While some people suggest avoiding travel to Morocco when you’re pregnant, Hayley Spurway discovered it’s an ideal babymoon destination for a prenatal break.
“Morocco?” Friends raised their eyebrows when I told them where we planned to take a babymoon. Didn’t I know about the risks of food poisoning? Was I aware that it’s all bit rustic over there? Should I be flying anywhere at all? Yes. Yes. And yes. But we didn’t choose Morocco because we were being reckless. We chose it for its year-round sunshine, exotic culture and wild, wave-lashed beaches. Add to that the lack of alcohol, a simple, laid-back lifestyle, consistent surf (for my other half) and delicious cuisine, and you’ve got the perfect destination for some quality time together before having a baby.
For starters, Morocco’s cheap and easy to get to – attractive qualities when time and money are in short supply before the arrival of a child. Eager to feel the blaze of the sun and dip our toes in a different culture without travelling too far, Morocco came up trumps with regular, budget flights and a flying time of just three and a half hours between London and Agadir. Plus there’s zero jet lag to contend with, and once you land you need very little to live on: you can bag a simple, stylish room for around €40 per night, and eat out for less than €10 per head.
At six months pregnant I wasn’t up for much sightseeing in searing temperatures, so hiking in the Atlas Mountains or haggling in the souks of Marrakesh was off the agenda. Instead our radar was tuned to the surf and the seascapes, whilst we also wanted to experience some authentic Moroccan culture and cuisine. Keen to avoid the tourist hotspots and hotel buffets (so often the cause of food poisoning), we plumped for the tiny fishing village of Imsouane, about an hour’s taxi ride from Agadir.
Adrift from the surfing hub of Taghazout and the crowds of Essaouira, Imsouane is the sort of place where donkeys and goats roam dusty streets, and fishermen row out through peeling waves ridden by a growing fraternity of surfers. Rugged, crowd-free beaches backed by staggering sand cliffs yawn in either direction from the harbour, and a cooling sea breeze takes the edge off the heat. Like many other small villages dotted along Morocco’s Atlantic coast, in Imsouane there really is very little to do, which is a luxury when you’re sporting a huge bump. Besides, the whole point of a babymoon is to relax and spend quality time in each other’s company.
The fact that alcohol is frowned upon and not readily available in Morocco only adds to the country’s appeal as a babymoon destination. In a place where my partner couldn’t swill his bodyweight in beer while I politely sipped soda water, we both became quite addicted to the ritual of drinking sweet mint tea instead. Yet evenings were far from boring, with card games and coherent conversations, and entertainment in the form of impromptu music nights where locals and visitors jammed on bongos and tambourines. One evening our guesthouse even hosted a Moroccan birthday party, with traditional costume, music and dancing that went on into the night.
Of course I didn’t expect my other half simply to sit around in the sun by day and drink tea by night, but he didn’t need to look far for a bit more action. Because despite being a small place, Imsouane has a big reputation for its surf. Cathedrals beach catches the full pelt of the heavy Atlantic swell, while The Bay is more sheltered, boasting long, clean waves suitable for all levels of surfers. If you haven’t brought your own board you can hire one from the surf shop (little more than a surf shack) where they’ll also point you in the right direction if you need a local surf instructor.
So everyday my partner surfed to his heart’s content while I read, strolled along the sand and wallowed in the shallows, then we’d head to the harbour, where fish is flipped straight off the fishing boats onto hot coals and served for lunch. There’s a handful of alfresco restaurants but we had our favourite, where the owner always greeted us and hung our wetsuits up to dry, and the cat would curl up against the surfboard while we tucked into turbot, marlin or sea bream within hours of it being caught.
Whether we dined on fresh fish by the harbour or couscous dishes and tagines at the guesthouse, the cuisine was not only delicious but cheap, too (€10-€15 for a meal for two). Yes, there are risks of getting food poisoning in Morocco, and severe food poisoning can be harmful to your baby, but the risks are minimal if you stick to freshly cooked, piping hot food and bottled water, and avoid ice cubes, buffets and unwashed fruit and vegetables.
Being pregnant and constantly hungry, the food was certainly one of the highlights of the holiday, and we returned healthier and fatter than ever. So, despite the concerns of my friends – who ensured I packed bucket loads of rehydration sachets and made me promise I’d seek medical help at the first sign of sickness – Morocco turned out to be the perfect place to enjoy a spell of simple relaxation and sunshine before the impending weeks of sleepless nights and baby-induced mayhem.