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Exotic and otherworldly as Morocco is, it’s also a sophisticated country with historic architecture, elegant cities and a thrilling legacy of art, literature and music.
Whether you choose the magnificent coast or travel inland to buzzing Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, kids will adore Morocco and be loved in return. There are few countries so welcoming for children, and adults often find the strange customs and sights more of a culture shock than kids do.
Morocco’s seaside towns and major cities have a range of family hotels and international brand resorts. But if chlorinated pools and kids’ menus aren’t a deal-breaker, consider staying in a riad – traditional Moroccan homes built around a central courtyard. Most historic medinas incorporate beautifully restored riads as boutique hotels and guesthouses, self-catering apartments or entire family houses. Also worth remembering: the classic elegance of a riad is what most of the best hotels are trying to emulate.
Sparkling Agadir is one of Morocco’s famous coastal resorts. It’s considerably less historic than some of its neighbours, but scores well for sheltered, sandy beaches and a well-ordered sense of calm. Broad boulevards and palm-lined promenades are more Cannes than desert fringe here, so adventurers are often pleasantly surprised to discover they’re not far from the wilds of Plage Blanche and the Western Sahara.
Casablanca and Marrakech are Morocco’s great romantics. Like its inland counterpart, Casablanca is a fascinating mix of age-old tradition and contemporary creativity, but it’s completely original, too. This is the city where glossy malls are as much of an attraction as medinas, new restaurants are springing up all the time, and children are as likely to be awed by modern art as ancient mosques and palaces. Casablanca probably isn’t an ideal family-holiday base, but a string of pretty seaside resorts to the west make it a convenient airport choice from the UK and a fantastic day out – especially for teenagers.
The image of Koutoubia Mosque set against the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas Mountains is breathtaking and almost as old as Marrakech itself. Understandably, this mesmerising city has always been a magnet for artists, writers, poets and musicians. Yves Saint Laurent made his home here and the gorgeous Majorelle Garden created a paint colour all by itself – the very intense Majorelle Blue. This city doesn’t need beaches or resorts to make it magical for young children. Take them to Jemaa el-Fnaa in the afternoon to listen to the storytellers, wander round the morning souks or visit just after Ramadan for Eid al-Fitr and you’ll have created Marrakech lovers for life. It’s a captivating city for teenagers, too, and close enough to the mountains for memory-making expeditions – not far from the mighty Sahara or Toubkal, the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains and a national park, either.
It might have a magnificent World Heritage medina and some of the best watersports in North Africa, but that’s probably not the reason spectacular Essaouira seems familiar. Game of Thrones experts will recognise the sea fortifications as the location where Khaleesi marshalled her army of the Unsullied. If you aren’t a fan, it should be enough to know that the show’s creators choose the world’s sunniest and loveliest places to film, and Essaouira is no exception. This breathtaking city also has outstanding beaches.
City centres are hectic to drive around, but hiring a car is the best way to explore this intricate country. Dozens of operators offer excellent tours to most of the historic sites and even a day in the Atlas Mountain foothills is memorable. Walking is the only way to travel around the medinas.