I could not visit Marrakech and not stay in a Riad especially as they have become so popular on social media. So what is a Riad? Well it’s a traditional Moroccan house located in and around the souk area that has been renovated with modern and artistic touches. Once you open the front door it leads you into a courtyard with rooms surrounding it. Most courtyards contain small swimming pools. Riad-stays have become popular due to stunning interior designs, the style of the courtyards and the bohemian type boutique living it inspires. When visiting Morocco you have to book a Riad in order to see what all the fuss is about and believe me, it won’t disappoint.
Many of the Riads which have become very popular due to social media offer a minimum of a three night stay. We were lucky enough to enjoy two very different yet equally beautiful properties Le Riad Yasmine and Riad Farnatchi with the latter offering one night.
Riad Farnatchi, owned by James Wix, is tucked away and nestled within a narrow medina street that even a tiny car can’t get to. In fact there was a bellboy waiting in the souk ready to help carry people’s suitcases to the Riad. Outside our Riad’s front door there was a donkey and cart chilling and blocking our way! We rang the Riad doorbell and were greeted by a well spoken manager who invited us inside this little piece of escapism.
The property comprises of 2 riads together giving them 10 bedrooms with not one but two beautiful courtyards. The first is emerald green with a swimming pool and relaxing seating areas and the second is filled with trees. This particular riad has an award winning spa and hammam, which is designed in black and white mosaic tiles. The good news is the spa is also open to the public. The narrow stairways around the riad seem to go on forever and take you in all directions – unfortunately for the bellboy my suitcase was as wide as the staircase itself!
Our suite (room 4) was a great size with a large bathroom complete with a sunken tub and every Molton Brown lotion you can think of. It also had a private roof top area where you can order your breakfast to be set up. And to make our riad experience even cozier our room had a large open log fire.
The hotel restaurant offers international and Moroccan cuisine and they also have a quaint little private dining room where they had set up our breakfast, which was a basket of fresh warm bread, fruit platter, eggs, coffee and juice.
Le Riad Yasmine is owned by French couple Gaby and Alice and is one of the most famous riads due to the amount of coverage it has received on Instagram – with 116k followers this pretty 8-bedroom riad is set around the most beautiful and picturesque courtyard, which has been transformed into a tropical paradise. White cane furniture, stripy green and white day beds, green and white mosaic tiles in and around the plunge pool with lush green plants, trees and cacti. Its beautiful how two colors can look so pretty and so tropical set inside an old Moroccan home.
The rooms are white and neutral color palate with curtains separating the bedroom area from the seating area. Open your front door and you’re instantly hit with the lush greenery from the courtyard.
They also have a rooftop, which provides great views of the medina and the Atlas Mountains in the distance.
When trying to arrange our stay at both riads, I loved the fact that the owners (Gaby, Alice and James) personally dealt with our enquires giving that personal touch that no large hotel can offer.
The Souk known as the Medina is a labyrinth of bustling streets filled with donkeys and carts, people working, street sellers and tourists. The motif of the keyhole arch is emblematic of Moroccan architecture, and this beautiful theme can be found in almost any structure throughout the medina.
Google maps don’t always work, but getting lost within the medina just means you experience something new around the next corner or in the next winding street.
We also visited the Riad Yima - Hassan Hajjaj art gallery and concept store. Famous for his bright colors, graphic patterns and use of brand name logos(especially his Coca Cola crates) The result is a mash up style that has both the captivating allure of global pop culture bonanza and the deeply rooted traditions of the Middle East.
The Large medina square is called Jemaa el-Fnaa. Throughout the day its bustling with rattle snake charmers and monkeys with their trainers encouraging you to take photos – however my advice please don’t take photos just keep walking, or be ready to say bye to something valuable!
Off the square are many alleyways with thousands of shopping stalls that go on for miles. In the busy streets of the medina, you’re sure to be bombarded with the aggressive sales tactics of would-be guides and craft-sellers. They are harmless just tell them no, however you will most probably end up following someone somewhere – it just happens.
When shopping remember half the experience is haggling so be prepared to bargain and be patient. I picked up some beautiful Moroccan plates and there were many large lamps that I wanted to buy. Whatever you’re looking for the medina has it all, leather, carpets, spices, tapestries, silver and metal objects.
FYI – I found this stunning linen shop which had the most beautiful bed sheets – think White Company but better –
V. Barkowski https://valeriebarkowski.com
In Marrakech every building was and has to be the same color – think dusky pink, with blue and green accessories/plants outside to give it that picture perfect Moroccan look.
I also highly recommend a visit to Jardin de Majorelle known as YSL Gardens. The queue was rather long so our taxi driver, jumped out bought our tickets for us so as we could walk straight in avoiding all the people.
Jardin de Majorelle is a stunning two and half acre botanical and artistic landscape garden. The French Orientalist artist Jacques Majorelle initially created it almost forty years ago but then Yves Saint Laurent bought it and made it into a permanent Marrakech fixture and a tourist haven. If you’re a lover of YSL do also visit Museum Yves Saint Laurent which is next to the Gardens.
This video shows the stunning grounds of Jardin de Majorelle with all its mystery, serenity and majesty:
The currency is Moroccan Dirham so don’t be mistaken with the UAE Dirham.
Uber doesn’t work in Morocco so you have to use either the public taxi’s or ask your hotel to arrange a car for you. Again be ready to negotiate aggressively.
Emirates flies direct to Casablanca 9.5 hours there and 6.5 hours back. From Casablanca to Marrakech is a 2.5 hour drive – it’s a long journey but well worth it.
Marrakech is definitely unique, incorporating a nice mixture of authentic local Moroccan culture with some serious hotel and resort offering. But don’t rely on the movies and social media – go visit to truly capture its magic.