Stepping off the plane at Marrakesh airport, I was filled with excitement and could not wait to explore this magical place. After a somewhat arduous wait at customs I was picked up by my driver and we began the bustling journey toward the riad I was staying in. During this enthralling journey, I couldn’t help but be instantly amazed by this beautiful city. The first thing that struck me was the dusky pink hue of the Medina walls which was somewhat intensified by the low morning sun. These perpetual walls were covered in nesting birds that swooped in an out of the cracks and holes that permeated this historic boundary.
As soon as we entered the Medina, our car was surrounded by countless motorcycles, cars, bicycles and donkeys, all aiming to get through one small archway into the old part of the city. It seemed chaotic yet surprisingly organised where everyone respected each others right of way yet carelessly zoomed through the small entrance way. This, I thought to myself, is only the beginning of an exciting energy that constantly bubbles away in this mystic city.
As I meandered through different alleyways to get to my riad I found it amazing how the cars managed to squeeze through the narrow streets with inches to spare. The streets were already buzzing with morning commuters, farmers and school children who didn’t seem fazed by the constant stream of traffic that drifted around them.
I had chosen to stay in a traditional Moroccan riad called Riad Le Jardin D’Abdou. If you don’t already know, a riad is a large traditional Moroccan house containing a number of different rooms with a central open courtyard.
This beautiful riad was located twenty minutes walk from the centre of Marrakech. I had chosen this riad as I wanted to be away from the traditional tourist area and live in the heart of a proper Moroccan neighbourhood.
I quickly arrived to a somewhat bare looking building with a small wooden door, embellished with a large brass Hamsa. This heavy hand echoed with force as I knocked to alert them of my arrival. As I entered the doorway, I felt I had been transported into another world. The clamour of activity from outside faded away and I was guided through to a serene square of paradise. The central open air courtyard with tiled floors was surrounded by archways commonly seen in Islamic architecture. This tranquil environment was filled not only with the sounds of small birds but also the leaves of the tall palm trees that rustled as they were gently blown by the warm breeze.
Each room in the riad invited you in with gorgeous hand carved wooden doors. Their windows with heavy metal bolts and locks all added to the rustic Moroccan charm. As I sat down awaiting my room I was served some traditional Moroccan mint tea and pastries.
As I entered I was in awe of the beautiful tall ceiling. The sunlight shone through the carved window shutters, casting delicate shadows across the walls. The bed was embellished with swaying fabric and traditional cushions. After an early morning flight this seemed somewhat tempting but why would you want to sleep with such a tempting array of attractions waiting to be explored outside. The bathroom was glamorous and rustic with its copper sink and taps. Within my bathroom there was an open archway which lead to the shower where a small bowl filled with traditional black Moroccan soap was ready for me to wash away my morning tiredness. I hurriedly did so and quickly got ready for the deluge that my senses were about to experience.
I loved the small intimacy of staying in a traditional Riad. Instead of a being segregated in small rooms or lost in the sheer size of a Hotel complex, a Riad invites you to live like a local yet have the privacy you so wish for. Over time i began to converse with other guests as it was common for you to meet your neighbours each morning during breakfast. This was usually served in a beautifully decorated room off the courtyard, where you could smell the traditional bread and Moroccan pancakes being made.Breakfast each day was lovely, mostly consisting of Msemen (a traditional pan fried dough) with local jams and honey’s washed down with some Moroccan Tea or coffee. In the afternoons and early evenings fellow guests would meet in the courtyard and talk about where they had been or what they planned to visit. This began to feel like a little family, where everyone was free to discuss and learn from others recommendations.
This Riad was so tranquil that I did not want to leave. This small but perfectly formed place had everything you needed to escape the craziness of the outside world. I had strolled up to the roof terrace where comfortable sunbeds were scattered around and I lay listening to the call to prayer, basking in the warmth of the sun caressing my skin. I had taken advantage of their in house masseur service which I made my stay heavenly. Consisting of a one hour massage with aromatherapy oils, this luxury treatment cost a mere £30; a bargain considering what we usually pay in U.K. After an hour of bliss I headed to the courtyard for some delicious lunch which was freshly cooked to order. In this Riad you had to advise them of what you would like to eat in advance as all the fresh produce would be bought and cooked for you. My favourite was of course their traditional tagine which was full of flavour and spice. After lunch, as the temperature began to rise, I would chill with a book next to the small plunge pool that was cast in shadows of the tall palm trees. What a perfect little place to read and take an afternoon nap.
But of course this is Marrakech; a vibrant City that has to be explored …..In my next blog check out my top places of interest, places to visit and experiences whilst in in Marrakech.