A little about me.
For those of you new around here, I’m Emma, I’m a Mum of one with baby 2 expected later this year. Before becoming a Mum life was pretty much one travel adventure after another. Darren and I where actually 7 months into an around the world trip when we discovered our first born was en route. These days my passion absolutely remains the same, if anything its even more exciting exploring as a family. Initially I set up my blog to inspire and encourage other families to do the same, I’m a huge believer in learning through experiences, especially for the littlest of explorers. I’ve visited around 20 countries over the past few years, all offering their own unique experiences, their individual cultures and ways of living. I fully embrace all culture, beliefs, history and ways of living in every part of the world I visit, for me it’s what makes trips authentic, it’s what the adventure is all about.
I’m not sure why that feels like a bit of a disclaimer! Anyway, that’s enough about me. This Summer we ventured off to Marrakech in Morocco.
Magical Marrakech, your either going to love it or hate however I guarantee you’ll not experience anywhere in the world quite like it. In July we set off for a week in Morocco as a family of four, Darren and I, our 20 month old son and Darren’s Mum, all the help you can get when travelling with a toddler, right? Worth while mentioning I was around 17 weeks pregnant on the trip, a bold move flying off into the 40 degree heat I hear you say! Actually, be prepared for all weather conditions. We travelled in July, peak of the summer months however the climate surprised us all. The days where hot, around 30 degrees however not too humid and the evenings where cool with a lovely breeze which made mid morning and evening strolls bearable.
So the question I’ve been asked over and over, would I recommend travelling to Marrakech with a toddler or young children? It’s a difficult one to be honest. Personally I found this trip tough. The highs where fab, we experience a whirlwind of magical moments however unfortunately they where closely followed by unwelcome lows, experiences that completely dented my confidence and had me questioning is Marrakech the place to visit with a young family.
I almost didn’t write this post (perhaps that’s where the earlier disclaimer comes in). I feel incredibly uncomfortable placing a negative spin on any location however after much deliberation (and as a mother), it’s only right to share a raw and honest view of our time in Marrakech. That being said, I am one to end on a high so let me start with the not so good, the must knows, the not so Instagram friendly bits.
Must know Before you go
Always negotiated a price before entering a taxi, something I’d suggest doing globally however an absolute must in Marrakech. Be clear, offer to pay upfront, be specific in where you are travelling to and what you are willing to pay. Frustratingly I paid over £60 for a 10 minute trip which I later discovered should have cost around £8. The frustrating part was I was fully aware of these scams beforehand therefore I specifically arranged airport transfers through our receptionist before arriving, go me I thought! We paid almost 5 times the amount that it should have cost. Not a great start to the trip, very disheartening and an annoying reoccurrence throughout our stay. A taxi from the airport to the Medina will cost around £10, certainly no more than £15. Stand firm, be confident in what you are willing to pay, and be prepared to argue a fair bit before setting off.
Know The Lingo
Locals in Marrakech speak Arabic and French. I hold my hands up, I’m not fluent in either however in my experience a few hand gestures, an amateur game of charades would get you to the supermarket and back in most places, well not in Marrakech. My advice would be to learn some phrases before you travel. I know little French which made asking for directions, calling a cab, ordering food a challenge to say the least. The locals that I encountered spoke very little English, which is absolute fine, what wasn’t so fine was the lack of attempt to communicate. I felt so helpless at times. I didn’t speak Arabic, no one seemed to speak English, so that was that, there was no attempt to overcome the language barrier at all. Pretty daunting, especially when pregnant and caring for a toddler in the heat of the day. I’ve linked some useful Morrocan Arabic phrases you could attempt and in the mean time, brush up on your basic French.
Careful with the Camera
Marrakech is Instagram Gold. Every corner you turn opens another photogenic opportunity not to be missed. Snap away however be cautious of photographing locals and their stalls, shops etc without permission. At the square you’ll find monkeys on chains, traditional moroccan men dancing, cobra snakes hissing and so much more amongst the busy crowds. If you are to photograph around these areas I’d strongly recommend asking, otherwise be prepared to pay an unnecessary sum.
Fine Line Between Haggle and Hassle
I’ve never been one to barter, I’m no good at it at all, however my other half, well he’s a man on a mission when it comes to wrangling a deal, all in good spirit though. I found haggling around the medina uncomfortable, almost unwelcome by locals. There was a real sense of ‘this is my shop, you pay my price or leave,’ which I found very off-putting, asking for a price resulted more in an argument than a negotiation. Now to be clear, haggling is very much ‘allowed’ and welcome when suited. I also experienced upsetting incidents where toys where thrown at the pushchair to grab our attention, it was alarming for me, distressing for my little one. I would strongly advice against visiting the Jamaa El Fnaa square at night, in my opinion its just too much for little ones.
Now let me share with you our best bits, the must see, must do highlights.
Stay In A Riad
A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house usually facing inward, surrounding a courtyard or garden. There’s something very pure and authentic about staying in a Moroccan Riad. Imagine fighting your way through the hustle and bustle of the busy mid day Medina, turning into a hidden lane and nestled behind an ancient door, lies a palace of tranquility. I mean is tranquility even a thing when travelling with a toddler but hey it felt like it. I’m not sure if escaping the outside madness was just so welcome by this point but returning home to the raid did feel like a slice of heaven, it was very peaceful. We stayed at Riyad El Cadi, which was lovely. Made up of just 15 rooms, gorgeous courtyards, it’s own small pool and impressive rooftop terrace this place was a great find. Yes it boasts all concrete flooring and ceramic vases, one may argue not the most child friendly of places but I personally found this a great find for all of the family. Our room was like having our own house, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen was ideal whilst staying with a toddler. We also our own access to the rooftop which was a nice touch, my little one is currently obsessed with he moon, it really was a hidden gem.
Top tip, staying in a Raid need not cost an arm and a leg, you’ll find very reasonable priced hidden paradises dotted around the medina, I’ve liked some below.
There’s something majestic about wandering the Medina, go get lost and take in the sites, the smells of the spices and herbs and listen as the locals go around their everyday. Narrow alleyways and hidden lanes, you most definitely will get lost. For a real authentic experience, my advice would be, just go with it. Getting lost with a little one sounds awful, right? Of course when travelling with a youngster be prepared. Set off early to mid morning to avoid walking in the heat of the day, pack plenty of water, snacks and comfortable shoes, you’ll not get far from where you set off, I promise. Now go explore, go get lost.
Now if you are willing to fight for a reasonable price, there are tonnes of little treasures to be found. From Belghas (traditional moroccan slippers), magical genie lamps, (think Disney’s Alladin), magnificent lanterns and the most beautiful coloured pottery, there is something for everyone. I kinda wish I had shopped around more for one of those Pintrest worthy moroccan rugs however I just wasn’t cut out for the rivalry. I did however cave and pay over the odds for a cute pair of slippers for my little one, I just had to!
I suppose the long and short of this blog post is to make you aware of what you may expect. If your someone who struggles with the mistreatment of animals, (a chained monkey is wrong in any corner or the world), someone who’s looking for tranquil walks and romantic sunsets, then no Marrakech isn’t going to be the place for you. Equally if you’re looking for somewhere the little ones can roam freely, interact with the locals and snack on organic goodies, again it’s best to try elsewhere. However, if like me you get a buzz about exploring somewhere new and you set off, semi prepared, with an open mind and a little cultural experience, then I don’t doubt you’ll experience all of the greatness the city has to offer. Like marmite, you’ll love it or hate it but there’s certainly no place quite like it.
Have you ever felt like you needed a vacay from your vacay, that’s exactly how I felt after this trip. There where moments of unsettledness and uncertainty. Moments as a mother I felt vulnerable and helpless, there where moments I wished so badly to be back home. There where also moments where soaking up culture and living in the madness felt okay, the rawness felt adventurous. Perhaps the unwelcoming locals made the authenticity even more, perhaps the Medina being so chaotic made the Raid so tranquil. I’m not entirely sure, I am sure that it’s memories to last a life time, an experience to say the least.
Now where to next time, I’m thinking sun, sea and a reasonably priced kids club… Happy exploring friends.
Until next trip.