Disclaimer: Thank you Riad Karmela Princesse for hosting us as your guests. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
If you've done any research on Morocco, you've seen the following word pop up a lot: Riad.
First off, what is a Riad? It's a large, traditional, Moroccan house built around a central courtyard that is often turned into a hotel. Every Riad is uniquely different but the central ideal is always the same: an ultra-private compound with 2 to 10 rooms that share a single common area adorned with citrus trees, exquisite tiling, and lavish pools. These homes used to belong to the wealthiest citizens of the country, such as merchants and royal suitors, but now you can stay there and experience true luxury!
Now we know, Riads are fancy - so why should you stay there instead of a Sofitel, Hilton, or generic 5 Star Resort? We recently stayed in the Medina of Marrakech and had the pleasure of visiting 3 unique Riads (Karmela Princesse, Karmela, and Zineb), all of which showcase 3 key reasons why you should pick a Riad over a hotel:
Location, Location, Location
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1. Location, Location, Location
Marrakech is a massive city - it's 209 kilometers squared; so you certainly don't want to spend all of your limited time while there, stuck in traffic! We strongly recommend you stay in the Medina (an old walled city at the center of Marrakesh) so you can be close to the action in the heart of the city. The Medina has all the best restaurants, markets, and Riads for a perfect stay in Marrakech - we've listed some of our personal favorites for you in the map above. Riads Karmela, Princesse, and Zineb are all close to the main hub, granting you easy access to the madness of Jemaa El-Fna square and an easy respite when needed.
2. Central Courtyard
The best part of travel isn't always the sights - it's the people you meet along the way! It's all too easy to visit a country and only interact with hotel staff but Riads, with their shared common area, allow you to meet locals and fellow tourists in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. Take Riad Zineb for example, we started every day right with an amazing breakfast in the garden - pressed juices, fresh fruits, homemade yogurt, and pastries... but best of all, a chance to discuss your plans and share travel tips with like-minded travelers staying at the Riad. Each morning, we met new people, discussed local culture, and learned more about the wonderful city of Marrakesh - all before brushing our teeth!
3. Interior Decor
Morocco has a long, complex, and multicultural history; the indigenous Berber people have lived on the land for at least 2,500 years, the country was colonized by the Romans, Muslims, Spanish, and French, each of them leaving their mark. As a result, Morocco has a delightfully unique culture with an abundance of artifacts you'd normally only get to see in a museum - that is, unless you stay in a Riad!
For example, Riad Karmela Princesse blew us away with its intricate Zellige tiling, wrought iron designs, and ornate fountains. Whereas its sister Riad, Riad Karmela, boasts a full centralized garden with citrus trees and hand carved fountains. Riad Zineb however, hosts a stunning marble pool adorned with rose petals and atmospheric brass candles. Each Riad imparts a strong historically rich past through its tapestry, art, and stonework; providing a local's insight into Moroccan culture that lets you bask in the unique beauty of the North African desert.
Staying in a Riad is much more than a hotel alternative - it's a chance to embed yourself into Moroccan culture and its zeitgeist. Riads offer unparalleled access to the best restaurants of Marrakech, its friendly people, and the long, mixed history of the city itself. We recommend Riad Zineb for its white marble pool and lavish gardens, Riad Karmela Princesse for its unique interior design, and Riad Karmela for its whimsical courtyard and extravagant breakfasts. No matter which Riad you choose (or if you're like us, you can choose all three), know that you will be extremely happy with your stay as each will offer you an intimate insight into the very soul of Morocco.