You can’t call your Maghrebian experience complete until you stay in a traditional riad in Morocco. Marrakech is a tourist destination that combines the best of Moroccan tradition and culture, and one of the most exquisite experiences that this enchanting city provides is Moroccan riads. Let’s discover why so many people rave about them and call them the best accommodation for travelers.
What is a riad ?
Riad is a term that comes from the Arabic word “Ryad,” which means “garden.” So simply put, a riad in Morocco is a townhouse built around a garden or a courtyard, and the skylight coming from the open ceiling is the traditional way that the riads are lit as there aren’t many windows throughout, in conformity with the Islamic idea of privacy and protection. This smart design also keeps the air inside the riad cool and comfortable, and that’s another reason for their popularity during hot Moroccan summers at Marrakech.
There are many variations for riads, but the most popular and traditional have a fountain in the middle with trees around it.
What’s also fascinating about a riad is the outside that looks like a fortress of mud clay walls with no exterior windows. The only way inside is a massive and intriguing door that looks like it’s hiding something precious inside, and the moment you breach that door, you discover this magical palace with indoor gardens and colorful tiles.
Why stay in a riad in Morocco?
It’s a new feeling to experience living like the people of Morocco, unlike staying in a hotel where everyone there is a traveler. When you stay in a riad, you remain in the heart of the town; by merely opening the front door, you arrive at the medina.
With the unique design of the riad, you’ll be amazed at how calm and quiet this place is. This peaceful sanctuary is the best retreat from the buzzing streets of the Medina.
Each riad has it’s own story and personality; no two riads are alike. And even within a riad, every room has it’s own style and design, whether it’s tilework, doors, colors, artwork, hand-carved plaster walls, etc. nothing is the same.
Since riads are small and only have few rooms, you get more attention from the host, and some luxury riads come complete with your butler.
The most famous sights in Marrakech are located in the Medina, and by staying in an old town riad, you are saving yourself the time and the taxi money. It’s great also for short breaks or to drop off your shopping.
What to look out for when staying in a riad?
Without a doubt, riads are the best accommodation you can experience as a traveler, but no place is perfect.
- Even if foreigners own most riads, they are always staffed by Moroccans, who may not understand English very well. You may need to learn some Arabic words or do some gesturing, and if you speak French, that helps a lot.
- Taxis can only drive you to a few riads in the Medina, so be always prepared to do some walking.
- Walking in the streets of the Medina is like walking in a maze, be sure to remember the location of your riad. If necessary, use a map.
- The calm and peace you find in a riad may lead you to spend an entire day inside, but don’t spend your whole vacation in it; there is a lot to explore in the city.
Should you stay in a riad in Morocco?
Definitely YES, as long as you can afford it. Staying in a riad in Morocco will be one of the highlights of your visit to my beautiful country. And trust me, once you experienced it, you’ll struggle hard to go back to a standard hotel room.