We spent a total of four nights here, two each at the beginning and end of a hectic but highly enjoyable week’s tour of the Imperial Cities of Morocco. Modest it may have been but Riad Laora provided the best hospitality of the three places we encountered (and the other two were four star hotels).
First encounter was a little daunting, as the riad stands in a narrow alley penetrable only on foot or two wheels. There is a small square from which a short walk, 30 metres one way and one hundred at right angles, gains the corner where the riad is found. On our last day we walked back to it from the other end of the medina, only losing the way once.
The driver accompanied us to the door on arrival so that at least alleviates anxiety. Once inside, as is always the case, we seemed to be in a world transformed. Only photographs will do it justice. The overall impression is of the terracotta red that is characteristic of Marrakech on account of the local clay. The temperature outside was mid-twenties but inside all was fresh and cool. A tiled courtyard was enhanced by a pool in contrasting blue, with rose petals decorating the bowl and table beside it. Cushions along two sides conjure thoughts of bare feet dangling in the water.
Breakfast and, to order, dinner can be taken at small tables in the courtyard or reclining on deep sofas in the room that serves as office. Here are books to peruse (too little time for reading). An optional service is to combine breakfast and lunch for 5 Euros. It is worth taking Euros rather than having to change or withdraw Dirhams, the Moroccan currency, because prices are frequently quoted in Euros. The rate is ten Dh. to one Euro. We had only sterling to back up our Dirhams at the end of the first stay but the hotel staff had never seen our currency before.
Breakfast has constant elements, of fresh orange juice, yoghurt and griddle cakes with a choice of tea or coffee, and a sweet pastry varied each time we had it. Dinner consists of mezze, a variety of cold vegetable dishes served on separate small plates, followed by either (in our experience) delicate lemon chicken tagine with a small dish of couscous garnished with cinnamon, or a vegetable tagine with couscous included. Elsewhere we had the vegetable tagine and much preferred the chicken or, in one restaurant, beef. A house wine or other beverage is offered. Desserts are seasonal fruits prepared with delicacy. With wine we found a dinner for two came to 55 Euros (about £50), about the price of a two course meal at a chain restaurant in the UK.
The bathroom is a dream from romantic cinema, continuing the terracotta theme in the plastered walls. Although the bedroom serves all other purposes ours was sufficiently large and well appointed to allow for sitting (beside a fire perhaps in winter, as there was a fireplace). On our return home, even in mild March evenings, we had need of a fire to support the central heating.
Do not expect television, or think you will have time to watch it if you are going to make the most of a visit to Marrakech. Although we were touring, and the journeys were long on mainly good roads and motorways, a week could easily be spent in the city itself. Leisurely visits to the royal palace (national) museum, the public gardens (some still in progress of development though promising good things) and the private ones of La Majorelle and the Secret Garden, the Yves St Laurent museum and of course the souks (markets) provided you can resist purchasing or have both capacious purses and cases, will keep the most active silver traveller busy.