Please note all opinions are completely my own.
When my daughter was around 18 months, we decided we needed a quick break, as we were feeling extremely burnt out from the stresses of the year. Usually, I only have a few requirements when travelling with a child, which are as follows:
- Short journey: 3-4 hours on a plane with a toddler is about as much as I can handle.
- Hot country: I absolutely love hot countries, until I get there. Then I keep moaning about how hot it is. I do that here in the UK too!
- Halal Food: I really dislike having to restrict myself to vegetarian options, or looking around for halal places to eat. I prefer everything (or most places) to be halal so it is easier to find places to eat.
These three requirements rule out a lot of places. As we had already been Turkey the previous year, I decided it was time to visit Marrakech. I had heard mixed reviews on Marrakech, from different people. People were quite apprehensive about taking a child there, claiming it was not very safe and the atmosphere of Marrakech was not quite suitable for children. Luckily we found this to be completely untrue.
Our first big decision was wondering whether to book a separate plane seat for our daughter as under twos can ride on the parent’s lap. Not really keen on having an 18 month old on our laps for four hours (there were no bassinets available for short haul journeys), we opted for a separate seat.
Our second big decision was what hotel to book. Marrakech is full of traditional Riads (Moroccan style boutique hotels). When I travel abroad I love to experience the culture and see different things, but I also miss little things from back home. I always look for some sense of familiarity when I go abroad. Usually the hotel is where I look to some British comforts, be it in the style of the room or even the snacks offered. I tried to look for a hotel room which was modern yet comfortable and near amenities such as a supermarket. Luckily, The Savoy le Grand was perfect for us in terms of style and location. The modern yet neutral decor offered some comfort as the style was similar to a British hotel. There were suites offered at a reasonably low price, so we opted for a suite room.
Once our uneventful plane journey was over, on leaving the airport I was surprised at the humidity and heat. Although it was May, the heat was quite unbearable. It was midday so the heat was at its most intense. I was immediately concerned as to whether we would be able to go out during the day with our daughter. Luckily the weather cooled down once it rained heavily. We found our pre-booked taxi and made our way to the hotel.
The first thing I noticed was the security scanners. The hotel had erected two ugly scanners to check every guest at the hotel when entering. Although it was reassuring to see that level of security, the novelty got irritating quite quickly. Every time we would enter and leave we would usually have our bags checked. I’ve never experienced this anywhere except at an airport. The scanners were not only ruining the look of the exterior of the hotel but were also time consuming. I am sure they could have found a more effective way to monitor people coming in and out of the hotel without the use of this airport style security.
Staff members at the reception were quite slow and unhelpful, especially at the desk. This is the only criticism I have of the hotel. They really did not make much effort with guests and acted complacent to any request or question. This reflected quite badly on the hotel overall as the front of house is usually the first point of call for any guest. The staff member dressed in traditional Moroccan clothing and serving Arabic coffee (qahwa) and dates (khajoor) in the reception was extremely friendly and made up for the lacklustre welcome from the other staff members.
The room itself was modern and extremely large. I honestly could not believe the sheer size of the room we had been given. I love spacious rooms and this suite was definitely spacious. The room was as big as a studio flat with two bathrooms (so handy when you’re constantly changing nappies) and a large living room and balcony which allowed my daughter to run around freely. There were also TVs in both rooms (perfect for when you want to watch different things) and a dressing room (with a full length mirror which was handy for makeup and getting ready). The bathroom was extremely large with a jet shower and a large deep jet tub. There was also a Lavazza coffee machine, which was handy for those early morning/midday espressos. Aside from the large room, the cleaning staff and hotel manager and restaurant managers were extremely welcoming and most helpful. I would highly recommend tipping the cleaning staff as they go above and beyond for you when you tip them (this does not have to be a large amount).
Breakfast was a typical English/American buffet breakfast with all the usual offerings of fruits and pancakes, cereals, freshly baked breads, Moroccan cuisine and a variety of drinks. It did get quite busy during breakfast and the service was mediocre at best. Some days, we would be shown a table, given orange juice and offered milk for our daughter. Other times there was no sign of any staff members to be seen. Although we did not need staff members to seat us, because they were the only people providing the fresh orange juice or a freshly brewed coffee, we would wait around so we could be given a decent drink. The breakfast was large in its selection and the room was airy and clean, so we usually enjoyed this meal and made the effort to get out of bed early in order to get a good seat.
The hotel had pools both indoors and outdoors. As we do not like to swim in crowds, we opted to go to the indoor pool. It was quite dark but empty as everyone preferred to swim in the sunshine. This was perfect for us as I could lounge on the sun lounger (reading my book) as my daughter and husband enjoyed the water.
Savoy le Grand was located right next to a shopping centre/mall. Carrefour (a supermarket) was next door. As we love snacking and buying amenities even if we are on holiday for a week, we were really excited to have a supermarket next door. When we felt peckish between meals we would pick up some drinks and snacks (at a decent price/ no need to eat or drink from the mini bar). It is probably the first time on holiday where I snacked in my hotel without feeling like I had paid an extortionate amount of money. Also the supermarket sold anything you would require for a toddler, which was ideal, as we did not have to worry about taking nappies etc. in our luggage!
The shopping centre Menara Mall, had numerous places to eat and a fabulous Kids zone where my daughter would ask to go every day. You can purchase passes for the rides and activities available and your children will be entertained all day. There are also food places inside the shopping centre which is handy after the children have been playing in the kid’s area. This shopping centre was honestly the best entertainment for our daughter and we used to take her there every single day. The shops themselves were lacklustre but the sheer proximity of Menara Mall to our hotel meant we would visit here just for the kids zone. The view from the food court balcony was also stunning and definitely worth a visit.
There was also a fountain located right outside the hotel where every night, a fountain show would be held. This kept our daughter captivated and we would try and make time to see the fountain everyday. It was quite popular and quite a lot of locals and tourists would gather round to watch.
Jemaa el-Fnaa (the market in the old city of Marrakech) was a sharp contrast to the area where we were staying (only a 20 minute walk or 5 minute drive). The Old City was traditional, with elements of the Moroccan charm, whereas where we were staying, the roads were newly laid and all the buildings were modern and freshly constructed. The old, dusty, cobbled streets in the Old City were full of old school charm. The sellers and entertainers were quite pushy and it is an art to keep from paying to watch the snake charmers/ monkey entertainers and buying from the little shops lined inside the souk (market). They have vastly inflated prices so please make sure you haggle. Usually even paying 50% of the price is too much. The same goods can be bought outside the square for more reasonable prices. If you enjoy haggling this is an excellent place to practise your skills. The sellers usually have an entertaining story and love to barter. Shopkeepers would regularly give my daughter free gifts (which made me wonder if we were still getting ripped off/ the cynic in me).The area came to life at night with outdoor street food and market sellers everywhere. Be careful asking for guidance or getting into a taxi (or going sightseeing) without agreeing prices, as a lot of people try to make a quick buck from tourists.
Koutoubia Mosque, located quite close to the square (Jemaa el-Fnaa) had a stunning courtyard and gardens. The atmosphere here was peaceful yet bustling with people coming to pray. I would definitely recommend coming here to pray or wandering around to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the gardens surrounding the mosque. There are also many other places for site seeing such as the Menara Gardens, Bahia Palace, Majorelle Gardens, El Badi Palace and Saadian Tombs. If you enjoy immersing yourself in the history of Marrakech, these places have stunning greenery and a lot of historical background. Make sure you don’t let random taxi drivers coax you into taking a tour with them. They usually overcharge and take you on a car tour where they stop at pre-agreed shops in order to convince you to buy things.
Food, which played a big part in us visiting the city, was quite simply amazing. The meals were simple and usually slow cooked in a tagine. These beautiful clay pots make the meat tender and infuse all the spices into the meat. I was reluctant to eat lamb in a foreign country (meat tends to disagree with my stomach when abroad) but watching my husband relish his tagine meal after meal made me curious. The sensation in my mouth once I tasted it was sensational. The succulent and tender meat which was perfectly spice literally melted in my mouth. After that meal I ordered a tagine at every dinner. The fresh mint tea which was a custom at the end of every meal, refreshed my palette and helped me relax for the evening. Of course when we felt slightly home sick, we used to make a trip to the local Mcdonalds or KFC for our chicken burger and fries fix (which was only 15 minutes away from the hotel). Cafe Snack Bab Agnou, Amaia, La Cour Des Lions and many other restaurants served fabulous Moroccan and international cuisine. We used Trip Advisor as our food guide and we were not disappointed.
No trip to Morocco would be complete without a camel ride. We were driven to an unknown location during out site seeing trip and given the chance to ride camels (this same option was also available near the hotel). The guide was extremely friendly and spoke perfect English. He told us stories and filled us in on the history of the gardens we were riding in. He even wove a beautiful flower out of reeds!
Overall, the trip was a success. We were worried our toddler would not be entertained but the Menara Mall carried more than enough entertainment for her. We balanced the days with activities for our daughter and site-seeing and experiencing different sites/places for ourselves. We were refreshed and ready to get back to work after six days. Luckily the short flight meant we were not jet-lagged too severely.
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