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Monday, 12 May 2014 12:00 AM

Experience a Riad on Holiday in Marrakech and Other Cities

Whilst most holiday makers in Morocco go for the sun and beach and stay in large generic hotels providing a room and basic food – a holiday that could be in almost any country in the world - but Morocco offers so much more to those visitors who want to take advantage of the chance to experience another culture.

One of the simplest ways to break away from the crowds and have a taste of Morocco is to stay in a riad (or dar or, in a few places, a kasbah or ksour). Whilst we have described previously what a Moroccan riad is I will take more time below to explain the experience of staying in a riad and in the next article talk about how to choose the right riad for you.

Plain Entrance to a Hidden Gem

For the first-timer the entrance to a riad is an inauspicious start. Often tucked away down a quieter side street or alley, the front door of a riad is almost always a large dark plain wooden door with little or no distinguishing features other than a number or, sometimes, a small name plaque.

The front door will be kept shut and locked when not in use and will be opened by the manager or doorman on your arrival (it may take a minute or so to open when you ring if they are doing jobs elsewhere in the property) and, as you step inside and the door is shut behind you, you will find the drab and noisy street is shut out and you are now in a quiet and cool haven – often beautifully decorated and luxuriously furnished.

You will normally first enter the central courtyard that may have some greenery, a fountain or a plunge pool, around with the rooms are laid out – typically between 4 and 7 bedrooms over 3 floors with a roof terrace on top. Each bedroom is accessed from the courtyard or balcony above though (normally) old ornate wooden doors with (normally) grill covered windows either side looking into the courtyard centre.

The staff in a riad will typically be employed there for the long term and may even be part of a larger family - they will be trusted and valued emplyees - and the owner will often live on site or nearby and manage the riad on a day to day basis, which helps create an atmosphere quite different from a chain hotel.

This is not a hotel by any conventional definition, it is an oasis in an often hectic foreign land, a place to step back from your explorations and to relax in a place that once belonged to a Moroccan family. It is an experience to stay in and a valuable part of a holiday in Morocco for many visitors.

Where can I stay in a Riad

Whilst riads are the historic format of a family town house and have become synonymous with holidays in Marrakech, riads converted into boutique hotels or guest houses are available in most major city destinations (Marrakech, Rabat, Fez, Essaouira and Tangier) and a number of significant towns (Taroudant and in the High Atlas).

Our accommodation finder can help you find what we have on offer across Morocco.