soup). Markets sell delicious fruit and veggies, but be sure to wash or peel them. Local fried doughnuts are a sweet sticky treat.
To avoid stomach upsets, stick to purified or bottled water. Milk is widely available – UHT, pasteurised and powdered – but baked beans are not, and you should bring any special foods you require.
- Mountain walk, High Atlas Travelling by road to a High Atlas trailhead such as Imlil, then taking a day walk in the mountains with a guide and mule.
- Camel ride, Essaouira Camel or horse rides along the beaches around Essaouira or in the Sahara, with accessible dunes in the Drâa Valley and Merzouga.
- Calèche ride, Marrakesh Calèche (horse-drawn carriage) rides around the ramparts of places such as Marrakesh, Meknes and Taroudant.
- Water sports, Essaouira Wind and water sports around Essaouira, or the beach at Agadir for young children.
- Oualidia lagoon Safe, calm waters and a wide, sandy beach.
- Parque Marítimo del Mediterráneo Ceuta’s creative maritime park, its pools surrounded by restaurants and cafes.
- Jnan Sbil, Fez These shady gardens have plenty of fountains for cooling down amid leafy surrounds.
Fun & Games
- Marrakesh Explore Jardin Majorelle and its collection of desert plants at Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakesh, children enjoy amusements such as the ‘fishing for a bottle’ game.
- Ouarzazate The Atlas Film Corporation Studios features sets and props from famous films made in the area.
- Fez Cooking classes at Café Clock Good for children of most ages – from making spice mixes to kneading dough and taking bread to the communal oven. Kefta tajine is a good knife-free meal to prepare. There's also a Cafe Clock in Marrakech which is popular with families.
If you look hard enough, you can buy just about anything you need for young children in Morocco. Before leaving home, think about what you can take with you to Morocco’s various environments; wet-weather gear is vital in the mountains in case the weather turns bad.
Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children has more information and tips.
Some hotels are more family-friendly than others, so check your children will be well catered for before booking.
Like the airlines, many hotels will not charge children under two years of age. For those between two and 12 years sharing a room with their parents, it’s often 50% off the adult rate. If you want reasonable toilet and bathroom facilities, you’ll need to stay in midrange hotels.
Northern Morocco has a great rail infrastructure and travel by train may be the easiest, most enjoyable option: children can stretch their legs and fold-out tables are useful for drawing and games. Travellers with children can buy discount cards for rail travel.
Grands taxis and buses can be a real squeeze with young children, who count not as passengers in their own right but as wriggling luggage, and have to sit on your lap. The safety record of buses and shared taxis is poor, and many roads are potholed.
Hiring a vehicle – a taxi in Marrakesh or a 4WD to the mountains – is well worth the extra expense. You might bring a child seat, but note that many taxis don't have seatbelts to help attach them. Hire-car companies normally don’t have them; child seats generally cost more in Morocco than in Europe.
Health & Hygiene
Hand sanitiser (alcohol gel) is essential, as children tend to touch everything. Disposable nappies are readily available. All travellers with children should know how to treat minor ailments and when to seek medical treatment.
Make sure the children are up to date with routine vaccinations, and discuss possible travel vaccines well before departure, as some are not suitable for children aged less than a year.
Upset stomachs are always a risk for children when travelling, so take particular care with diet. If your child is vomiting or experiencing diarrhoea, lost fluid and salts must be replaced. It may be helpful to take rehydration powders for reconstituting with sterile water; ask your doctor. Be aware that at roadside stops and cheaper hotels, squat-style toilets are more common than Western-style toilets.
In Morocco’s often-searing heat, sunburn, heat exhaustion and dehydration should all be guarded against, even on cloudy days. Bring high-factor sunscreen with you, and avoid travelling in the interior during midsummer, when temperatures rise to 40°C plus.
Encourage children to avoid dogs and other mammals because of the risk of rabies and other diseases – although there isn’t likely to be a risk on camel rides in the desert, or with donkeys and mules working in places like Fez medina.