Marrakesh provides accommodation for all types of travellers. But for many visitors the lure of a traditional riad is what makes the city such a fascinating place to stay. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace which has survived the years and still retains its building around a courtyard or, is some cases, more than one. They have been refurbished over the years and now provide some of the best boutique accommodation you will find.
And perhaps the most famous of them is the Riad Star because of its links with the French-American entertainer, Josephine Baker.
But because riads – and the Riad Star is no exception – tend to be found in the car-free medina section of the city, walking is required. Nonetheless, when the taxi gets you as close as it is able, a porter from the riad is on hand to ferry your luggage for the last seven-minute walk.
Welcomed by the friendly staff, we were checked in quickly and settled into our room in the ground floor close to the main courtyard.
Breakfast is served in the courtyard opposite a small pool surrounded by traditional seating areas under beautifully designed arches. A picture of Josephine on cushions is a reminder of the jazz icon who used to live there during the war. Visitors come here to hear stories of her fascinating life as a performer and singer as well as her role in assisting the French resistance during her time in North Africa.
The kitchen in a riad is not like a restaurant. You get homemade food, cooked by a local chef, served by staff who treat you as though you were the owners of the palace, so you get a five-star treatment but with that touch of feeling that you are staying in a family home with all the typical Moroccan hospitality that implies. The exclusive table set for us, consisted of several starters such as aubergine, couscous, salads and rice. So much food came that we were almost full before our main dishes of lamb tagin and chicken tagin arrived. As is traditional, we finished our dinner with a homemade desert and Moroccan mint tea.
To compare it with a five-star hotel, try the Mövenpick Hotel Mansour Eddahbi which is outside the medina. Much larger and more accessible by car, it has recently had $100 million spent on refurbishment so the feel and decor is luxurious. It offers two swimming pools, a spa, a gym, a cafe and several restaurants which is more than you would ever find in the confines of a riad. Oddly enough to me it was a very family friendly hotel, not something that one might expect from such luxurious accommodation.
Named after Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansour whose nickname was ‘Eddahbi’. In the sixteenth century it was he who spent heavily on turning the city into one of the finest cities in North Africa just what Movenpick have done with their hotel.
Both types of accommodation provide fine living, but both are so different. Staying in each confirms there is a ready market for each.
Reza flew to Morocco on a direct Air Arabia Airlines flight from London Gatwick Airport to Marrakesh.
For more informatioon about Morocco visit www.muchmorocco.com.
To find out more about Riad Star and the Mövenpick Hotel Mansour Eddahbi and book your next trip, please visit riadstar.com and www.movenpick.com
To see more of Reza’s images of Morocco go to www.amirinia.com/morocco.
Images and story © Mohammed Reza Amirinia