Parents’ Travel Guide: What to Do in Marrakech
Stylish and mysterious, Morocco’s “Red City” is also a family-friendly destination filled with history and exotic adventures.
The deeply saturated colours of the city have inspired Winston Churchill’s watercolours, the fashions of Yves Saint Laurent and America’s obsession with Arabian Nights-style outdoor design. Even so, Marrakech is one of the world’s great family destinations, as well: the perfect combination of exotic and accessible (the flight from New York’s JFK airport, for example, is not much longer than a flight to London).
Four Seasons Resort Marrakech is a serene, family-friendly counterpoint to the lively chaos outside its walls, and is located just minutes from Menara Airport and from the exciting human jumble of the medina.
- Oasis in the city. The Resort’s vast complex of guestrooms and residences is spread across 40 acres of Moorish gardens (one of the biggest spaces in the city), but is completely contained by walls to maintain its tranquility and safety.
- Moroccan design. The light-filled property merges the design of a Moroccan medina and riad with a modern, open format.
- Kids For All Seasons. The kids’ club caters to all ages. Four Seasons can arrange for family camel rides, climbing, hot air balloon rides and a multitude of other activities with its trusted partners both on and off the property.
- Lots of supervision. If Mom and Dad want to get away for private time, there’s plenty to keep kids happily occupied.
- A huge family pool with cabañas.
What the kids will love
- They’ll be treated like celebrities. Younger guests get child-size bathrobes, their own amenities, specialised menus and welcome gifts.
- There’s plenty to do. Kids can watch a movie in the screening room, go on treasure hunts and enjoy fun activities such as belly dancing lessons.
- Young Adult Centre. Older kids (ages 13 to 17) can relax in a chic lounge all their own, perfect for mingling, checking email on Macs and PCs, playing pool and foosball, or lounging on their own outdoor patio.
- Hitting the court. A tennis academy on the Resort’s clay courts, complete with complimentary racquets and lessons with David Martin pros.
- Historic adventures. Guided tours of Marrakech, including the old Medina and Djemaa El Fna (think snake charmers, dancers and picking your own food to be cooked from the steaming couscous tables), are exciting trips for the whole family.
- Day trips. Head out by car or bike into the Atlas Mountains or to the numerous historical landmarks around Marrakech.
What you will love
- Easy transportation. A Hotel courtesy car will take you into town starting at 6 pm.
- The Spa. Relax in one of the most tranquil spas in Marrakech. Try a Moroccan or Middle Eastern-style treatment, or an authentic hammam treatment. (The hammam experience—from being scrubbed with black soap and a rough kessa glove to pulling the toxins from your skin with a rhassoul clay mask—is a ritual all Moroccans regard as essential.)
- Flawless tech connectivity. Stay connected even in a city notorious for WiFi slowdowns during certain times of day.
- Daily treats. An amazing platter of fresh and dried fruits and nuts, Moroccan pastries, and water are delivered to your room daily.
- Maarifa Cultural Centre and Boutique. The Centre hosts talks and live demos by Moroccan artists and artisans, a reference library, and Internet access. Plus, incredible designs are available for purchase from the likes of sophisticated contemporary Moroccan clothing designer Noureddine Amir, organic textiles from La Maison Bahira and Moroccan cushioned kids’ animal toys handmade by Zid Zid.
- Traditional Moroccan hospitality in a modern setting. A greeting with traditional mint tea and dates as you check in feels as though you’re being welcomed into someone’s home.
- The Resort’s complimentary Kids For All Seasons club. Programming by the hour, plus no need for reservations. This is no cookie-cutter kids’ club: it’s designed by a local Moroccan toymaker. Young kids can make crafts such as traditional Moroccan slippers out of construction paper.
- Breathtaking floral designs by Jeff Leatham, artistic director of the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris (and whose clients also include Oprah Winfrey, Madonna and Chelsea Clinton). Tightly sculptural works of dozens of fragrant, Technicolor roses (this is the City of Roses, after all) pack the Resort’s public spaces.
- (For kids) Kids love Azzera Grill, the al fresco restaurant overlooking the pool, with a variety of Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Continental choices such as grilled meat and fish, Andalusian gazpacho, and tangy Fattoush salad. Or just take a break from the hot sun with a poolside ice cream.
- (For parents) At least one night, let the kids have a movie night and order in-room dining while parents have an intimate dinner at Bleu d’Orange, the stand-alone Italian restaurant dramatically anchoring a walkway from the property. Standouts are perfectly light gnocchi in butter, a modern take on veal Milanese and a to-die-for semifreddo Tiramisu.
- For your parents’ night out, tack on the newly opened Zest rooftop lounge atop Bleu d’Orange restaurant. It’s the perfect place for a cozy pre- or post-dinner cocktail aside a roaring outdoor fire. Sexy, low-slung seating and a 360-degree view offer an unparalleled look at the Atlas Mountains in the distance.
- Whatever you do, don’t miss a night of eating in one of the many steaming couscous stalls in the famous Djemaa el Fna, the world’s largest souk. Kids can pick the meats they’d like grilled right from a giant display. Sit at the communal tables covered with paper cloths and dig in.
- Al Fassia in the Guéliz neighbourhood (about a 15-minute drive from Four Seasons) is undeniably popular with tourists, but just as popular with locals. What we loved: it’s completely run by women (you’re meant to feel as if your mother is cooking for you). Start with a selection of dozens of tiny salad samplings, followed by whatever the ladies recommend (don’t miss the traditional chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons).
- Azar is best reserved for a parents’ night-out, but is definitely worth the trip. Lightened-up Lebanese specialties served in a modern, witty space are livened up starting at 10 pm with jaw-dropping belly dancing to a modern beat.
5 family to-dos
1. Trip to the Atlas Mountains. Sign up for a trip into the verdant Ourika Valley where you can visit one of the women’s cooperatives and learn how they grind the dried seeds of the argan fruit to make the precious oil (both for dipping your bread—try a sample—and for curing nearly every malady of skin and hair).
2. Take a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Sign up for a family camel ride, a hot air balloon ride or a bike adventure through the city or into the mountains. Ask the Resort Concierge for suggestions.
3. Hike into a Berber village. Drive into the high plateaus at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, where the Berber people still live as they have for hundreds of years. Learn how to make traditional mint tea (pouring it from outlandish heights to get just the right amount of foam), and take a traditional Berber cooking class taught by local families.
4. Kids’ club. The Resort’s colourful Kids For All Seasons is a huge hit for kids ages four to 12. The roster is full of storytelling and painting, making Moroccan crafts (like construction paper slippers), and is open all day long. Brightly hued toys and Moroccan floor cushions pack the room, and kids have their own secure outdoor place. Kids up to 17 get their own welcome kit with a schedule for the Young Adult Centre (they’ll get Wii and Xbox, Mac and PCs, foosball and pool, plus their own screening room and menu to order from).
5. Explore the city. Take the family on a self-directed wander through the souks of Marrakech (you might get lost for a bit, but all roads ultimately lead back to the main square). Or ask the Concierge to arrange a tour of the city’s historic attractions, such as the Mellah (the former Jewish Quarter where you can find all sorts of spices and teas), the opulent Bahia Palace and the exciting Djemaa al Fna souk at night.