This last spring break, my husband and I finally decided to fulfill a trip to Morocco that had been pondering for a long time. Both of us had been before separately when we were younger and talking groups around in the case of Carlos, but have always been longing to return with our family. The inexpensive flights from Madrid via Ryan air were too good to pass up. We knew with our 5 and 8 year old, we had to plan well a destination in Morocco that was family friendly and would hold all of the essentials required for kids, ie beach, good food, safe, interesting things to see, etc. We chose Asilah based on a recommendation from friends in Madrid who had been there with their families. Located just an hour´s drive from Tangier on the coast, it is supposedly one of the preferred places where all of the Moroccan families from the North go while on holidays. Flight was easy, airport nice, and after a little bartering to a reasonable price, we caught a cab from Tangier´s bus station. You can take the bus but we determined a private cab driver might be better, cleaner and safer. I think this bartering was conducted in English, Spanish and some French. They sometimes respond to all three. Let me also say that our family vacation would never have been the success that it was without the help of our new friend Steve, who is the only Brit living in Asilah and consequently who rented his charming house to us that was in a great location within walking distance to everything. His house is technically two bedrooms but upstairs, you could sleep more at least two people. It was very comfortable and quite modern with a beautiful terrace to sit out and enjoy sunbathing during the day or the cool night air in the evening. You could have your meals out there as well. When we arrived, we dropped off our luggage, and followed Steve on a wonderful orientation around town. He gave us the grand tour of very small Asilah but introducing us to all the basics, grocery store, local market, good restaurants and Medina. Upon arrival to his rental home, there were children from the neighbourhood surrounding us to try and have a peak at the ¨new kids on the block.¨ One little girl even came to knock on the door to ask my daughter to play. We felt comfortable right away. You can find a link to his house for photos on Homelidays. He is really good about answering all of your questions.
Now, if it is luxury and 5 star you are looking for, Asilah is not the place. Perhaps, most of Morocco is not your place. Poverty and moderate resources are obvious and sometimes disturbing. The country is still lacking in the infrastructure to make tourism easy. That is not to say this country is not worth visiting. It is more than worth it, and if you can look past some of the inconveniences and tense moments of confusion with the language barriers, you will see a lovely people that will go out of their way to please you if you give them a chance. You won´t have an overwhelming greeting with open arms at first, but once they get to know you, they will be your best friend. If you are looking for rich culture, history, warm and generous people, beautiful Moroccan architecture, Asilah has a lot to offer. Some people opt to stay in the Medina, the oldest part of town and probably the most beautiful and quaint. With children, less realistic as you want to have quick access to markets and other stores. The Medina had wonderful shops with handmade artisanal goods that made us wish we could carry more that just our hand luggage back. There were many women doing Henna (an old traditions that is a temporary tatoo design usually on the hands, fingers and arms) and we decided to allow my daughter do one which she loved. Food, don´t get me started. Yes, I am a little biased to the Moroccan cuisine but I highly recommend you study it beforehand as you are not going to find all of the conveniences back home. Having said that, there is an abundance of restaurants to choose from. Just make sure to choose one that has a normal bathroom.
Following our stay in Asilah, we then took a bus to Tetuan. Wonderful place, but I will save that for another article. Overall, it was a great experience. The children had incredible exposure to sights, smells, sounds and challenges that they have never experienced in any other part of Europe. (Try eating in a country market with the freshly butchered goat sitting right next to you) They recognized the vast differences and made comments throughout the trip. There were things they loved and there were things they didn´t like so much. One thing is certain, they learned a lot and they can now say a few words in Arabic and the friends that we made will always be a magical memory for us as a family. If you are interested, we can provide you with more information and recommendations. Overall, I would highly recommend Asilah as a great place for family travel in Northern Morocco.