Our first long haul trip to Africa was 7 months in the making. And just like many of our travels, it was really an opportunity trip rather than a super planned one. What got us booking was a seat sale for under Php 28,000 round trip per person (under USD 550 is such a steal!) and no visa was required, which meant less hassle and frustrations. It was win-win situation. But because we had limited Filipino friends who visited Morocco, we had to do more research and planning than usual.
A lot of our family and friends kept on asking us why Morocco? Is it safe? How far is it? Is it hot there? What can you see other than the desert? Why not some known kid-friendly places? And our simple answer was, “The more unknown it is, the better. Kids have a way of easily adapting and blending in and we wanted to share our tales of the unknown.
If Instagram photos are not enough to convince you that Morocco should be in your travel radar, here are our top reasons why Morocco should be on your next family travel bucket list.
AS FILIPINOS, YOU ENJOY VISA-FREE TRAVEL
This is a major reason for us to choose Morocco. Arranging visa is stressful for me that is why I usually prefer visa-free or visa on arrival countries. Filipino citizens do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco for 90 days stay.
As with any foreign travel, make sure to bring proof of identity, itinerary and proof of sufficient funds just in case you are asked at the Immigration. In our case, we had a flawless and easy immigration experience at Casablanca Airport.
IT’S YOUR GATEWAY TO THE SAHARA DESERT
Ever imagined yourself riding camels on a fiery orange landscape? Or perhaps playing in the sand and walking barefoot? A lot of travelers we met in Morocco told us that this is the only reason they are visiting this country. The desert is such an attraction for everyone and camping under the stars is something you will remember for a lifetime.
The iconic Sahara Desert offers a multitude of things to do – sunrise, sunset, stargazing, camping, camel rides, quad bikes, sand boarding, and my favorite – just relaxing on the hammock. Your little ones will enjoy wading in the sand for hours just like our daughter.
IT IS BACKPACKER & BUDGET-FRIENDLY OR YOU CAN GO ALL OUT AND BE LUXURIOUS TOO
We were surprised how well traveled the country is especially by European visitors – this meant that it can accommodate every travelers budget and liking. For a family room that fits 3-4 guests, we spent on average Php 6,000 - 8,000. Some were more expensive because we went all out on boutique riads,
It’s possible to stay in budget hostels (we saw numerous ones in Marrakech outside of the medina) and you can also choose 5-star riads or hotels for that once in a lifetime experience. Food and coffee is generally cheap and affordable with a cup of espresso ranging from 10 Moroccan Dirham (1 Euro or Php 60) to an expensive 20 Moroccan Dirham in fashionable and touristy places. While food viands such as tagine can be as cheap as 30 Moroccan Dirham (3 Euros of Php 180) to an expensive 90 Moroccan Dirhams.
We did a mix of both worlds experiencing cheap food in the medina with a full meal consisting of 20 meat skewers, tagine, bread and drinks for only 110 Moroccan Dirhams (11 Euros or Php 660) to an expensive bottle of wine from Meknes that cost us 30 Euros (Php 1,800) at an upscale boutique Kasbah turned expensive guesthouse in the mountains.
IT’S A LAND OF CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL MASH UP
For Filipinos, this is nothing like what we see in our country. It is so much in contrast to what we call home. There are no (maybe few) beaches, limited malls, very seldom traffic. People dress differently, and most people speak in Arabic French.
We met the Gnawa people in the desert who are African migrants to the country and has called Morocco their home. We saw Berber ethnic groups wearing their blue or white dyellabas depending on their tribe and culture. We heard prayer calls 5x a day from Mosque minarets and watched people carefully prepare as they entered the mosques.
It was a beautiful site to see – it was foreign to our eyes. It was exotic and it left our souls wandering for more. We asked so many questions to everyone we met – from our driver, to our guides, to sellers and to fellow travelers. For children, this can be one of the most educational trips you can ever be on. Be curious and you shall be rewarded.
THE ACCOMMODATIONS ARE LIKE NOTHING IN THIS WORLD (HINT: DON’T STAY AT HOTELS)
I’ve always wondered what a riad was. I saw this while researching on Instagram – beautiful photos of ladies wading in the pool surrounded by mosaic walls and greenery. When I saw it in real life, it was one of the most amazing accommodations I saw. And each accommodation we spent in differed per region.
Where we lived always told a story - and this was interesting for our little one. She started documenting each place we lived in and described the walls in much detail.
Riad translates into ‘garden’ in Arabic and we have amazing experiences from the most luxurious and oldest one if Fez, to a gorgeous pool centered courtyard in Marrakech.
We also lived in a Kasbah, translates to multiple buildings behind a defensive wall or a castle in the mountains of Dades Valley. This one featured brick and mud walls with straws.
And lastly, we also stayed in a luxurious desert camp in the middle of sand dunes. I have no idea how they were able to do this – how to get water in the middle of a desert, how to equip each room with toilets and bath and how you can set up everything beautifully for travelers never to forget the experience.
Whatever you choose, make sure you book in advance. Riads tend to get booked ASAP especially during spring and summer seasons.
THE ARCHITECTURE IS ORNATE AND AMAZING
Our first stop in Morocco was Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque – and it was grand and beyond beautiful. Each wall was plastered with symmetrical design, and at the center of the hallways were intricate chandeliers. And that’s just the beginning.
All throughout the country, you will be amazed with the stunning Islamic architecture. We saw this profoundly in museums in Marrakech, in the gates of Fez and also visited pottery and mosaic makers in Fez. There are Roman Ruins too near Meknes called Volubilis.
When you visit Morocco, take your sweet time admiring the architecture – no two are alike. At least in my view. Look at the door paintings, admire the mosques, see the mosaic walls and look up at the ceilings filled with intricate images. You will definitely fall in love.
IF YOU LOVE ROAD TRIPS, THIS IS THE PERFECT WAY TO SEE THE COUNTRY
I’m not a fan of road trips, especially in the Philippines when you’re up against traffic congestion. But Morocco is a different story. Each region changed terrains – when we were travelling from Fez to Merzouga, we went up the High Atlas Mountains and were greeted by snow-capped mountains. As we made our way down the desert, the terrain changed from blue, green and white to black, brown and orange. It was simply marvelous and out of this world.
That said, don’t forget to bring anti-dizzy or motion sickness medicines. The road bends do get crazy and they can painstakingly take a toll on your little ones.
THE PEOPLE ARE WARM AND THEY LOVE KIDS
Contrary to what we read in blog posts, the Moroccan people we met are warm and they love talking to our little one. More often than not, we would notice people softly pinching our daughter’s cheek, touching her chin, patting her on the head or even hugging her. It was heartwarming to see that. They called her 'little princess', and most offered small trinkets and goodies to her – I remember in a shop in Marrakech, the seller gave her free earrings. And in a small restaurant, the man gave her small bread as a takeaway even if we didn’t purchase anything.
IT IS A SHOPPER’S HAVEN
I’m not into buying souvenirs from travels, I prefer spending our money on experiences and food. But Morocco was a little bit different for me. The Moroccan souks (or the markets) were captivating to the foreign eyes – it was colorful, vibrant and chaotic. It had leather goods, carpets and rugs, spices, oils and cosmetics, lamps and ceramics.
To make it interesting for children, why not give them a small amount of money that they can use to purchase something of their own. I gave our little one 20 Moroccan Dirhams which she exchanged for a snow globe in the middle of our travel. She carefully looked at items in the souk and examined if it is really what she wanted for a keepsake.
I personally preferred buying leather goods in Fez, argan oil in the High Atlas Mountains, carpets and rugs in Dades Valley, ceramics in Fez and lamps in Marrakech all at Ladies’ Cooperatives because it was Government funded/ developed and the prices were highly monitored.
If you are looking for unique things to decorate your house, Morocco is the place to find it.
ENGLISH IS WIDELY SPOKEN
One consideration we also look into is the language of the country. We didn’t like the idea of being heavily dependent on our tour guide (of course sometimes you have no choice) but it is always good to have a common language you can speak in.
English is widely spoken but French is the most popular foreign language after Arabic and Berber. We always suggest fellow travelers to learn a few words in your country of destination such as Hello, Thank You, You’re Welcome, Yes, No, How Much and Where to.
Planning a trip to Morocco but unsure how to go about it, check our blog posts and guides on Morocco here.
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