5 reasons to stay in the “Riads” of Morocco instead of hotels

5 reasons to stay in the “Riads” of Morocco instead of hotels

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beautiful pool of riad el amine fes morocco pool
The gorgeous pool in one of the two courtyards of Riad El Amine
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Morocco, the gateway to Africa, is blessed with a rich heritage that goes back a thousand years. Yet, this is a country whose history is not frozen, but is alive and kicking, thanks to its vibrant culture. You can’t say you’ve seen Morocco unless you have explored your way around the winding alleys of its medinas (old walled cities), mingled with the locals, haggled for souvenirs in its noisy souks (market places) or relished some deliciously sweet Moroccan mint tea. But if you’re looking for the best way to soak up the delightful treasures of Morocco’s intangible cultural heritage, here’s a travel tip from holidayme: skip the part where you book a hotel. Instead, stay in one of those charming, fabled riads of Morocco!

What are these Riads of Morocco?

 

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There’s nothing as quintessentially Moroccan as its riads! They’re traditional Moroccan homes that enclose a garden or a courtyard in the centre with a fountain or a pool. The Arabic word, riad translates to ‘garden’, and that’s because one of the defining features of riads are the central gardens around which the house is made. All the rooms on the lower floor have windows and doors that open into this central garden.

Traditionally, these Moroccan homes are open at the top, letting in natural elements and allowing the plants and trees in the garden to grow up, uninhibited. The metre thick, mud & brick walls of riads don’t have external windows, to keep out the noise and heat of the city. They are instead, kept cool by the lush greenery and pool waters of the central courtyard.

5 convincing reasons for you to choose a Riad over a hotel in Morocco

1. Riads are where you can witness gorgeous Islamic architecture

Beautiful Islamic architecture in Morocco
Beautiful Islamic architecture – mosaic zellige tiles on the staircase, walls and floors of a Moroccan riad

Some of the best riads are marvels of Moroccan craftsmanship, and perfect examples of how Islamic architecture found its way into people’s lifestyle. Your riad hotel in Morocco may be home to courtyards planted with oranges, lemons, banana trees, olive trees and palm trees, resembling lush Islamic gardens, complete with bubbling fountains.

 

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You can also admire intricately carved stucco work (tadelakt) on the plaster walls, the painted wooden ceilings (zouakt) and charming hand-made Moroccan tiles (zellige) on the pathways. The décor is usually a fascinating mix of Moroccan and European antiques and artworks, some of which may be family heirlooms handed down from generations. Most riads also have fabulous roof terraces, enhanced with exotic palms and cacti – perfect place to relax with a few drinks.

Also read: 10 Amazing Reasons Why You Should Visit Morocco

2. Riads’ kitchens rustle up delicious, Moroccan food


Your best meal in Morocco might not be in a restaurant, but at one of the riads. In fact, the food served is so good, that tourists who’re not staying in the riads also come for just lunch/ dinner! The taste is exceptional mainly because the food in riads is prepared in smaller quantities in home kitchens, by seasoned home cooks, unlike hotels that dish out meals on a large scale. Since the cooks are mostly locals, we can trust them to roll out the most aromatic and authentic Moroccan food in the medina. Such as hand-rolled couscous, zesty tagines with chicken or meatballs served with freshly baked khubz (Moroccan bread), lamb with pomegranate, or sea bass with sautéed artichokes. Or imagine being served a dreamy Moroccan breakfast right on the roof terrace of your riad, or by the pool or on your bedroom’s balcony. A selection of Moroccan breads like harcha or msemen or bagrir, served with fried eggs and olives, mountain honey, homemade jam and deliciously sweet Moroccan mint tea!

 

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3. Riads are intimate – experience Moroccan hospitality!

 

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Guests at the riads of Morocco are treated like old friends! Nothing can be more authentic than staying in a riad to experience the famous Moroccan hospitality, far more genuine than the formal customer service that luxury hotels are known for. What sets apart a riad stay from a typical hotel stay is the personalized touch offered by the host/ road owner and the staff. They’re more than happy to offer useful shopping and sightseeing tips, give out the best ideas for trips to the medina and apt dining recommendations that suit your requirement. The staff is local, usually from nearby villages, and exhibit the gentle, hospitable friendliness typical of Berber communities.

And since you’ll be staying in homes that once housed wealthy Moroccan merchants, you can experience their lavish lifestyle. Immerse yourself in Morocco’s culture, take a close look at an era bygone and live just like a local! To truly experience Moroccan culture, you must visit a traditional steam bathroom, known as hammam – an integral part of many riad hotels. And luxuriate in the beautiful aroma of the traditional Moroccan soaps and oils while being tended to by your personal hammam lady!

Also read: How to get a Morocco visa

4. Riads are unique

Homely riad rooms La Sultana Marrakech, Morocco
Some riads may be luxurious, while some give homely and cozy vibes, like the rooms of La Sultana in Marrakech

Despite the comfort and luxury they offer, hotel rooms can be boring! Especially the ones that belong to big hotel chains – rooms that look the same, irrespective of the city or country they’re in. On the other hand, what’s most charming about the riads of Morocco is that each one is infused with the personality of the riad’s owner and hence, unique – be it their interior design or the architecture or the style.

splendid and luxurious interior of Riad Fès Morocco

The splendid and luxurious interior of Riad Fès that reminds guests of the splendour and lavish lifestyle of the noble Fassi (people of Fes) families.

Some riads look and feel homey (because they were actual homes to Moroccan families before being turned into boutique hotels/ B&Bs!). While some riads are styled elegantly. These are the ones usually the ones bought by Europeans and upcycled to display a happy mix of old-world charm and modern comforts.) Then there are riads that are the epitome of luxury and opulence – they’re usually former Islamic palaces. So, if you’re looking for an experience off the well-travelled road when in Morocco, you should be booking a stay in a riad!

5. Riads have the best location

Featured above: Riad Karmela is located in the heart of the old medina of Marrakech. It’s close to the souks and just an 8 minute walk away from the Jamaâ El Fna Square. Click to book your stay at Riad Karmela.

Riads let you truly explore a medina (old, walled centres of a Moroccan city) as they’re usually located right in the heart of the medinas. And these medinas are the hub of all the action – the heart of Moroccan cities. You’ll find it much easier to explore the bustling city centre, not having to navigate too many alleys and labyrinths before you reach home! If the hectic pace of the medina gets too much for you, it’s a quick escape to the calm and quietude of your riad.

Most Beautiful & Best Riads of Morocco

Here’s a quick look at some of the best and most beautiful riads across the country in cities like Marrakech, Fes and Essaouira. We will let the pictures do the talking and help you choose your dream riad.

Best Riads in Marrakech

There are more riads in the heritage-listed medina of Marrakech than in any other city of Morocco. It’s difficult to shortlist the good ones, but we’ve tried our best:

1. Riad Kniza

Breakfast served on roof terrace of Riad Kniza in Marrakech
A lavish breakfast is served on the roof terrace of Riad Kniza

A gem of Moorish architecture, Kniza is an 18th century luxury riad beautifully restored by some of Morocco’s highly skilled craftmen and offers its guests an authentic Moroccan experience. With its 11 classy rooms and suites – each decorated with beautiful antiques, Berber rugs, crushed velvet-silk sofas and embroidered curtains – this riad showcases Morocco’s finest craftwork. Delicious breakfast is served every day on it plant-scaped terrace that offers sweeping views of Marrakch’s medina.

Riad Kniza in Marrakech with breakfast by the pool
Meals at Riad Kniza, Marrakech, are served wherever and whenever, by the pool or on the terrace

Riad Kniza’s location within Marrakech is perfect – it is just half an hour walk from the main square of Marrakesh, “Jemaa el-Fnaa” (or Djema el-Fna), the colourful souks and the most important attractions of this imperial city. If you want to explore the newer part of the city, Gueliz, it is just a 20 minute walk from Riad Kniza.

2. Le Riad Berbere, Marrakech

Riad Berbere's rooms open to the central courtyard and garden
The lush garden full of banana, orange and olive trees, serves as a private, green space for the guests of the five rooms in this cozy and exclusive riad in Marrakech – Le Berbere!

With just five spacious rooms that face a delightful garden at its heart, the Le Berbere is a small, exclusive riad located bang in the heart of Marrakech’s medina. Originally home to a wealthy Moroccan family in the 17th century, this riad was renovated by the famous Belgian architect, Quentin Wilbaux who expertly preserved its authenticity, with its sculpted arches, hand-painted cedarwood ceilings and simple bejmat floor tiles.

3. Palais Sebban

Luxury, suite rooms of Palais Sebban Riad that open into gorgeous terraces
Luxury, suite rooms of Palais Sebban Riad that open into gorgeous terraces, your own private space!

A former palace, restored by the skilled craftsmen of Marrakech, this is one of the most beautiful riads of Marrakesh. This riad is just 7 kms away from the Marrakech Menara Airport, and is situated west of the Marrakech medina, in the posh neighborhood of Ksour (palace), that has some of the oldest houses of the city.

Bests Riads in Fes

1. Riad El Amine

beautiful pool of riad el amine fes morocco pool
The gorgeous pool in one of the two courtyards of Riad El Amine in the Moroccan city of Fes

Riad El Amine is one of the most beautiful riads in the cultural capital of Morocco, the city of Fes. Flaunting traditional Moroccan craftsmanship, El Amine has not one, but two courtyards – one with a stunning pool that’s surrounded by columns decorated with zellij tiles and the second that is centred around nine-pointed star-shaped fountain, again adorned with traditional Moroccan tilesc tiles. Each of the 11 rooms of this riad have been beautifully put together, with their canopy beds, gilded silk pillows and covers, colored-glass arched windows, carved cedar furniture and exquisite bathrooms with Tadelakt work.

2. Riad Fès

Terrace view of the Fes medina and atlas mountains from the roof of Riad Fes in Morocco
Enjoy panoramic views of the Fes medina and the Atlas mountains from Riad Fes’ terrace!

Located right in the heart of the ancient city of Fes, the architecture of this beautiful riad combines traditional Moroccan designs with a baroque style; the décor will remind you of Arabian nights! Offering panoramic views of the Fez medina and the Atlas mountains, Riad Fes will take you back in time.

Riads of Morocco with Hammams

1. Riad Star, Marrakech

hammam and massage centre at Riad Star in Marrakech
The cozy hammam and massage centre at Riad Star in Marrakech

Offering one of the best experiences of hammam – the traditional Moroccan steam bath, is Riad Star. The hammam and massage suite of the riad is just a few steps away from your room, where you can soak in the luxury of a candle-lit private sauna.

2. La Sultana, Marrakech

Hidden away behind a bustling street in the Kasbah is La Sultana Marrakech, an ultra-luxe, exquisite 5-star property made up of five adjacent riads with 28 rooms and a royal hammam, decked up with exotic Moroccan furnishing and offering a royal hammam scrub treatment with black soap and a relaxing massage with argan oil. Sip on some refreshing mint tea as the soothing fragrance of Arabian oils waft around you.

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