Our Kids Collection Editor, Nadine, enjoyed many a memorable Moroccan trip in her wild and misspent youth, but had never been to the Land of the Setting Sun with her family before. That changed earlier this year, when the four of them had an unforgettable week together.
Morocco with the kids? Tell us more.
Our kids are now little older (Esme, 10, and Cormac, 6), so we wanted to start broadening their horizons. Morocco is a whole new realm of the senses – from spice-scented souks to seeing goats in trees – and on the same time zone so, no jet lag; and has great weather in spring and autumn. My husband, Colman, had never been. Moroccans are extremely friendly, they love kids, and we knew all that colour and wonder would be great fun. We also wanted an exotic experience which would be safe.
Where did you go?
Although I’d been to the country before, I hadn’t seen the Atlantic coast. So we flew in to Essaouira from London Luton and out of Agadir to Stanstead. We began by decompressing beside the heated pool at utterly gorgeous kasbah-styled retreat Le Jardins des Douars.
… then to the immaculately run Rebali Riads for some tennis, playing with other families, and some local culture.
Next, we headed to port city Essaouira for its souks and compelling fish market – a highlight for the children – staying beside cannon-bedecked 18th-century ramparts at the incredible work of art, Salut Maroc.
We then drove south through rugged hills (distant Atlas Mountains one side, the shimmering Atlantic Ocean the other) to surf, yoga and spa resort Paradis Plage for a top-notch last two days.
Any memorable encounters?
A first for us all was riding camels from the small town of Sidi Kaouki, along its surf-pounded beach to a fish restaurant for lunch. The intriguing thing is watching the 3-stage process by which camels stand upright from a kneeling position, and vice versa – its passengers lurching forwards or backwards. For the kids, it was definitely holding chameleons at Rebali Riads.
Did they enjoy exploring the souks?
Yes, it was great to see piles of spices and barrows of fruit; we bought a Moroccan dress for Esme and a Neymar Jr outfit for Cormac, some argan oil products for me, and some pottery. We’d heard that in Essaouira, unlike other places in Morocco, you aren’t hassled to buy, and we found this to be true. Of course, there’s always a bit of haggling, but it was very easily handled and the kids liked seeing the craftsmen at work.
How did you all find the food?
Esme had recently become a vegetarian, and has consequently become more adventurous and likes quite spicy food. She really loved the vegetarian tagines, and the vegetable side dishes, and the ubiquitous (sweetened) mint tea. While staying at bougainvillea-draped Rebali Riads we were served Moroccan pancakes for breakfast which was a hit. We bought a bag of Moroccan spice blend in the souks and recreated the signature 7-vegetable tagine at home to great acclaim!
Cormac in contrast is hugely fussy. However, he does like couscous and tucked in to chicken and fish kebabs. He is also partial to fish and chips which, luckily, was readily available all week, and done well at Paradis Plage.
Our best lunch was Le Jardin des Douars fabulous Sunday barbecue whose amazing salads I could have eaten forever (and tried but had to admit defeat).
My best dish was a delicious seafood pastilla (a classic Moroccan pie) on the ocean-view roof terrace at the top of style sensation Salut Maroc! for my birthday.
Any activities to recommend?
The surfing is excellent at Paradis Plage. They have a surf shack with great instructors, all the gear and a surf bar alongside. We had an hour’s family surf lesson, which was too scary for Cormac, who happily made sand pies instead. Esme excelled out of the four of us.
Did you get time to interact with the locals?
While staying at friendly Rebali Riads, they arranged for us to have lunch with a local smiley Berber lady in her white-washed house. We walked half-an-hour into the foothills, seeing a Little Owl on the way, and – to the kids’ excitement – plenty of tortoises, then had a delicious chicken and egg tagine. We met her goats, chickens and lambs. She didn’t speak English, but it didn’t matter.
How about some alone time with Colman?
We did, briefly, when we got up early at Rebali Riads to see a conjunction of 3 planets from our roof terrace. He had a lovely massage at Rebali Riads and went for a long walk along the beach at Paradis Plage. I absolutely loved the early morning yoga classes at Paradis Plage – watching those metronomic waves from the glass-walled yoga shala was fantastic – and was hugely spoiled during their 2-hour ‘Discovering the Oriental Traditions’ spa ritual (a traditional hammam with black soap, followed by an orange blossom massage).
Best family moment?
Sitting by the firepit at Paradis Plage gazing at the incredible canopy of stars on our last night.