This spring Thomson Family Adventures chose Morocco as its feature destination simply because it is an awesome place to take the whole family. About the size of California, this kingdom in Northern Africa may just steal your heart with its mountains, desert and 1,100 miles of coastline. You don’t want to miss it.
First, can we just talk about the breathtaking excitement of such an exotic place? The brilliant colors, the rhythmic sounds, the spicy smells. In Djemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakech’s medieval main square, there are magicians and actual snake charmers along with acrobats and the clamor of musicians. You’ll find fragrant food stalls and vendors squatting by small pyramids of hot boiled potatoes ready to dip into salt and enjoy. Hear the mosque’s call to prayer, a musical droning echo piercing through the babel. Follow meandering alleys through the souks to find anything and everything you might need – clothing, utensils, trinkets. In an area that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see, the whole world appears to be here, living large, all together.
It’s no wonder Djemaa el-Fnaa has been recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This alone is reason to take your family to Morocco.
And then there is familiar comfort to balance the exotic; you’ll see the European influences too, hear French along with Arabic and eat croissants at breakfast. Of course, the most popular sport in Morocco is football (soccer) – and everyone knows this language.
Do you have a history buff in the family? If not, a trip to Morocco might just inspire one. So many empires have set their influence – Romans, Visigoths, Vandals, Byzantine. Honestly, just knowing there was once a Vandals Empire makes us love history! In the 7th Century, the Arabs came. Then Portugal ruled in the 15th Century. In 1830, France took control, and in 1955 Morocco gained independence with their beloved King Mohammed V. Phew! And you’ll see all these influences in the art, architecture, music and literature throughout your adventure. It’s a melting pot of centuries of history, culture and tradition and (shhhh, don’t tell the kids) quite an education!
With its diversity of landscape, Morocco also has endless activities to keep you entertained. Hike through the High Atlas Mountains on a pilgrimage trail and ride bikes along a plateau overlooking a vast valley. Meet local Amazigh, or Berber, families whose indigenous culture pre-dates the Arabs, and join them in a traditional sharing of sweet mint tea before preparing a meal together. On the coast there’s beach perfect for swimming, surfing and camel riding, though probably not at the same time. Feel cool clay between your fingers as you hone your pottery making skills and meet a local artist to learn some paint techniques. Walk through busy medinas, over cobblestoned streets and through fragrant olive and lemon groves. Don’t forget to Rock the Kasbah!
Since you’ll be so busy, you’ll want to know about the food to keep you going – such a pleasing fusion of Moorish, European and Mediterranean cuisines! Traditional tangines, stews cooked in a shallow pot, hold familiar things like potatoes, peas and carrots with beef, chicken or lamb, and plain couscous is really just tiny bits of pasta. If you like some tang and spice, go for a hearty tomato-based soup called harira, a chickpea, lemon and cilantro delight. Or try roasted chicken with preserved lemon! You’ll find sweet Medjool dates, prunes or raisins mixed into a variety of saffron, ginger and cinnamon infused dishes. Having so many familiar flavors mixed into a more exotic blend might just invite a timid eater to try a taste – but no worries, if your kids are wary of what’s in front of them, more ‘normal’ Western foods are common and easily found. You’ll never go hungry in Morocco. In fact, a good hike in the mountains is sure to give you a fresh appreciation for the sheer pleasure of Orange Crush and a can of Pringles (yes, both very popular here!).
We invite you to come with your family to explore and discover Morocco in 2019; it’s an unforgettable world both different and the same as your own and one sure to enrich your lives.
Excuse us, we need to go make that harira now…
Thanks to See the World contributor Beth O’Donnell, Thomson Family Adventures