When I started planning my trip to Morocco, I noticed that many of the top-rated places to stay were riads.
“What the heck is a riad?” I thought. After doing some research I found out that a riad, sometimes spelled ryad, is the Moroccan hybrid of a guest house/B&B/boutique hotel. And if you are planning a trip to this beautiful country, I recommend skipping the typical Western hotels and booking one – you won’t regret it!
Here are 6 reasons to stay in a riad in Morocco:
1. Try out a local custom. Riads are very traditional in Morocco, so you’ll feel like you’re getting a more local experience than you would at a five star hotel. The word comes from the Arabic “ryad,” which means a garden. A true riad has a garden in the center which is surrounded by the rooms of the house. Windows traditionally faced inwards, toward the garden, to protect family privacy and block out the madness of the medina. Which brings me to reason #2…
Riad Ghita in Fes, Morocco
2. Your riad will be an oasis. After a long day of wandering down winding streets, dodging loose donkeys and bargaining in the medina what could be better than arriving home to your own private, serene garden?
3. Experience that famous Moroccan hospitality. If you stay in a riad, you are likely to get to know your hosts/staff very well. The owners and staff will be more than happy to provide you with their local knowledge of where to eat, shop and sightsee – and they might even come along with you! I can’t even begin to describe how amazingly nice every single riad employee I encountered in Morocco was. They will go out of their way to ensure you enjoy your trip. Case in point: we were staying there on Christmas, which is not at all celebrated in Morocco, and the staff served us champagne and cookies, played Christmas music and wished all of us a “Happy Christmas.” Too sweet!
4. The FOOD. Restaurants aren’t a big thing in Morocco. Locals prefer to eat at home, where their wife or mom is probably cooking them a delicious meal made from scratch using fresh ingredients. In fact, Moroccans will actually feel sorry for you if you’re eating out because it means you have no family to eat with (true story: several Moroccan restaurant servers invited us to their homes for our next meal because they couldn’t comprehend why we would eat out).
While in Morocco, your riad will be your home. At most places I stayed, there was a delicious breakfast served each morning and dinner was available to purchase upon request. One of my favorite experiences was dining on homemade tagines and harira soup on the rooftop of Riad Les Trois Mages in Marrakech. The food was so good, in fact, that we organized a cooking class with the riad chef the next day for lunch and had to have the owner email us the recipes!
Side note: most riads don’t have alcohol to serve since it’s against the Muslim religion to drink. However, they probably won’t mind if you bring your own bottle of wine or order some to be delivered there. Just don’t be offended if they don’t serve it themselves – some Moroccans prefer to not touch the bottles at all.
5. Riads supply you with endless interior design inspiration. Every place I stayed was more beautiful than the last, with hand carved details, hand painted tile mosaics, unique fountains and gardens. And of course, extremely cool furniture, rugs, lamps and even bathrooms. I kept asking “where can I get one of those?”
Above three images: Riad Les Trois Mages in Marrakesh, Morocco
6. Affordable prices. So you’re getting five star service, a beautiful setting and amazing food – must be pricey right? Actually not at all. Most of the top-rated riads we stayed at ranged from $100 to $180 USD per night.
Where I Stayed in Morocco
Fes: Dar Kenza. This was one of the oldest properties we stayed at, fitting since Fes is one of the more old-fashioned cities of Morocco. The owners didn’t speak fluent English but it wasn’t an issue at all. They made us yummy crepes for breakfast and told us the stories behind all the beautiful carved wooden tables. The location was perfect, on a quiet street steps away from the busy part of the medina.
Marrakesh: Riad Les Trois Mages. This was my favorite place in Morocco, where I had the aforementioned amazing dinner. The riad is gorgeous with a pretty rooftop garden. The English owner Aidan and staff were incredible and the location was again, perfect!
Essaouira: Riad Al Madina. This was another riad I stayed in that wasn’t as special as the first two, but an ideal choice if you are just looking for a wallet-friendly place to stay. It was nice but larger, so there was less of a personal touch. However, it’s a five minute walk from the beach and literally attached to shops, restaurants, etc. Each room still had a very cool and unique design, too. I guess that’s standard in Morocco!
Atlas Mountains: Domaine Malika. OK so this place is not a riad or at all traditional in Morocco but the change of pace was well worth it. The owner is French and the design/layout is quite modern. It’s an incredible choice if you want a luxe place to stay in the Atlas Mountains. Heated floors, jacuzzi style bath tubs, memory foam mattresses, a pool, a spa and fancy french food. Definitely try to book this one if they have room!
Heading to Morocco? Don’t forget to read my tips on what to pack for a trip to Morocco.