Travel and Food With Kids in Marrakech
02 March, 2017
Marrakech is mayhem and no one who has set foot in that Moroccan city will ever claim otherwise. It’s a happy form of bedlam for those who like excitement, but a stressful and terribly unpredictable place for those who like to exercise strict control. We advise the latter to take a Vueling to Zurich with their family and enjoy the placid feeling of a place where everything works and a scrumptious fondue is easy to come by. As for the rest of you – we recommend you follow us on this fantastic adventure.
Marrakech is the sort of place where someone accosts you every three steps you take, touting to sell you something or lead you to someone’s shop, offer you a guided tour of the city, drape a snake around your neck, tattoo you, make you an orange juice, walk with you and his monkey – which he wants you to hold by the hand – or fill your bag with perfumes, spices, soaps and beautiful decorative objects that appear to have leaped out of A Thousand and One Nights. All this happens as you dodge to avoid horse-drawn carts rolling to the cry of “Cheap carriage ride, María”, donkeys and other fauna that throng the streets, as you have your photo taken with a chameleon, visit palaces that until then were just a figment of your imagination and chatter about the latest exploits of Barça with men of all ages who cross your path.
This Moroccan city is pure magic, a delightful, fascinating chaos with whiffs of spice and mint tea – sometimes of horse dung, too, but, what the heck! – where any adventure lover is bound to have a whale of a time. And, who better than children to imbibe such a place, different from anything they’ve ever seen before, and abandon themselves to the stream of outlandish characters and situations that will punctuate their stay in Marrakech and make it unforgettable.
The first place the young ones are going to be infatuated with is Jemaa el Fna Square, the nerve centre of the Medina, where one of the most enchanting gastronomic festivals in the world strikes up as night falls. The smell of delicious spicy meat starts to waft out from the street stalls, and of hummus, couscous, tajine, salads and other specialities, sold for a sou. Some are reluctant to sit down to a table in that street market for fear of food poisoning, contaminated water and possible adverse effects on their digestive system. But, just by making sure the cutlery is clean and dry, and avoiding raw food, you can take part in an extravaganza that even Sublimotion can’t touch.
The same square has numerous restaurants with a view, providing angles to gawk at the ongoing revelry in Jemaa el Fna. One of our favourites is Aqua (68 Jemaa el Fna); their top-floor terrace affords privileged views of the square and the homemade Moroccan food is quite good. They also have pasta, pizza, sandwiches and other international dishes, which is great if you want to get away from local cuisine for a day.
We press on with the family gastro route through Marrakech and sit down to a table at a venue which is marvellously unclassifiable – Clock Cafe, one of the few hipster eateries in town, a spot which could be in London or Berlin but has nevertheless retained its Arab essence. Prices here border on those in Europe, their piped music is indie pop, their chairs are yellow, the walls are scrawled with graffiti and they serve a brilliant chicken and caramelised onion couscous, although the kids are more likely to go for the camel hamburgers, one of the star performers of the house. If the weather is cold – which it might be during the Marrakech winter – their fireplace will be your best friend.
Another spot well worth stopping off at is Nid’Cigogne (60 Place des Tombeaux Saadiens), a spacious, three-storey restaurant next door to the Saadian Tombs where the children can have fun with the cats roaming the terrace, enjoy the simple dishes, ranging from sandwiches to Moroccan stews, and take a break for a few hours from the incessant bustle of Marrakech. The service is friendly and, as is the case throughout this fairy-tale city, children are always welcome and are treated kindly, respectfully and effusively.
Lastly, while your options are endless, do make a point of having tea in the pretty Marrakech Henna Art Cafe, where you can get a henna tattoo and taste their little pastries while you wait. You can also dive into a delicious snack of hummus and vegetable couscous at a reasonable price, and pick up some of the souvenirs on sale inside.
Armed with a basketful of craftwork, spices, soaps, multi-coloured babouches and thousands of unforgettable memories, you will have enjoyed a family experience filled with hours of laughter and a stream of wonderful stories to tell. Well, where else in the world are you likely to come across a serious-looking character dressed in a djellaba who stops your little boy in the street and calls out, “Hello, little Nicholas!”. Book your Vueling to Marrakech and get ready to live out the experience for yourself.
Text and photos by Laura Conde of Gastronomistas.com
02 March, 2017