Can you ditch the Villa for a Riad?
Unique to this part of the world, staying in a riad affords you the opportunity to live alongside the locals, and to experience an ancient medieval way of life, first-hand!
Want an immersive experience? There will definitely be unsavoury smells, as well as those fresh from mint and exotic spices! Some of you visiting Marrakech may likely be more comfortable in one of the first-class modern hotels in the new town. You know, those that deliver the same polished experience that they do everywhere else in the world. But then, you will miss out on the local way that is unique to Morocco!
Called the “Red City” because of the colour of the local earth used in its construction. It is a city of labyrinthine alleyways, secluded palaces, museums, mosques and markets.
The Djemmaa-el-Fna (Place of the Dead), comes alive after nightfall. Thronged with dancers, fortune tellers, musicians, acrobats, storytellers, and snake charmers. It is an exciting, but somewhat bewildering experience – an exotic spectacle that is endlessly surprising:
Stay in a Riad
- Get lost within the souks
- Eat your way around a growing food scene
- Learn to cook with Moroccan chefs
- Learn the old skill of bookbinding
- Shop for authentic Moroccan handcraft
- Hammam or Turkish bath refresh
- Day trips from Marrakesh
STAY IN A RIAD
These old traditional ‘riad’ – meaning garden in Arabic – houses are set within the walls of the mediaeval city of Marrakech. They provide atmospheric and intimate spaces with all rooms looking onto the cool and shady central courtyard. They have been painstakingly restored working with traditional materials and craftsmen, while incorporating conveniences like air conditioning and fast Wifi.
Owned by English couple Mike and Lucie Wood they explain, “Over the last fifteen years in Marrakech we’ve become expert at helping English speaking guests, especially first time visitors, to make the most of their stay.” And at the heart of our hospitality is the authenticity of our people. It’s important to us that our guests experience the warmth and integrity of a very personal Moroccan welcome, something they won’t encounter elsewhere.
Riad Star is the former home of vaudeville star, singer and actress, hero of the French resistance and civil rights pioneer, Josephine Baker. The property offers thirteen guest rooms, and a host of facilities including a hammam and massage suite, dipping pool and fabulous roof terrace as well as a dedicated kitchen demonstration space for cookery lessons and large courtyard with rolling roof.
Riad Cinnamon is a former merchant’s house located in a quiet residential area in the heart of the old town, just two minutes from the Marrakech Museum and ten minutes from the main square. The property sleeps up to 16 guests in five suites, and privy to a cloistered patio with dipping pool. Plus, it has one of the most remarkable roof terraces in Marrakech, with views across the rooftops of the Medina to the Atlas Mountains.
Riad Papillon is located in the fashionable Dar El Bashah district of the Medina, with five guestrooms sleeping up to 11 people. The riad also swaggers a dipping pool, patio and roof terrace complete with sunbeds, dining areas and a Moroccan tent.
Dar Habiba is a traditional secluded riad offering one suite and five rooms (sleeping up to 14 people) sharing a shady courtyard, minutes from the famous Jemma al Fnaa square. Facilities include a dipping pool and roof terrace.
This inviting establishment is an integral part of any visit to Marrakech, serving delicious Moroccan dishes as well as supporting free education from proceeds. A big part of the Marrakech Riad experience is giving back to the local community.
GET LOST WITHIN THE SOUKS
Crawl the Medinas’ (ancient quarters) webbed car free alley-ways brimmed with culture! Souks are the famous markets which are spread across the Medina. So prepare to wander long hours, and be fascinated by colours, smells and tastes! One thing you will notice quite early is that the souks are divided into categories. These include: carpets souk, slippers souk, metalwork souk, spice souk, and many more. Just enjoy!
EAT YOUR WAY AROUND A GROWING FOOD SCENE
From market stalls selling kebabs to pop up restaurants, and traditional riad dining rooms Marrakech, offers a style of cuisine for most tastes.
Its traditional haute cuisine dishes are excellent value for money. They are often exceedingly elaborate, based on a diet of meat and sweat pastries. Couscous is a staple Moroccan dish along with Touajen (stews) which are often rich and fragrant.
LEARN TO COOK WITH A MOROCCAN CHEF
Start with a guided foodie tour and shop the markets, followed by a cookery class with a chef. There are so many cooking schools or chefs’ homes to choose from. Experience first hand smelling and tasting as you harness your culinary skills.
With Chef Kawtar and Khmisa
You will arrive hungry and certainly leave sated! You will walk through markets and shop ingredients with Kawtar and Khmisa . And while you chop, and dice and learn, you will drink tea. With a great sense of humour they treat you like friends inside their family home.
With Chef Najlae, Argan Oil
Learn how to make Moroccan dishes such as tanjia, tagine, and pastilla in this traditional cooking class led by a local chef. Pick out fresh ingredients from a nearby market, hear cultural insights and insider tips over a traditional tea ceremony. And get hands-on experience in an authentic Moroccan kitchen, before sitting down together with your host’s family to enjoy your homemade meal.
LEARN THE OLD SKILL OF BOOKBINDING WITH A LOCAL
CRAFT DRAFT in the medina offer a unique 4-hour workshop. They guide guests through the step-by-step technique to craft their own handmade leather journal using long stitches.
SHOP FOR AUTHENTIC MOROCCAN HANDCRAFTS
Vibrant craft districts await with 360 degree different night and day experiences! A sensorial experience transforms from Jemaa el-Fnaa to M Avenue, Rub bab Dhoukkala Market and Galeria Dawiya you will need to return with an extra suitcase. Take your haggle with and shop till you drop! From spices to swords and everything in between you will find leather goods, handwoven rugs, jewellery, lanterns, pashmina scarves, perfumes and potions! Finally, discover the great talent of local painters and an inside look at their displays.
The markets are over crowded with a hurricane of people and beware you will be approached and haggled by hawkers! In the end you may insult, and you may be insulted! Be prepared!
TRY A MOROCCAN HAMMAM TREATMENT
Escape the modern world with a hammam treatment, also called a Turkish bath. It is the Middle Eastern variant to a steam bath. Discover the ancestral Moroccan rituals in a luxurious universe dedicated to relaxation.
DAY TRIPS FROM MARRAKESH
The Agafay desert is located 45 minutes away from Marrakech and ensures a total change of scene! This rocky, dry and rough expanse is the ideal spot to meet a camel, or a quad buggy session. At the camp, visitors can enjoy a mint tea while watching the sunset over the dune or have dinner under a traditional Berber tent. At night, admire the spectacular starry sky and if you are lucky, you may observe the Milky Way.
Escape the city with an invigorating excursion to the Ourika Valley. This haven of greenery will allow you to discover the surroundings of the Atlas Mountains through the winding road that boasts view of high green terraces.
Walks are organised to discover one of the hidden gems of the Ourika Valley: the waterfall Setti Fatma. Populated by Berbers, the valley is well preserved and the authenticity of the mountain life is still intact.
For ski lovers, a short trip can be organised to Oukaïmeden, both a ski resort and starting point for hikes in summer.
Within three hours-drive from Marrakech, Essaouira also called the “Wind City of Africa,” is known for its traditional architecture and its strong culture.
If you are passionate for water sports, Essaouira beach will be your favourite playground during spring and autumn season for kiteboarding, windsurfing, paddle boarding and surfing sessions.
The Mediterranean waters off Morocco are comparatively unfrequented. And, the warm waters are rich in an array of marine life, ideal for the scuba diver!
Do not leave this exotic blue city without wandering around its fortified Medina where visitors may recognise the Game of Thrones filming locations.
The white-washed city is a treasure full of architectural gems, inspired from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles and Moorish heritage. Three hours away from Marrakech, Casablanca is a must-visit city.
Let a concierge arrange your day to visit the most renowned sites! Start your day by a visit of the world’s third largest mosque, the sumptuous Mosque Hassan II. With its impressive Moresque arches, its towering bronze doors at each entrance and the incredible zellige interiors.
Architecture lovers will also love the famous Mahkama du Pacha, well-known for its turquoise carbed wooden doorways and magnificent stucco and patios.
Then, wander in the Habous neighbourhood and get lost in the narrow streets mixing Moroccan architecture illustrated by riads, mosques and hammams.
To finish your day properly, have dinner at Bleu restaurant of Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca. Enjoy the view from the outdoor terraces, which provides show-stopping panoramic views of the Atlantic coastline.
High Atlas Mountain Trekking
Morocco, above all, is a land of mountains, most famously for the Atlas Chain. Perhaps the most celebrated is Le Deren, in the High Atlas, the ‘mountain of mountains’! It was known to the Phoenicians and ancient Greeks as the realm of legendary Atlas who supported the world on his shoulders.
Of all the mountain sports practiced in Morocco, trekking on foot or by ski is the best adapted. In addition, trekking allows contact with hospitable locals which has kept its ancestral traditions, particularly in architecture, dress and dance.
The pre- Sahara massifs of the Sirwa and Sarah is a region of almost eerie mystery. Treks can be arranged through the very heart of this strange and jagged landscape.