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A family adventure of a life time suitable for children aged 3 + Explore bustling Marrakech, Unesco World Heritage sites and then venture out into the Sahara for camel trekking and wild camping.
This holiday has been devised for adventurous families wanting to do something very special in their time off. The itinerary has been designed to fit into a half term break, but if you have more time, then it can be expanded to include longer in the desert and Marrakech.
This holiday starts and finishes in Marrakech, a beguiling city which will entertain and intrigue both adults and children with its narrow, winding streets, bustling markets and the lively Djemma el Fna, complete with snake charmers, drummers and acrobats. For those who like a dose of culture, there are palaces, museums and gardens to explore.
After you've had your fill of the chaos, you will head out over a spectacular mountain pass, crossing the High Atlas Mountains. The landscape changes by the hour, from deep valleys and sheer drops , to barren plains and rocky desert. Your first stop is the Kasbah Telouet, a crumbling kasbah housing some fantastic mosaics and gorgeous views. From here, you travel to your first night's accommodation close to the world famous Ait Ben haddou. Recognisable from films such as Gladiator, this Unesco World Heritage site is a fortifies city built on a hill. The site is reached by stepping stones over a river and visitors are free to explore at their leisure.
You will then head into the Sahara, passing along the Draa Valley, dotted with kasbahs and palmeries. Staying in a friendly, laid-back guest house, you will camp in the garden in a traditional Berber tent. With dunes in the back garden, children are free to explore, whilst parents can relax in one of the shady areas. The following day, the camels will be loaded up and you will head off into the dunes with your guide. Trekking for about 2 hours, you will cross dried up river beds until you find somewhere to camp. Whilst your guide sets up your private camp, you are free to explore the dunes and make as much noise as you want - there will be no one else around.
After your wild camping and return camel trek, there will be a chance to freshen up before continuing your desert adventure, this time staying at an oasis town. Staying in lovely accommodation with a pool (and resident donkey), you will be able to explore the farm land and wander through the date palms.
Your holiday ends in Marrakech, where there will be time for s quick spot of shopping before catching your plane home.
It goes without saying that this is not a standard family holiday - it is an adventure holiday that children are welcome on. Accommodation, attractions and camel trekking are all undertaken at your own risk with parents taking full responsibility for children.
This holiday has been tried and tested with a child as young as three years old, but the age of your children comes down to their nature and tolerance for long car journeys - which only a parent can be a judge of. Young children will ride on camels with their parents.
There is a fair amount of driving involved in this trip and the distances are large, on some days you will be in the car for up to 5 hours. However, there are plenty of photo opportunities along the way .
The camping in the desert is wild, which means that there are absolutely no bathroom facilities. If you don't fancy this extended camping trip, we can arrange for you to have a short camel excursion and camp in one of the tents in the garden.
Flights with Royal Air Maroc both good, even 30 min early arrival in Marrakech. Transfers to/from hotels smooth (in spite of late hour arriving on the way there).
Treks in the Atlas Mts were superb in the spring. The Tassoult Valley was a treat for the senses, with wild flowers, tree blossom, birds (including nightingales every few hundred metres up the valley),rock formations and the frequent river-crossings. Not to mention the friendly local Berbers riding their mules to work, the children walking to school, women and children in colourful clothing. Magdaz was fascinating, with mint tea served on the roof of the agdz(?) or storage towerhouse, by the kind owner's daughter, complete with views of the mountains. There were few signs of other tourists, but this may change soon as the new access road nears completion. There were some interesting driving experiences through the river in the mean time!
The desert trek and camp near Oulad Driss made for another fascinating experience. Because it was pre-desert, with a mix of dunes and vegetation, there was more of interest than a true desert. Desert plants, insects and birds, sunset and sunrise made for some very photogenic moments. Add three camels and our two sons (aged 12 and 18) to the journey for further entertainment. The boys voted this the best part of the holiday. Shame it was only 2 days. The highlight was, for some, a camel spider in the tent, bottled and then examined and released the next morning. Some found it hard to get to sleep that evening!
Ait Benhaddou and Telouet provided a more historical slant on Morocco, ably escorted and informed by our guide Rasheed. The link between Ait Benhaddou and the film industry is a well- known attraction, but I will remember it equally for finding my first wild scorpion! Telouet is more remote, and just as interesting, and is accompanied by strikingly-coloured rock formations en route to Marrakech.
Marrakech is very much an acquired taste. It took us 24 hours to get used to the Medina and the souks, although we never actually got lost. Finding our way around (fairly) successfully, learning to ignore hassling vendors and haggling with others were all satisfying achievements. Recommended places/activities would include Palais La Bahia, Maison Tiskiwine, the Artisan zone on the western edge of the Medina, just wandering around the souks and market areas (especially the northern bits), and of course the Café de France terrace overlooking the main square (Place Jemaa-el-Fna) in the evening. Although some of the vendors were a slight nuisance, we did not feel threatened at any time. Some vendors will need to work on their patter, however. Being told by a waiter that we were a skinny family so we needed a meal at his restaurant was amusing rather than persuasive!
Travelling by 4x4 in Morocco was generally a good experience. Road surfaces were variable, according to how remote the area was, but we were too busy being distracted by the scenery to be bothered by any potential discomfort. The only slight trepidation felt was when one driver we had seemed to be playing 'chicken' with oncoming vehicles, on the single lane desert road heading towards M'hamid. Otherwise the driving was smooth and very considerate, especially on the rougher roads.
Accommodation was very good. We were made to feel welcome everywhere. The hostel at Ait ali n Itto was basic, and could have done with the hot water actually being hot, but we accepted that this goes with the territory in a remote area. All the riads we stayed in were very hospitable and generally provided good facilities. Riad Caravane at Ait Benhaddou and Dar Hanane in Marrakech were especially good quality, and welcome after roughing it for the previous 4 or 5 days. Eating breakfasts on the terraces in the mornings while watching the Atlas birdlife, or listening to the Imams in Marrakech successfully calling the faithful to prayer, was memorable.
Our guide, cooks and drivers were all excellent. Rasheed our guide was exceptional. He entered into the family spirit really easily, was a goldmine of information wherever we were, smoothed the way for us on many occasions. This included helping my lack of balance (due to a bout of labyrinthitis) by making a walking stick from a sapling so I could get across the Tassoult river without falling in. He acted as nurse for cuts and blisters on a number of occasions. His thoughtfulness and anticipation could not be faulted. He also seemed to have a very good rapport with the locals he needed to deal with. He was flexible enough to accept my idea of eating a takeaway picnic at an oasis near Zagora when returning from the desert. Abraham our first cook was much appreciated for his huge breakfasts, picnic lunches on trek, snacks on return and evening tajines. We were sad to see him leave us after 3 days. All tips given were easily merited. Thanks to Tourdust for giving us some ballpark advice on this.
So overall a marvellous Moroccan family adventure, scoring a big 5 out of 5. I wish we could do it all over again, and then some more.
Marcus Charig reviewing Family Desert Holiday in Morocco
Dar Thania was great - good location and Momo (the manager) was brilliant. Only comment here (and it was not a problem for us!) was that the itinerary said the whole riad but there were other people staying there throughout our time there. As I say, it did not impact on us but the boys are not the quietest. breakfast was great and they were very flexible with timing. Rooms were lovely.
The desert camp was amazing. The drive there was tough but once there, it was definitely worth it! Not sure they really got vegetarian food (but food was generally great) but that is not uncommon. Sundowners overlooking the dunes will be tough to beat! We went on a camel trek and the boys spent a lot of time running down sand dunes and trying to sand board. Our driver was good (Toufic) - on the way out there, he took us to Ait Ben Haddou and on to Ouarzazate for the day and we had a couple of extra 'cultural' stops on the way out.
Overall, everyone arrived when they should and only comments are as above. Overall five out of five for the trip.
Thank you so much for your help with organising this. I don't think 2 weeks on a beach will cut it next year!
Nicola Walters reviewing Family Desert Holiday in Morocco
Overall the trip went really well, we are certainly happy about your choices and organization -- and if you knew us well, you'd know that is really an achievement (it's our first time on a trip arranged by "others").
- Riad Wo : great place and wonderful host: Elsa is always present but never invasive, and is extremely helpful and available; impeccable
- Ksar Ighnda is a striking hotel, and the apt was very comfortable and appreciated after that trip leg; as a minor thing, of all places, however, the attempts to appease "westerners" is the only negative (piano bar with US/European music during dinner was really out of place - on the other side, anyway, the lamb and eggplants the last night there were fabulous! The rest, courteous and professional throughout)
- Dar Sidi Bounou: Nancy, Said, Raika, Ibrahim,the other people and the place will stay with us as the highlight of the tour. The experience was like being guests at the house of someone from Morocco, and truly left warm and deep memories - conversation with Nancy has been very interesting and instructive, and Said in particular is exceptionally good and caring. Curiously, the main deviations from the trip plan happened there, with the first night being planned for a "room" but actually spent in a berber tent(not sure Nancy thought that was the better thing to do, but we had not prepared our luggage/stuff for that setup, nor our minds... Our fault was however not telling Nancy about it, not sure why -- I'm sure she'd have obliged and moved us to a room. Also, that night, a pack of stray dogs 'camped' around the area, and barked all night, keeping me awake -- we only think that Nancy, who's obviously fond of dogs, shouldn't perhaps try to rescue or adopt what comes around (one of the dogs she had taken care of was the 'lead barker' against the pack I guess). Finally, the desert ride was not were the plan said (wild camping) but it was decided to go to a bivouac (the reason was the day before had been windy)-- it did go well overall, but as the other episodes, these options should be probably anticipated in the plan, just to be clear and set expectations. To reiterate however, this was the best part of our trip anyway, given the overall experience of the two days and the people.
- Dar Qamar: all smooth and very lovely there; we had the right place at the right time, taking a chance to relax and recover a bit before the trip back. The setting is quite striking, in the town' medina, mixing up with local people as you walk out (kids in particular), and the palm groves are one of the most surprising beauties we discovered
- a mention of Mohammed, who was essentially impeccable and responsive
- and finally, the places (to visit, I mean: Telouet, Ait Ben Haddou, M'Hamid and Agdz) you selected on the trip were thoroughly interesting and fascinating, just the types I would have selected myself.
Stefano Odoardi reviewing Family Desert Holiday in Morocco