Morocco is a mysterious and legendary country. Those who have been there will forever remember this feeling – the feeling of real oriental grace. Mediterranean and Atlantic beaches, hills and forests, waterfalls and lakes. John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Yves Saint Laurent, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and so on down the list rested and had fun here. It is believed that without Morocco and the various Moroccan adventures of the gentlemen and ladies listed above, the history of fashion, design, music, cinema, and politics would be completely different. For example, in addition to Saint Laurent, Paul Getty (son of the famous billionaire) and his wife, fashion model Talita, lived here. Talita was the muse of many Parisian fashion designers of the late 60s. It is believed that she invented the hippie-chic style: she took traditional Moroccan clothing as a basis and combined it with French haute couture. By the way, Yves Saint Laurent called Talita Getty “beautiful and damned”, and this nickname was soon justified – in 1971, the style icon died under very mysterious circumstances – either murder or drugs, the exact reason was never fully established.
All these people lived in special houses, called “riads” in the local dialect. As a billionaire friend told me, who was vacationing in Morocco for three months in a row, “riads in Morocco are like dons pedro in Brazil!”. Well, there really are a lot of them. But this does not diminish the charm of either each riad individually, or such a phenomenon as a “riad” in principle. So what is a riad?
Riad in Arabic means simply “house”. Traditional Moroccan house. Nothing special from the street. But from the inside, this is an absolutely exotic thing – furniture and other interior elements are selected, as a rule, with amazing taste, basically it’s all old or, at least, under it. Very authentic and cozy. Moreover, in the courtyard there is, as it were, another, secret facade – the so-called wast ad-dar. This square or rectangular open area of the house is in fact a kind of center of the house, windows and doors of rooms open here, the freshest fountain often beats here, jasmine or rose flowers bloom, and either birds or angels sing at night.
Also of the special decor elements that come across in riads, I would note marble columns, mosaics made of enamel tiles and multi-colored glasses. There is usually an open roof where you can bask in the shade or in the sun while drinking something refreshing.
In principle, almost all Moroccan hotels use the motives of a traditional Moroccan riad in their design. And they do it right. These hotels, of course, cannot be called riads in the strict sense of the word, but you can certainly feel the main charm of real riads here. And even more: these are, one might say, distilled riads. Riads without husks. Today I’m going to talk about three of my favorites.
Firstly, this is Riad Fes in the city of Fes. A riad is, of course, a riad, but at the same time it is a real palace, an ancient palace. Stunning architecture, impeccable design, truly enjoyable service. 20 rooms and suites. Decorated with local works of art, author’s calligraphy and the finest carvings. The hotel has a hammam, which is rightfully considered one of the best in Morocco. There is also a great restaurant here. The cuisine is Moroccan, authentic. You can dine on the terrace overlooking the city.
The second riad (but is it a riad?), which I especially liked, is located near the city of Agadir. In the middle of a eucalyptus forest (just imagine how it smells here!), next to two golf courses. The name of the hotel is Riad des Golfs. 8 suites, a very beautiful large courtyard in the best riad traditions, where, among greenery and flowers, there is a patio with an oriental mood with a live fireplace. There is a swimming pool, and a great beach is a 15-minute drive away. The Riad des Golfs restaurant is also excellent. Especially good here are tagines (a Moroccan dish of meat, vegetables, dried fruits and nuts) and fish and seafood dishes.
And finally, the capital of riads, Marrakesh. There are more than 2000 of them. But the best of them, of course, is La Sutlana & Spa. As far as I know, this institution is arranged with the assistance of the Moroccan Office of Historical Monuments. The hotel consists of four real old riads, which are combined with each other into one complex of 12 rooms and 9 suites. There are hanging gardens, fountains and heated pools. Fireplace in every bedroom, authentic antique furniture, Atlas cedar ceilings with elaborate carvings and paintings. The spa is one of the best in Morocco. The restaurant has very tasty and authentic cuisine. And by the way, you can dine with the most beautiful views in Marrakech of the main attractions of the city.
Well, this is where we’ll stop for now. However, the topic of Morocco is far from exhausted, and I will certainly return to it soon!