Marrakech With Kids – Introduction
Marrakech is intense. Even our nine-year-olds who love exploring and excitement felt a bit Marrakech-ed out after four days here. If you are in Morocco, you have to see Marrakech. If you are in Marrakech you must visit the Souq Semmarine. And if you are coming here with your children, then this blog post is for you – read below what to do if you are in Marrakech with Kids
Marrakech With Kids – Marrakech Souq Semmarine
First, the Souq. Marrakech Souq Semmarine is a unique cauldron of crafts, sights smells and experience. But it’s scary for parents of young children. You might lose them or worse. So first, check out our survival guide for Morocco with Kids.
Brief yourself and your children for sensible behaviour and what to do in an emergency.
Ok if you have read that, let’s go! Herding your offspring on a short leash, you run the first gauntlet of vendors calling after you in whatever language they guess you speak. They will offer you their wares and try to extract your promise that you will buy from them later on your way out.
Now slow down. Enjoy it, marvel at the design and workmanship both of the alleys and doorways and of the goods on sale. Treat everyone with respect and make no one any promises.
The Souq mostly comprises small shops in the form of alcoves, each 4 or 5 metres deep, but there are some areas where the craftsmen work. They beat metals, grind and weld steel. They can be seen turning, in-laying or painting wood, and cutting and sewing leather. There are also some large shops (bazaars) either dealing with a single craft, or else with deluxe goods across a range of crafts.
We have trained our girls to be careful and respectful when in shops and not to touch unless invited to do so. So a good way to enjoy the Souq is to choose a store displaying whatever you find interesting. Herd your brood in, and let them explore with their eyes. They can’t get lost and so you don’t have to hold onto them while in the shop. The shop owner will be telling you that he will give you special prices because your children are so lovely. When we have done this, we have never found it difficult to extract ourselves without buying if we didn’t want to.
Place des Epices
The best part of the Souq for our girls is a little open square called Place des Epices. Here, a couple of the stall holders have live chameleons which they were happy to let the girls play with for ages. They chatted without any pressure for us to buy the herbs and spices they were selling. We did buy of course, but not until we had revisited the same guy three times and each time having been welcomed like family.
Metal workshop in the Souq
Another place we loved was the metalwork area near the edge of the Souq.
Here the craftsmen work in dark alcoves or on the narrow way outside their stall fronts. The grinding and welding is a constant firework display. You can marvel at the way craftsmen kneel to weld and hammer strips of metal in the same road where mopeds run up and down. It is so much more fun for the kids to see stuff being made than it is for them to see it displayed in a stall.
Nearby is the fabric dyeing area – Marrakech tanneries , but we didn’t go there because we have been warned about the extra-pushy vendors and the alleged impossibility of escape without buying. We didn’t miss it. There was more than enough interest and excitement for us in the rest of the Souq.
Cafes and Restaurants around Souq
There are cafes and restaurants dotted around, so you can also escape from the hubbub for a cup of tea in a quiet courtyard. Use the loo and re-emerge refreshed. We enjoyed Le Bougainvillier courtyard cafe – location
Marrakech With Kids -Jemaa el-Fna Square
The main square in front of the Souq Semmarine is the Jemaa el-Fna
This square is a place to hold on tight to the kids, and a place always to agree the fee before accepting any offer. But it’s also a nice place to wander around soaking up the atmosphere and enjoy a cheap fresh orange juice or have something to eat at any of the stalls which pop up here in the evening. Sometimes though it just feels like a constant hassle, best observed from one of the rooftop terrace restaurants.
You can have your photo taken with snake charmers or monkeys – whether you want to or not. In our case, the girls were looking at cobras and within seconds someone put snakes on their shoulders and asked for my phone to take photos.
I asked how much – “Whatever you want to pay.” he said. But at the end, of course, he wanted much more than the 50 Dhs I was prepared to give him. Or you can have your shoes cleaned. Nick accepted an offer of 10 Dhs, to polish his shoes. But when he had done the job the man asked for 10 Euro (ten times as much) – we got away with paying 20 Dhs – double the agreed price.
By day, Jemaa el-Fna is largely open, except for fruit juice stalls. As well as the hustlers, it will be thronging with people selling and buying anything from sunglasses, kaftans, and toy snakes, to little drums, balloons or fridge magnets.
The horse carriages along the avenue towards the Koutoubia Mosque are payable by the hour. Expect to pay 150 to 250 Dhs for the carriage and driver.
In the evening, the square fills up with market stalls which pop up and later disappear every day. There are musicians, drummers, little shows, people hosting games of chance or skill. Our way of negotiating this maelstrom was to head for at one of the many cafe restaurants around the square at dusk.
We would go straight up to the rooftop “terrace panoramique.” and let the kids hang over the balcony to enjoy the spirit of the square without the risks.
Entry to the square is free. Restaurants are available at all price points, we went to a very simple one on the Passage Prince Moulay Rachid and had a delicious Tanjia.
Marrakech With Kids – Walking Tour of the Old City
This is a good orientation exercise. Kids love learning and exploring, so it’s an opportunity to do both. You all see much more than you would do if you had only your own senses to guide you. We did this on the first day in Marrakech and that was a good plan. It set us up well for our own forays over the next three days. The tour we took was free. We tipped the guide 200 Dhs
Marrakech With Kids – Old Street – Le Rue Riad Zitoun el Kdim
If you and your kids like the hum of the Souq but not the labyrinth, then take the Rue Riad Zitoun el Kdim. This runs from Jemaa el-Fna Square at this point to le Place des Ferblantiers . It has much of the life and colour of the main event but is a single linear street and without quite the same risk of getting lost. It is also on the way to the Bahia Palace and the El Badii Palace.
Marrakech With Kids – Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech
Another notch along the spectrum away from crazy and towards sanitised is the Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech. This is a modern complex within the medina walls and containing courtyards of stalls and bazaars where the proprietors have evidently signed up to a non-hassle charter. There is some lovely craftsmanship on sale there and the character of the place feels safe and simple. There is a restaurant, toilets, and a cash machine that offers change.
It would be too antiseptic to come to Marrakech and visit this place instead of the Souq. But it’s worth coming here once, perhaps before your last buying trip to the Souq proper, to help you decide what to buy and how much to pay for it. Entry is free.
Directly opposite the Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech is the Cyber Park. Here the kids can chill out, enjoy the trees and the birds, run around on the gravel paths and generally just be outside and out of the traffic. There is lots of shade.
The park is almost full of trees, with wide gravel paths and a few small courtyards. There are some small lawns but you can’t go on them. Our kids loved this park because it’s big and different parts have different characters. Some are quite formal, whilst those closer to the old Medina wall are a bit wilder and better for the kids to explore.
Entry is free and there are lots of gates so you can come and go at different points along the road. It is also back to back with Carrefour if you need to escape from market stalls for a Westernized browse.
Very close to the Cyber park is a tiny Arts Park
This little sculpture park is very much in tune with our girls’ sense of exploring and trying to make sense of things. It is next to La Place de la Liberte roundabout. There are about a dozen modern sculptures in different materials. They have more or less obscure names for children and their parents to decode, interpret and discuss.
Entry is free, and we spent a very happy half hour there.
Museums and palaces in Morocco are astonishing, and probably more richly decorated than anything you will see anywhere else. But for every single amazing thing you will find in them (including the decorations on walls and ceilings) you can also find its peer for free in the market outside.
The Bahia Palace (Bahia palace location) is one such and it is big. It has beautiful rooms, courtyards and gardens, however there is no furniture inside and each space is pretty much the same as the ones before and after. (Actually we felt that the first courtyard and the rooms around it were the best, so everything else was a slight disappointment)
Should you see it? Yes probably. Along with the Alhambra and the Forbidden City it is one of the most intensely crafted secular complexes on the planet. And the girls enjoyed it. I gave them my phone to play with, and they took numerous photos.
On the most prosaic level, almost every court has toilets, so there is one less thing to worry about. Entry is 70 Dhs for foreign adults, 30 Dhs for children.
This garden is a long way from everywhere else mentioned here (Jardin Majorelle -location). It is a small, perfectly manicured, walled garden restored and cared for by Yves Saint Laurent, and dedicated to him. It is full of people taking selfies and is extremely picturesque. The girls loved it. There are lots of plants and little places to discover. There are goldfish and turtles in the pond, vistas to explore and giant cacti to wonder at.
We considered it well worthwhile to visit. The entry fee was 70 Dhs for me and free for the girls. There is also an Yves Saint Laurent Museum and a Berber Museum on the same site (separately payable) Neither was open on the day we visited.
Marrakech With Kids – Conclusion
There is much more than this to do in Marrakech, but if you do all this with children, give yourself a pat on the back and head for the beach in Essaouira or Imsouane for a couple of days. Another way to survive Marrakech is to book accommodation in one of the Raids in Marrakech.
If you visit Morocco as a family and want to drive read this Morocco with kids self-drive itinerary
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