The route to your riad in the heart of Marrakech’s Medina is one of the most memorable on the planet. I won’t spoil it for you by laying out the details, suffice to say it’s the sort of experience you might have when you cross a wheel barrow with a troupe of circus performers and a pink labyrinth.
European-owned Riad Azzar fuses Dutch-restraint with a Moroccan aesthetic for a result that is fiercely exotic, but in a way warms the soul rather than exhausts the eyes. The in-house manager Khalid is a real gem: charming, helpful, friendly, he’s quick with travel tips and speaks fluent French and English among others.
Every room here is a Delight. Suite Zayan, with a private balcony, is gorgeous and popular with romancing couples. Suite Zenmour overlooks the courtyard but is shielded by traditional ‘jealous windows’ that allow you to look out without others looking in – a sort of early version of tinted windows. The twin room is probably better suited to two kids, though it is roomy enough for friends to share – and the riad’s communal spaces are both enticing and generous, so it’s easy enough to get out of each other’s hair. The more economical ground floor rooms open onto the terrace with easy access to the mosaic-tiled emerald plunge pool, we stayed in the Marmoucha room which has an earthy, womb-like feel to it.
What we loved: Breakfast on the rooftop at Riad Azzar is both delicious and generous – what a great way to start the day. If you arrive in the evening and aren’t quite ready to face the Medina, take advantage of the in-house dinner service – we enjoyed the best meal of our trip on the rooftop terrace.
Tips: Riads are traditional family homes. In keeping with Islamic architecture the traditional design presents a blank wall to the outside world while inside the rooms are organized around an internal courtyard – frequently with a water feature. This means that riads have a more intimate feel than the typical hotel, but they were also designed with a family routine in mind and this doesn’t always translate perfectly into a hotel situation where occupants might have different waking and sleeping times. All this to say that any traditional riad can have noise problems if your fellow-guests are less than considerate and this – coupled with the Muezzin’s early morning ‘Call to Prayer’ – means it might be wise to pack ear-plugs just in case.
Contact & Booking: Riad Azzar
Rates: seasonal variations, eg: Marmoucha €130-€150; Suite Zayan €200-€235. Also available to rent as a whole house. Please tell them we sent you! See: Our photos from our Marrakech set on Flick’r.
Suggested lullaby: in keeping with the east-meets-west theme, we think the hypnotic ‘She Left Home’ on the Arabesque album by Jane Birkin with Jamel Benyelles (Violin), Fred Maggi (Piano), Amel Riahi el Mansouri (Luth), Aziz Boularoug (Percussion) and Moumen (Vocals) will help you along the winding path to sleep until the muezzin’s morning call…