Avid followers of this blog will know that my Swiri husband and I now have a baby and I am currently in Essaouira with him (baby not hubby) for the second time. I don’t plan to get into mummy blogging, but I thought some parents might find it useful if I shared my top tips for travelling with baby in Essaouira. Moroccans love kids and your baby will be hugged, kissed and generally entertained everywhere you go. However, there are very few family friendly facilities. Some canny packing will help you make your trip with your previous little one as trouble-free as possible.
- Ditch the buggy
I am a fan of baby wearing even at home, but when travelling it really comes into its own. Using a sling, baby carrier or – like the locals – a scarf means you are hands-free to manage other things like getting through the airport, in and out of taxis or carrying your bags. Furthermore, Essaouira pavements are just not designed for pushing prams, buggies and strollers and if you use one, you’ll end up pushing it alongside buses, cars, horse-drawn carriages, motorbikes and scooters on the road. If you are a baby wearing novice, look up your local sling library – they can advise you on the best brand for your needs and you can even rent one for the duration of your trip.
2. Bring your own high chair
Few restaurants in Morocco provide high chairs. I don’t think I have seen one in a restaurant in Essaouira. High chairs are not typically included in the baby equipment an airline will let you carry for free and I am not suggesting you bring your full size one. However, we were fortunate to be given two handy gadgets which turn pretty much any chair into a temporary high chair. One is the muchkin baby travel booster seat, which has two heights and includes a really handy storage section – you could pretty much use it as a changing bag as well. The other is the gro chair harness, which packs handily into a stuff sack and hardly takes up any room.
3. Pack your own nappies
I’ll get it out there: Moroccan disposable nappies are not like those made for sale in Europe. The packaging of the big brands looks the same, but the contents are a mere shadow of their European counterparts. They are fine for day time, as long as you are prepared to change them a bit more frequently (see below), but for night time you might want your regular brand. I packed a bumper pack into the car seat, which the airline transported for free. You can also order them to be collected from a shop (eg Boots in the UK) air side, along with any formula etc, so that they can be used as your second hand bag if your airline has such restrictions.
4. On the subject of nappy changes…
I know of no baby changing facilities in Essaouira. Please tell me if you have found any. I get around this by frequent trips home (eg at mealtimes) and by availing myself of a corner in businesses where I know the staff. It pays to make a few friends around the medina. Essaouira cafe and restaurant owners will typically let you use a banquette (those flat Moroccan sofas which line the walls) to change your baby – bring a folding changing mat.
In general, you can’t go wrong with a scarf in your bag or around your neck for sun protection, modesty or staving off the drafts of the Atlantic wind or over-zealous aircon. If you are a breastfeeding mother, the jumbo muslin or large scarf comes into its own. Moroccan women do breastfeed in public, but they are very discreet and you don’t see many of them in cafes compared to the number of men who seemingly have all day to linger over a nouss-nouss (milky coffee). On our first trip, I expected every man in the cafe to turn and stare, but in fact people were pretty respectful when I breastfed in public. If you feel shy, however, make sure you befriend a few cafe or restaurant staff early on in your trip so you have a couple of places where you can feed in comfort.
6. Getting around
It is now the law in Morocco to use infant car seats outside of city limits. Within the cities, it apparently doesn’t matter. The law is relatively new and as a result people are not familiar with car seat use. I highly recommend that if you plan to use cars to travel any distance that one of the infant equipment items you bring over is your own car seat. You will then know how to use and fit it, it will be comfortable for your child, and you will be confident it hasn’t been in an accident. If you travel by bus between cities, I strongly recommend the CTM or Supratours companies – they have much better networks and safety records than the other companies.
7. Mixing formula and offering drinking water
The UK NHS guidelines recommend that water offered to babies has a sodium level of less than 200 milligrams (mg) per litre and a sulphate content of maximum 250mg per litre. There are plenty of varieties of bottled water in Morocco and it isn’t necessary to buy the expensive French brands. I have found Ain Saiss and Ain Soltane to have very low sodium levels.
8. Sun screen
It isn’t always hot in Essaouira, but it is always sunny and young skins burn easily. My son hates me putting on the sun cream – he alternates between trying to wriggle away and trying to lick it off. However, I found a roll on type (Boots own Soltan brand, SPF 50), which works like a stick deodorant and he thinks its the bees knees. He very patiently waits while I roll it down his nose and around his face. Result!
I hope these tried and tested tips are helpful.If you are staying in a hotel or riad, do make sure they have what you need, eg a travel cot. If you are coming for a longer trip, you will be able to pick up used baby equipment such as cots, buggies or high chairs relatively cheaply in the second hand shops of the new town or at the Sunday joutiya. Essaouira now has a Carrefour supermarket which is well-stocked with baby goods and equipment – I even found breast pads there.
Morocco is a warm, welcoming place for families and with a little pre-planning you are sure to enjoy travelling with baby in Essaouira!
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