Tranquil, serene and having a true feeling of being in another world. This is what staying in a traditional Moroccan Riad is all about. For me when travelling it’s always more fun and a far greater experience staying in small local accommodation. So when a country like Morocco is so abundant with atmospheric, beautiful and traditional places to stay it would be a shame not to do so.
For further inspiration here is a low down of some of the choicest picks in Marrakesh. Lastly if you’re heading off the beaten track to Taroudant in the South check out our favourite, the charming Dar Randigaba for a true taste of Berber hospitality.
What is a riad
Riads, for those who do not know, are a traditional style of Moroccan house, with the rooms built around a central courtyard or garden. Most are now situated in the older parts of Moroccan cities, especially in places like Fez and Marrakech. Although most are still inhabited as homes, many are now being used as hotels. Like with any hotels they vary in quality and price but on the most part, staying in one creates an amazing atmosphere and gives you a wonderfully different alternative to a normal hotel.
An oasis away from the outside world
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From the outside most riad looks unexciting, but behind those whitewashed walls and large wooden doors lies a hidden beauty. As you open the heavy wooden door and step inside the cool and quiet world of the riad you are instantly transported away from the bustling streets. Their sumptuousness varies, but many courtyards are paved or tiled, colours filling every space, trees and plants creating shade from the sun and if you are lucky a fountain or small pool gently trickling away. A good riad courtyard will make you want to stay there forever, a paradise in a chaotic world.
A beautiful boudoir
Around the courtyard on all levels are the rooms, small windows and French doors keep the heat out. You should look for a riad that really brings traditional décor to life, dark wood, colourful lamps and tiles, many go quite opulent but it’s possible to find simple and beautiful on all budgets. Some riads even opt to go for a modern finish, but I think that takes something away from it. You want a room that is filled with locally made products, things you can go into the souks and buy yourself.
Many have a roof terrace which are great places for breakfast, the call to prayer filling the air while you eat your freshly made bread and sweet honey. The view of the cities rooftops creates a great dining environment, and sometimes the local birdlife will come and join you. Of course depending on your budget some riads really push the boat out by having roof top pools, but many simply use the space as a place for relaxation. After a busy day around the souks pull up a big cushion, grab your book and a mint tea and enjoy the warm evening sun.
For me, riads are the perfect place to stay, you are getting an insight into the culture, staying in a fabulous historic building and if you are lucky getting a touch of Moorish opulence.