Before visiting Morocco, we were excited to stay in a riad. Moroccan riads are old family homes that now house tourists in beautiful settings and offer a guesthouse-like atmosphere.
We didn’t know just how beautiful and reasonable these riads would be, until we arrived in Marrakech.
The one downside to Morocco’s riads is that there are so many to choose from. Scrolling through pages and pages of riads online can be a daunting task.
We started by using sites like Booking.com and we looked for places in Marrakech close to Jemaa-el-Fna with breakfast and wifi. But at the end of the day, you just have to take a chance and make a decision. Luckily, each of our riads were wonderful!
Here are the three riads we stayed at during our stay in Morocco, to give you an idea of what’s out there.
Our first riad experience was at Riad Saba. We found it on Booking.com, and after checking out the rooms on the riad website, we made our decision. As it was my 30th and we were visiting Morocco as a single destination trip, rather than a longer backpacking one, we didn’t mind paying €40 per night for the room.
One thing to remember (which I never do) is that with Booking.com additional charges can be added to your final bill. So while our room was €40 per night, we wound up paying €106 in total for two nights. This was due to 10% VAT that’s added after you make the booking, and Morocco’s tourist tax of €3 per person per night ($12), plus I think there was an additional charge to pay by card at the riad.
A taxi took us from Marrakech airport to the old part of town. We were left at a small square because the taxi couldn’t go any further down the narrow alleyways.
We arrived at a thick dark patterned door and pressed the buzzer. A man opened the door and led us into a cool foyer where a large photograph a man who we later learned was King Mohammed VI.
We entered the courtyard where a fountain’s trickling water provided a relaxing soundtrack and rosebuds lent the courtyard an instant romantic feel.
Riads usually have an open courtyard at their centre that opens to the sky above. Each floor’s corridor overlooks the courtyard and often, the bedroom windows are on the inner walls, opening out to the courtyard.
We were greeted by Jamal, who brought us into a luxuriously decorated room to check in. We were given our first Moroccan mint tea and some baked treats.
Jamal was thorough and really helpful. We learned that we were the only people staying at Riad and so we had our pick of the bedrooms.
This was excellent news, as we had gone to their website before booking and saw that there were five different rooms, each with its own theme. I had been hoping for the Chocolate or Mauve Room, and now we had our pick.
It was quite surreal to be shown each room and allowed make our choice. It was tough, but in the end, we went for the Mauve Room because the bathroom was so beautiful.
Riads are so beautifully decorated that they feel much more expensive than they are. Our room had gorgeous dark wood shutters on the windows, framed by thick dark purple and gold curtains.
The bathroom was what truly kicked off my Moroccan bathroom obsession. The little blue and white diamond tiles and gold fixtures and the amazing shower that almost looked like a single bath because of its high, sloping sides were so beautiful.
That night, we headed to a local restaurant not too far from the riad, as we hadn’t gotten our bearings. After a beautiful lemon chicken tagine and a vegetarian cous cous, we hurried back to our lovely room.
The next morning, the sound of the trickling fountain gently woke us. We made our way up to the roof terrace where a huge breakfast was waiting for us beneath the diamond shade of a trellis.
The breakfast at Riad Saba was especially nice. We had a boiled egg, a yoghurt, two types of fresh Moroccan bread, an english muffin-type thing and a bowl of fruit. There was freshly squeezed orange juice and lots of coffee.
Riad Saba was within walking distance to Jemaa-el-Fna. I think it was two right turns and the path leads you right there. Although we only stayed in two different places in Marrakech, both were easy to find the square, once you paid attention the first time.
We stayed at riad for two nights before heading to Essaouira.
Our room was €44 per night, including VAT, plus the €3 tourist tax per person per night added on to that.
For our Essaouira accommodation, we used Booking.com and chose our riad based on a few must haves, and a pressing need to make a decision! There are so many choices so sometimes you just have to go for one and hope for the best.
We arrived in Essaouira and were greeted by its infamous wild winds. Totally unsure of where we were, we took a luggage carrier up on his offer and followed him and his blue cart through a maze of tiny streets and alleyways. As we walked closer to the coastal walls, it grew darker, damper with the smell of sea salt growing stronger.
Our riad, Riad Saltana, was on a tiny little alley off another narrow alley close to the large walls.
We were greeted by Geraldine, a French woman with curly hair and a sunny personality. She sat us down in the airy white lobby to show us a map of Essaouria and instructions on how to get around. She also pointed us to the best places for seafood, and where to get wine.
Our room was up three flights of stairs, on a floor with one other room, with a little terrace area outside. Our room was so white, with dashes of blue in the form of towels and a runner at the bottom of the white bed. A dark wooden door with a small stain glass widow were the only other colours in the bedroom that instantly transported us to a beach holiday state of mind.
The bathroom had gorgeous pink stone walls with a sunken bath tiled in black and white. The sink was gold and the mirror carved mahogany.
Although we got lost on our way home from dinner, we soon got the hang of finding our way around the streets of Essaouira.
Breakfast was served on the top terrace, where the winds whipped our hair around our faces and threatened to send napkins off to sea.
Breakfast was coffee, a milkshake-like drink, bread and fruit.
Two members of staff were around for the day and you could buy wine or order food from them if you liked.
We slept like babies in our lovely white room, and extended our stay twice.
Our room was €37 per night, including VAT , plus tourist tax.
RIAD JNANE JDID
When it was time to head back to Marrakech, we decided to try a new riad, despite enjoying Riad Saba so much.
We took a gamble on one that was offering a discount.
A taxi from the bus station to our riad left us pretty far from our destination. We tried to find our way, but in the end had to ask directions.
Riad Jnane Jdid was, pardon the overused phrase, like entering an oasis after the walking thought the dry, dusty alleyways outside. It boasted a small pool with opulent tiling, gorgeous golden ornaments and rose bushes.
We sipped mint tea and admired the pool of the same hue as we waited for check in. We were shown to our room, which was gigantic. We played it cool until he left, then gazed around in wonder.
All I kept thinking was honeymoon suite, because that was what it was like, a very fancy suite. It was huge, with a giant bed with towels shaped like swans and big fluffy pillows. There was a big couch made for lounging on with additional chairs and a table, plus what was perhaps the biggest mirror I had ever seen in my life.
Then, the bathroom. All gold, with a fabulous sunken bathtub. And, fluffy white robes. Amazing.
It was with great reluctance that we forced ourselves out of the luxury and into the souks for our final night in Morocco.
Breakfast was served on the terrace, where we were surprised to find tourists sunbathing in bikinis. One downside to our room was that we were woken up at the crack of dawn by the sound of the iron chairs on the roof being moved around or set up. It seemed to go on for hours and was very loud, but the room was worth it!
The riad also had a fancy spa downstairs, which I wish we had taken advantage of. Next time.
Our room cost €29 per night including VAT, thanks to a special offer on Booking.com, plus the tourist tax charge per person.
My overall experience of Moroccan riads was excellent. I loved them. I don’t know if we got particularly lucky with our random picks, but going back to Morocco, I would employ the same tactic in choosing riads. Decide what your must-haves are, like free breakfast and wifi, and then check out the pictures and go for what looks pretty!
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