April 2024: Morocco was a country that I had visited in the past but not in any real depth because I considered it too touristy for my taste and there were just too many other interesting north African countries to explore that were without tourists. But I wanted to give Morocco a fair shake and now that I was planning a 3-week trip with my family and infant daughter, I wanted to visit Morocco for the same reasons why I mostly avoided it in the past, because it was touristy, and it is because of the presence of its extensive tourist infrastructure made it easier and safer to visit with a baby.  Morocco is beautiful, exotic and there is a lot to see, and I was excited to show my daughter a slice of Africa without risk.  My plan was to spend 4 days in Morocco and in retrospect I wish we spent more days, but we also planned to see more of the region, southern Spain, Sardinia…. This was our itinerary for the trip:

Day 1: Fly direct from Paris Orly via Transavia Airlines to Ouarzazate.  Hire a car and drive to Skoura and stay in  LaMa Desert Lodge in Sahara Desert oasis village.

 Day 2: Drive to Telout via Bennadou casbah. Stay in guesthouse in Telout in Atlas Mountains.

Day 3: Drive to Marrakesh and stay in a 500-year-old family run traditional riad in the old city.

Day 4: Depart Marrakesh to Malaga Spain via Ryan Airin afternoon.

Our route

Skoura-Sahara Desert Oasis Village

We arrived into Ouarzazate,on the first day after the end of the islamic holidayof Ramaddan, Eid al-Fitr. It is also called the “Festival of Breaking the Fast and marks a 3 day holiday where families get together and partake in celebration and feasting. The airposrt and city was sleepy and few people were in the streets.  At the airport, I was given a free upgrade to a Land Cruiser, a luxurious car for this part of Morocco. Luckily I had reserved our rental car other wise there would be nowhere for us to rent one and no taxis available. We had an hour drive to Skoura through the desert and with a baby in the car, I spare no precuation and I wanted to buy water but we had a hell of a time trying to find an open store. Gas stations were not selling anything but fuel.  We resorted to driving down someof the residential streets where we finally found one small shop that appeared to eb open. But we didn’t have Moroccon money since there wasn’tan ATM at the airport and all we had was euro. Paula and her mom went into to the shop to buy water and the women in the shop was having triuble finding change and the scene attracted a lot of attention and soon a crowd of welcoming veiled Morrcon women gathered around to present their assistance. With water and snacks provided as gifts from the women, we set off to Skoura on empty desert roads passed the occasional ancient ruins of a casbah, 

 

 

An old casbah in Skoura

Skoura is best described as a small oasis agricultural village in the Sahara Desert with the Atlas Mountains visible in the distance. We turned off on a narrow dirt track to our hotel, the L’ma Lodge, a traditional Moroccan hotel known for its traditional architecture amidst a lush walled date plantation. The lodge wasn’t cheap but I decided that we needed a reward at this point in our travels and we had almost a full day to relax in the gardens of the lodge and lounge around in the pool so I wanted to do so somewhere nice where we could recharge.

 

 

Paula in our beautiful room

Morocco is a country that is well known for its hospitality, and this was no exception at the Lma Lodge. The moment we arrived, we were pampered and welcomed with tea and amazing Moroccan food. We enjoyed tea at an outdoor table overlooking the well-manicured garden. it wasn’t long before we started to become sleepy and after our rooms were prepared, we took a very long overdue nap in our air-conditioned rooms.

In the afternoon, I woke up to cooler temperatures to explore some of the abandoned casbahs outside of the grounds of our lodge, where the mudbrick ruins were once part of fortifications to protect Skoura from bandits and invading armies. Life in the village is very riral and date plantations stretched for as far as I could see. Farmers living in mud brick houses farmed with a combination f mechanical machinery and donkeys.

My favorite place in our lodge was the roof top terrace where we had an incredible view of Skoura’s date palm plantations and the mountains. From the terrace, we watched the sunset. It was the perfect place to relax.

 

 

Indie enjoying the view from our rooftop terrace at L’ma Lodge

View from the roof top terrace of the garden and date plantation

At night the gardens came alive with an Aladin like magical atmosphere. Most of the other guests of the lodge were British families with their children too and the gardens were full of the sounds of children playing. Small cozy tents with colorful carpets and cushions were scattered throughout the garden beneath palms and lit up with candles and lanterns. There was one small hut for children with toys where for Indie to play with before dinner. Then we had a large Moroccan dinner with multiple courses and locally grown red wine at a candle lit table inside the garden.

 

 

Aladinn like tent in the garden lit up with candles and lanterns at night

Aladinn like tent in the garden lit up with candles and lanterns at night

Paula and Indie

Indie and Paula in the toy tent

Cienne and Indie

Magical Nighttime garden

The next day we spelt in before having breakfast in the garden and then I too Indie into the pool for a swim. She loved every minute of the experience and so did I. 

 

 

Indie and I in the pool

Family pool experience

Route Across the Atlas Mountains

From Skoura, we drove up into the Atlas Mountains, the highest mountain range in northern Africa which separates the coast from the Sahara Desert and runs almost the entire length of Morroco.  Our destination was a small family run guesthouse in Teloua but first we had a few stops along such as the mud brick city of Bennadou, which just might be Morocco’s most popular tourist attraction.

 

Mud Brick City of Bennadou

Paula and Indie at the Mud Brick City of Bennadou

I was worried about the condition of the winding roads over the mountains, but the roads were great and there were few vehicles on the road maybe because of the holiday and this made driving a lot more casual. I did get my first speeding ticket in my life for going 2 miles per hour over the limit at the entrance of a village where a team of Morrocco policeman in old fashioned uniformed lied in wait with a radar gun. I was waved down and taken to a small chair on the side of the road where I felt like a middle school student being discipled by the principal. I was scolded for speeding, given a 15 USD fine that I had to pay on the spot and my passport and license was recorded.

 

View of a village along a river deep in a canyon gorge

Snow capped Atllas Mountains

Berber Village in the Mountains

After a few hours’ drive, we arrived in Telouet at our guesthouse, located on the edge of a river canyon in the mountains. I went inside and no one was there. The doors were open, and I searched all floors and not a soul was present. I figured the owner was at the mosque praying and I made a few calls. A man answered apologetically and 10 minutes later showed up at the door half dazed from having just awakened from a nap in the vehicle parked next to ours. He was instantly drawn to indie and kept making googly faces at her and tickling her feet. This we would discover was a common reaction among men in Morocco, who seemed to really love babies even more than the women.

 

Paula, Indie and Cienne in the guesthouse

Large Moroccon dinner in the guesthouse

Old wooden doors in the flower bed outside the guesthouse in morning

Near our guesthouse was a casbah I wanted to see that was famous for its murals and beautiful interior. It was also the casbah of a ruler who betrayed a previous king. This meant that the man and his family were ostracized from Morocco and his casbah was left to fall apart. Even today the casbah is in bad shape and is falling apart. It was hit badly from a recent powerful earthquake that left thousands of dead in the Atlas Mountains. Now the Telouet casbah isn’t safe to enter and is awaiting restoration from its current owners but this is unlikely to happen any day soon. When we parked out front tourist shops were shuttered closed and school kids played soccer out front. The only two shop keepers that were present both tried to lure us into their shops and their desperation for any kind of tourism income led to an almost instant verbal attack that between them that threatened to get ugly, so I quickly put Indie back in the vehicle, and we said goodbye to them.

 

Soccer match in front of an old abandoned casbah in Telouet

Staying in a 500 Year Old Riad in Marrakesh 

On the 3rd day after driving through the crazy narrow streets of Marrakesh dodging donkey carts, motor bikes and a completely chaotic flow of vehicles, i decided it was easier to return our rental car one day earlier than to have to figure out where to park it in the old city. it was hot and 110 degrees-warmer than in the Sahara and I hired a taxi from the rental car center at the airport in a long outdoor que to take us to our riad, a small traditional family run traditional home that according to the manager was 500 years old. To get to the riad, our taxi dropped us off at the entrance of a narrow alley way in the old city that was only accessible via foot and motorbike, and we hired a nearby man with a wheelbarrow to carry our luggage as we walked 20 minutes to our riad. The riad was perfect and we instantly fell in love with its solitude and architecture. The interior was 3 floors high and had an open ceiling peering into the sky. There was a small pool for swimming, and we were greeted to afternoon tea and biscuits before we set off for a much-needed nap.

 

Old mosque in marrakesh as scene from the roof top terrace of our riad

Pushing Indie down the side walk to the riad

Inside the riad

Magical riad

Common area

Paula and Indie in our bedroom

Indie and I going for a swim in the pool inside the riad

At night we had a huge traditional dinner on the rooftop terrace of the riad overlooking the old city of Marrakesh.  One of my friends arranged for us to meet a Moroccan girl who lived in Marrakesh and freelanced as a guide. She joined us for dinner and then I watched Indie while she took Paula and her mom to see Marrakesh. The city after Ramadan was boisterous and dull of life and music and at night, I decided it was too much for a baby to handle so I stayed back with her since I had already visited the medina on a prior visit.

 

Our meal on the roof top terrace of our riad

Tea and biscuits

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