When you make a plan to visit Morocco, the first thing that pops up on your mind is where you will stay. If you want to experience the authentic lifestyle of Morocco, then there is only one place you should consider – a riad.
What is a Riad? A Riad is a traditional guesthouse that is constructed around one central courtyard. A Riad has a garden that is decorated with different kinds of plants and a fountain. Riad is an Arabic word that literally means “gardens” in English.
- Understanding What a Riad Is
- The Architecture of a Riad
- Where Will You Find A Riad In Marrakech?
- How Are The Rooms In A Riad?
- What Can You Drink and Eat In A Riad?
- How Is The Service In A Riad?
- Why Should You Stay In A Riad?
- Things to Consider When Choosing a Riad
- Five Top Riads in Marrakech
- Summing Up
Understanding What a Riad Is
Riads are built normally in places where there were old mansions or palaces. In fact, these old palaces have been renovated to convert it into a riad. This is why any riad you see have retained the historical touch in their decorations and constructions.
The balconies in the riad look over this garden, and there are high walls as well as roof terraces in this structure. In Marrakech, a riad can sometimes be a small structure with just four to six rooms. On the other hand, some may be huge with a rooftop terrace and numerous rooms.
You will not be able to enjoy the true lifestyle of Marrakech without staying in a riad. Here you will not only admire the historical decorations, but you will also see many traditional aspects of the services that are provided in these riads.
To have a true Moroccan experience, find the best riad to stay in.
The Architecture of a Riad
The ground floor of a riad will generally have two to three rooms, which open to the garden. These rooms are mostly narrow and long in shape with curtains or doors. However, you may find one of these rooms without any barriers and with an extended area where visitors can sit back and relax.
Upper levels of the riad have more such rooms, which are adorned with beautiful curtains and doors. Some of these rooms also have inner windows that are decorated with ornamental metalwork and shutters. All of the rooms in the upper levels lead to their respective inner balconies. The rooms also have very high ceilings, which give you a sense of spaciousness.
The main door of the riad is a large one and heavily decorated. However, you may also find more simplistic designs of these doors, but all of them will possess a traditional feeling. Once you enter through the door, you will walk through a long passageway and reach the central courtyard or garden.
None of the rooms on the ground level has any windows, and the ones in the upper level are high rise and very small. The interior of the riads has beautiful artwork on the walls, and some even are decorated with ornamental plasters or tiles.
Most of the riads you will find will have an open-top, which will allow fresh air, sunlight, and even rain to fill the whole area. You can also find many different birds entering the riad and making it their home. There are pitched roofs that will not allow any stagnant water to sit in the area.
Some riads even have tall trees growing from the ground level and reaching up to the roof. These trees are properly groomed and are a sight of beauty for the visitors. The riads are high walled; hence despite the opening, there is no risk about the safety of the visitors.
Bathrooms and Kitchen
The bathrooms and the kitchen of the riad are generally located on the lower level. They are hidden from the main passageway and the central courtyard. The bathrooms of a riad mostly have squat-style seating. The sinks can be present either inside or outside of the bathroom.
Though most modern riads have showers these days, in earlier day’s people had to visit the local hammam to take care of their bathing needs. The kitchens have large chimneys that get rid of the smoke and heat that emits from the cooking and does not affect the whole house.
Where Will You Find A Riad In Marrakech?
You will find numerous riads all over Morocco. However, the most authentic roads are located in the Old Media of Marrakech. In fact, you will only have to walk for 10 minutes from Jemma el Fna to find some of the best and sought after riads. The most exciting fact about finding a riad is that you might not be able to recognize on even if you are standing right in front of it.
This mostly occurs since there are no directions or signboards, which will lead you to a riad. They are known as intimate and private spaces often hidden right in plain sight. The outside of the riad will look like a simple mansion without any extravagant decorations. Once you enter a riad, it is a completely different world.
You may have to go through a narrow street made of stones and reach a secluded area away from the lively streets of Morocco to find your riad. If you are going for the first time, then it is advisable to fix a meeting point. The employees of the riad will come and pick you up. If you plan to find the riad on your own, then there are chances that you will be unable to find the one.
Mostly, it is better to avoid going alone if you reach your destination at night. You will either need a map or proper guidance. Otherwise, you may get lost. Hence, fixing a pick up from a certain point is the best thing that you can do.
Once you reach Morocco, you will find that there are hundreds of riads present in the area. With a little guidance from the local people, you can find the perfect place for yourself, even if you have not made bookings earlier.
How Are The Rooms In A Riad?
The number of rooms in a riad would depend upon the size of the establishment. Though as a general rule, riads are not supposed to be very big. Hence, the largest riad may have a maximum of ten rooms. On the other side, there will be a smaller riad with only three to four rooms.
However, it is not the number of rooms that hold the attraction but the uniqueness of each of these rooms. Every room of the establishment is decorated differently and in the most exquisite way. You will not be able to point which one is the best out of the lot.
The rooms incorporate the traditional Moroccan architecture and bring out the authentic personality and beauty. The size and decor of the room will be different based on the price of the room. You can find budget-friendly options with the same level of luxury, and you will also find high-end rooms.
Rooms located on the upper level of the riad are quieter than those on the lower level. Moreover, these rooms on the upper level have their own semi-private balconies that overlook the outside of the riad.
The floors of all of the rooms are tiled instead of being carpeted. Even the bathrooms are designed with vibrant and authentic Moroccan tiles. You can also find other decorative items such as colorful textiles, carved wooden figurines, hanging lanterns, hand-woven carpets, etc. in the rooms.
As for modern amenities, you may find Wi-Fi in certain riads; however, you may not get access to television. The whole point of staying in a riad is to learn about the traditions of the city. This is why most of the riads do not put emphasis on filling their establishments with new and modern technologies.
What Can You Drink and Eat In A Riad?
One of the best things about visiting other destinations is trying out their local cuisines. Morocco is famous for its culinary heritage, which everyone should get a taste of in their life. So it is no surprise that you will be served only the rich quality authentic food when you stay in a riad.
Every riad has its team of local cooks who bring to your table some of the most lip-smacking traditional Moroccan cuisines. In fact, if you ever reminisce about your trip to Morocco in the future, the first thing you will remember is the delectable food at the Marrakech riad.
For breakfast, you will find simple but delicious options for food. These options may include Moroccan bread, fruits, mint tea, honey, local pastries, and fresh juice. Dinners mostly include any made to order dish. These dishes are cooked only from fresh ingredients that are purchased on the same day.
You will simply have to inform the staff about your choice of food. You will surely be wowed by the amazing taste of the traditional dishes served by the chef. Most of your meals will be served either on the roof terrace or in the courtyard. If you are searching for alcoholic beverages, then it is better to know if your riad serves the same since it is a Muslim country.
In case you are a hardcore foodie, you will be amazed by the taste and even the way the food is served. You cannot have a complete Moroccan experience without trying out their local cuisine. If you have allergic reactions to certain food items, make sure you inform the same to the staff.
Moreover, if you are unaware of the ingredients present in any particular dish, ask the staff so that you can know what you will be eating.
How Is The Service In A Riad?
Most riads in Marrakech are owned by individuals and are run by managers. Since riads boast of an intimate and private set-up, the service there is very personalized. Since there is less number of rooms, you will not find too much of a crowd in any riad. Due to this, the service standard of riads is generally exceptional.
If you ever stay in an amazing riad, you will not like staying in a hotel ever. The staffs in a riad are nothing like you have ever experienced in a modern hotel. They pay incredible attention to your needs. You will not have to find a staff as someone, or the other will always be present around you.
Moreover, the experience becomes very personal as everyone in the riad will treat you like a family member. At the same time, they will serve you like you are a prince or a princess who has come to their house.
Not only is the place luxurious, but it will also make you feel very cozy. You will surely hate it when the trip ends, and you have to leave the comfort of the riad. Exceptionally trained and well mannered, you will have no complaints regarding the behavior of the staff.
Their only goal is to make you feel comfortable and ensure that you have the best experience, one that you will remember all your life. If you have any special service requests, be rest assured that they will provide it if possible.
Even the manager is always present for anything that you need. Equally well-mannered, he is the one that will tend to all your grievances and requests without a hint of irritation. Riads are well known for their high hospitality standards. You will find that the decoration and food are not the only things that make your stay at the riad extraordinary.
Why Should You Stay In A Riad?
Let’s be real, riads are expensive accommodation options. You will find much cheaper hotels in the vicinity. However, will you be able to have the same experience as you would in a riad? No, the experience of staying in a riad and a hotel is completely different from each other.
Staying in a riad is like being in a palace and being treated like a royal. This is not something that you will get even in the best hotels. You will definitely be taken care of, but not in the same way as in a riad. Hence, if you are visiting Marrakech, then it is better to have a good budget and book a riad for the whole trip.
Throughout the day, you will be roaming around in the busy streets of Marrakech and enjoying the sights. Once you enter the riad, it will be a tranquil cocoon for you. You can relax here and gain energy for the next day. The thick walls of the riad do not let the outside noise penetrate the inner sanctuary.
Moreover, since most riads are located in deserted locations, you will not find unwanted hustle-bustle destroying your peace. At night you can enjoy the open sky, the chirping of the birds, and the sound of the fountain. It will seem almost like being in a fairy tale.
The decoration of a raid is out of the world, and this is one of the things that you will love about being here. From hand-crafted doors to tile works on the floor and walls, the riad exhibits some of the best artwork. Depending on the riad that you stay in, you may have your own private balcony, terrace, or even a Jacuzzi.
Not that you need any more reasons to know why you should stay in a riad, but we still have one more for you. You will be able to taste the most mouth-watering dishes in the riad. Many riads have their in-house restaurants, while some just have made to order food options. No matter which one it is, you will get to try the best authentic cuisines of Marrakech.
So despite it being expensive, you will definitely have a very worthwhile stay at the riad. Hence, if you can afford it, you will not regret staying in a riad at all. Your stay at the riad will be one of the highlights of your trip to Morocco.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Riad
One thing about a riad is that you will find thousands of them just in Marrakech. This can make choosing a riad a very daunting task. How do you know which one will be good for you? What if you end up choosing the wrong one and not have the experience that you dreamt of?
This is why here are four things that you need to consider to make this task easier for yourself. Shortlist your choices based on these factors, and you will definitely end up with a very good riad accommodation.
Since riads are of a historic nature, they are mostly located within the ancient medina. This is why the first thing that you need to consider while you are choosing your riad is its location. You might have already shortlisted some of the attractions that you wish to visit while on your trip to Morocco.
You need to search for a riad that is near to most of these attractions. However, before this, you need to see if your riad is accessible by taxi. Since the streets of the medina are not fit for cars, you might not be able to reach your riad directly by car. But you do need to see how near the riad your taxi can drop you off.
If the riad you have chosen is inside the medina, then you will have easy access to the markets. However, this also means that you have to walk a few streets to reach your riad. If you are not familiar with the streets of the medina, then you will most probably get lost in the maze-like alleys.
You can also ask the riad if they offer any car services to pick you up from the airport. If not, you can also fix a pick-up point where your taxi drops you off. Here you can wait for the staff to come and lead the way to the riad. This way, you will reach faster and not get lost in your search for the riad.
After you are happy with the location of your riad, you need to check out the amenities it provides. Like a hotel, your riad will also give you some of the basic amenities like towels, private bathroom, and bedding. Riads mostly function like a B&B, which means they may also have breakfast included in the room rate.
However, to make your stay more comfortable and worthwhile, you can search for some additional amenities as well. These amenities can be a plunge pool, on-site restaurant, air conditioning, rooftop terrace, or even an on-site hammam.
Also, check out the common areas which are present in the riad. You can also find some riads having a yoga studio or a rooftop bar where you can order beverages all day. There are many other kinds of amenities that are provided by different riads.
As already mentioned, you will find both small and big riads with rooms ranging from six to a dozen. The size of the riad will completely depend upon the experience that you wish to have. You already know that in a small riad there will be fewer people. However, in a riad with a dozen or more rooms, you will find more families or groups.
So it all depends on whether you want to have a quiet experience or you are fine with a large number of people in the riad. For travelers who like to meet new people, this crowd is favorable. They can make new friends during their stay and engage in conversation with new people every day.
However, if you are one of those people who like to stay away from too much communication and enjoy your peace, then a small riad would be better for you.
Last but not least, the design is an important factor to be considered while choosing your riad. The truth is that in this technological era, people like posting pictures of their travel experiences on their social media platforms. This is where the design of the riad comes in.
The traditional designs will not only make you awestruck but will also grab the attention of your friends on social media. You can capture some of the most beautiful pictures of the exquisite artwork portrayed by your riad.
However, this is a very personal factor and might not be the same for everyone. But it is also helpful to remember that one of the reasons for staying in a riad is to admire its traditional designs. Hence, if you are already paying for it, make sure you stay somewhere you can actually admire.
Even if you are not a social media person, this is something that you need to think about while booking your riad.
Five Top Riads in Marrakech
Just a little walk away from the souk, Dar Darma is a beautiful riad with a terrace that overlooks the Atlas Mountains. The riad has common areas such as a patio, a fireplace lounge, the hall of Arches, and the Moroccan lounge. You can also relax in a swimming pool during a hot mid-afternoon.
Complete with a library and in-house Hamman, this is a place that will be worth the money you pay. The interior of the riad is colorfully painted and has high ceilings. You will not have to walk much if you want to access the street markets.
Riad Les Yeux Blues
The Riad Les Yeux Blues has eight rooms and has two central courtyards around which it is designed. Restored by French Owner Jocelyne Despin, this riad is situated in the old area of the city, specifically inside the medina. Located in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood, this riad is perfect for people who wish to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the main city.
The central courtyard has a swimming pool along with a marble fountain. One of the central courtyards is a private area where people can relax. From the terrace of the riad, you can get a view of the Marrakech rooftops.
Located near Bab El Khemis in the medina, Riad Aguavia is owned by David Minguillon and Manel Moncusi. The owners from Barcelona opened the riad for the public in the year 2008 after the completion of its renovation. Away from the center of the city, you can enjoy quite a peaceful time here at this riad.
The Plaza El Fna and the markets are easily accessible on foot. Equipped with just six rooms, this small riad has a patio as well as a pool in the center courtyard. You will not find many people in this riad as there are not many numbers of rooms.
La Maison Arabe
La Maison Arabe is a little different and bigger than most traditional riads. If you are looking for a more modern styled riad, then this is the one for you. There are 26 rooms in this riad, and each of these rooms is traditionally designed. Despite having a modern touch to it, the furnishings and interior is traditional Moroccan.
Here you will also find a private penthouse known as Douiria, which exhibits the more classic style of a riad. This penthouse has three rooms and one suite. Moreover, the Douiria also has two huge terraces where you can relax.
Riad Noir D’lvoire
Riad Noir D’lvoire is a place that you stay in if you are looking for comfort. The whole place gives you a cozy with a wooden pavilion in the roof terrace and logs fire in the library. Some of the most attractive features of the riad are its double sunbeds and private Jacuzzi, which is present in all three of the master suites.
Complete with a gym, a pool, and a hammam, the riad is a mixture of modern and traditional styles. There is also an in-house chef who prepares some of the most mouth-watering traditional Moroccan cuisines as well as North African food.
Riads are so amazingly beautiful and peaceful that you can spend a whole day inside, just lounging on the rooftop and seeing the view outside. When in Morocco, not staying in a riad is like missing out on one of the most important experiences in the city. This is why your trip to Morocco will not be complete without getting a riad accommodation.
Your stay will only be fulfilling if you can choose the best riad out of the thousands of options. Above, we have mentioned five of the most beautiful riads in Marrakech. However, you need not limit your search here as you will find many other riad options in the city.
After a whole day of enjoying the beauty of the city, you can come back and relax in your cozy rooms or even on the rooftop. Moreover, there is nothing like enjoying some of the best Moroccan delicacies made by the expert in-house chefs of the raid.
The royal service that you will receive from the staff of the riad will make you feel on top of the world. This is something that you will not receive in a hotel anywhere in the world. Hence, no matter where you go, you will always remember your stay at the riad.
So do not waste time thinking and find the best riad for yourself. Take the important factors under consideration and book the riad that you feel is the perfect option for you. Once you are done, book your ticket to Morocco, and off you go to one of the most memorable trips of your life!