Staying in a riad is definitely something you have to do when traveling to Morocco. (That, and going to a local hammam). On this post I wrote about our favorite place we stayed in Morocco. Usually we tend to stay in more budget accommodation, we decided to splurge for a stay in a riad in Marrakesh. We expected Morocco to be crazy and hectic (we were right), and that we’d relish having a nice place to retire to at the end of the day (we were right again). Having had this experience, I highly recommend that anyone traveling to Morocco to spend at least one night in a riad.
But, what is a riad?
Riad is traditional house in Morocco. It is characterized by having an inner courtyard or a garden as the central element of the building. As a matter of fact, the name comes from the Arab word ‘ryad’ – garden. Riads in Morocco were often homes of the wealthiest citizens such as merchants or palace courtiers.
Following the Islamic idea of privacy and inward reflection, a riad doesn’t usually have large windows facing the outside. Instead, rooms in a riad will have windows facing the open-ceiling inner courtyard/garden. For that same reason, you often can’t tell that a simple door hides an amazing and beautifully decorated palace. Some of the riads don’t even have a sign outside their doors.
A typical courtyard in a riad would have a fountain in the center, surrounded by orange trees.
In the riad that we stayed in Marrakesh, it has 3 courtyards – one of which even has a swimming pool.
Another characteristic of a riad is the few rooms that it has. Our riad in Marrakesh, for example, only has 5 rooms. This allows individual attention from the owners and the staff – by the end of our stay I think we’ve met every single one of them.
Why stay in a riad in Morocco?
Because it’s like staying in a palace. In our case, our riad was a palace. Riad Al Moussika, our riad in Marrakech, belonged to a Berber warlord, Thami El Glaoui (there’s even a book written about him), who built the riad as a palace for one of his 100 wives.
Well, officially he only had 8 wives, but he had non-official wives as well. It was definitely a different time back then.
After the craziness of the souks and medina of Marrakech, there was nothing like stepping into the tranquil coccoon of our riad. The thick wall (and lack of windows) help isolate the noise. I’m typing this right now listening to the trickle of fountain in the courtyard and birds chirping while just minutes ago I was almost run over by a Vespa and stepped on by a donkey (not at the same time, fortunately).
A riad is what your regular boutique hotel wants to be like when it grows up. Each room is individually and richly decorated. Often that means hand-carved doorways and hand-painted doors and shutters. One room might have a private terrace, another might have a jacuzzi. You definitely won’t see none of that cookie cutter Holiday Inn hotel rooms.
Another reason to stay in a riad? The food. Most riads are known just as much for their restaurants as well as their beauty. This is especially true for Pepenero, the inhouse restaurant of our riad. We had food so good there we almost cried.
The only reason NOT to stay in a riad?
The cost. Staying in a Moroccan riad is not cheap. With only a few rooms and the constant upkeep that a riad demands, staying in a riad is not quite what one would call a budget accommodation. Having said that, it’s still cheaper compared to what one would pay for a boutique hotel in San Francisco.
Should You Stay in a Riad in Morocco?
If you can afford it, I don’t think you’ll regret it. Staying in a riad was definitely one of the highlights of our stay in Morocco. Just be careful. We were so amazed by the beauty of our riad and so pampered by the attention that the staff gave us – it will be really hard to go back to $15/night hostel rooms.
A Moroccan Riad
Where we stayed in Marrackech:
All pictures are taken from Riyad Al Moussika (rated “Exceptional” on Hotels Combined), rooms from $160/night. Even if you don’t stay there, Pepenero (the restaurant) is worth a visit. Entree starts from 120 Dirham.
Other recommended riads in Marrakesh:
More Budget: Riad Karmela, rooms from $65. Elegant and centrally located.
More Luxury: Riad Itrane, rooms from $280. 10 rooms with AC with a private beach and in-house Turkish bath.
[…] viajando por un tiempo, hasta que paramos en un riad (casa típica marroquí, con un patio o jardín interno) para pasar la noche. Tenía una estética […]
[…] the Moroccan experience: Take a lesson in Moroccan cooking, relax in a hamam, shop in a souk, and stay in a riad, a traditional homestead, many of which have now been converted into hotels. Train travel within […]
My all time favorite blog. Light, interesting, fun to read, and best of all I get to live vicariously through your travels. Such a cute couple! Thank you, keep it up.
There are really cheap Riads too, I stayed in a few when I was there, they are just as beautiful but maybe not half as luxurious. Swimming pools were off the table. but a private double was only £10 each a night. One Riad though they totally scammed us so you can't always trust everyone even in places you are staying.
What did they scam you with?
Lucky you! One day we hope to make it to Morocco – and stay in a riad, of course…
It's Riad Al Moussika (http://www.riyad-al-moussika.com/) Let them know you found out about them from our site – I bet they'll be tickled 🙂
You have convinced us that we must stay in a riad during our trip to Marrakesh next week! Looks incredible! Would you mind emailing me the name of the place where you guys stayed?
I am in awe. That place is BEAUTIFUL! What a great experience. Thanks for posting!
Beautiful place! I would definitely give it a try if I go to Morocco. Do people actually swim in that pool? It looks too pretty to be a swimming pool.
Wow! That looks incredible. I will definitely remember to save a little extra money for a riad splurge when I travel to Morocco!
You should. It's such a splurge, but it's worth it!
This place looks gorgeous!! And what a history to along with it as well…
What an incredible place. I wouldn't want to go back to staying in a hostel either after this.
With a bed like that I wouldn't want to go back to a hostel either! This place looks gorgeous.
Amazing. I knew about these courtyarded palaces, but I didn't know that some of them had been converted to hotels. I wonder if the same is true in India, for example?
I'm not sure – but if so, I bet they'd be just as beautiful.
It looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous!
First time, I heard about Morocco was in the movie "Along Came Polly" Definitely a beautiful place to visit someday.
Jill you look really happy and Jack- glad to see you again. Seems like you are now gaining some weight (starvin marvin) 🙂
Make sometime to come to beautiful Victoria.
Love all the tile work! Beautiful.
Great post and couldn't agree more!! Riads are definitely worth it if you can afford it!
Ooh even one night here would be magical.
Beautiful! I think one of my favorite in-country memories from our entire SAS voyage was staying at the Branson's riad in Marrakech. I could have moved in there!
Looks gorgeous. I've always wanted to stay in a riad -I'm a big fan of courtyards.
This place looks absolutely beautiful! I love all the architectural details. I'd be willing to fork over the money for a stay at a place like this! 😀