A trip to Morocco is incomplete without a visit to Marrakesh, Fes, and Tangier. But where should you stay? At a hotel or a riad? What is a riad anyway, and what should you expect when you stay there?
With its bustling marketplaces, soothing hammams, and delightful restaurants, the historical yet alluring cities of Marrakech, Fes, and Tangier offer a ton of romance and exoticism—blending the finest Moroccan culture and cuisine with modern conveniences.
So, where do you stay when you reach these historic towns? There are lots of alternatives available. The first is the obvious choice – staying in a hotel. You’ll find all levels of hotel accommodations in Morocco, from hostels, to budget hotels, to 5 star luxury. There are also plentiful Airbnbs throughout the country, and again there are varying price points for these homes depending on their proximity to the historic center of each city.
However – if you stay in a bland hotel room, you’re completely missing out on one of the best experiences Morocco has to offer its guests. If you want a more genuine, one-of-a-kind experience that you can’t find in any other country, consider staying in a traditional riad.
What Is a Riad?
The word “riad” quite literally means, “enclosed garden”. A riad is a traditional Moroccan dwelling with roots dating back to ancient Rome, Greece, Iran, and India. The most notable feature of these homes is the focus on the interior courtyard.
Often these homes are multiple stories with rooms facing the courtyard that is generally home to a fountain, garden, or communal living area. Some riads even have spas or pools to give you a break from the scorching desert heat.
A quick Google search reveals the beauty and splendor of the rich Moroccan architecture. Detailed mosaic designs and arched doorways are a staple of these homes once belonging to the wealthy and affluent. These days, many riads have been converted into hotels and Airbnbs for an authentic Moroccan experience.
What sets these beautiful places apart from regular hotels is the intimate atmosphere. Most riads have only 4-6 rooms with a caretaker who personally attends to your needs to give you an individualized experience unlike any other. And the feeling of staying in a riad is one of peaceful, sumptuous luxury.
Why You Should Stay In a Riad
There are many pros to staying in riads in Morocco. First, living in one (even if it’s just for one or two nights) will allow you to experience authentic Moroccan culture, hospitality, and traditions. The Moroccan family who manages or owns the riad usually reside there themselves, which means they can guide you through all of their customs.
Most riads are small, with only about five to seven rooms. You can get undivided attention from the host and a more relaxed and welcoming visit. You’ll often be served breakfasts and welcome treats of Moroccan pastries, coffee, tea, and fruit. And don’t forget to try the Moroccan pancakes!
If you’d like a tour of the whole riad, and to know its history, the riad owners or caretakers are guaranteed to be delighted to show you around and tell you more.
Morocco is still a very affordable holiday destination, and the riads here are suitable for everyone’s taste and budget. You may find rooms between $25 and $200USD, depending on your choice of the riad. Since there are many riads in the medinas of each city, you’ll be able to find a wonderful one even if you’re on a tight budget.
Riads provide a tranquil haven away from the business of the city. They’re quiet respites with little more than the babbling of the central fountain, whether due to the structure of the buildings or the thick walls they have.
After experiencing the crowded medinas and bustling streets, believe me when I say that you’ll appreciate the absolute calm and comfort that a riad provides after a hard day walking around outside.
What To Expect While Staying In a Riad
If it is your first time staying in a riad, you might be a little curious about whether it will be worth booking it or not over the traditional hotel. So what is it like staying in a riad? Let’s find out!
Riads are small institutions with fewer than ten rooms. However, what makes a riad attractive is not how big the place is, but the uniqueness of it, including its rooms. The owners create and decorate rooms using exquisite Moroccan architecture and gorgeous tile work, which brings out the room’s charm and personality.
Tiled floors are more common than carpeted floors, and bathrooms have bright Moroccan tile work. Colorful textiles, hand-woven rugs, hanging lanterns, and carved wood are all prominent design features that you will find. Wifi is also available so you can keep connected with our friends and family. I haven’t come across any riads that don’t offer wifi, so if you’re planning to work while you travel around Morocco, a riad is a great choice for accommodation.
No trip is complete without experiencing traditional local food when visiting different nations. Morocco has a fabulous culinary culture, and staying in a riad enables you to experience high-quality local cuisine, as each one has its small team of cooks preparing authentic Moroccan meals.
You’re likely to be served a simple breakfast with pastries, Moroccan bread, eggs, honey, jams, fresh fruit, mint tea, black coffee, and fresh juice. And that’s just the basics! We’ve also been served up chocolate croissants, french toast, Moroccan pancakes, cakes, candies, and fancy patisseries.
Some riads have full-service eateries, so the cooks prepare dinner using fresh ingredients acquired the same day. All you need to do is inform the staff that you would like to dine at home for specific meals, and they will dazzle you with their local dishes.
Riads offer highly individualized and excellent service standards because of their small size. During their visit, many guests remark on how impressed they are with the staff’s attention to detail.
The staff treat you like their family and teach you all there is to know about Moroccan culture, and about their city, so you feel at home even in a country that’s not your own. We found all of our riad hosts to be genuinely warm, friendly, and ridiculously helpful for literally anything you need, or want to know about.
Best Riads In Morocco
While there are several options to choose from when planning to stay in a riad, not all are created equal. The following are some of the best riads in Morocco that will make for an experience like no other:
Located in the historic Kasbah area of Tangier, Dar Sultan blew us away with its incredible decor, comfort, and luxury. We splurged on this riad, as it was our first time touching down on Moroccan soil – so we wanted to be wowed from the beginning.
And….we were not disappointed! It is an incredible space, with huge attention to detail on every floor, and in every room. There are also two adorable resident cats, who spend most of the day curled up downstairs next to the fireplace. This riad is a quick stroll from the medina, the kasbah, restaurants, and the famous Cafe Baba.
We booked the Malabata room here for 5 nights, which is on the top floor with a rooftop terrace. If you’ve got a lot of luggage, the staff will help you up the flights of stairs (riads don’t have elevators!) to this incredibly comfy room. I’ve never slept so well as I did here. And I’ve never eaten so much as I did at breakfast here!
Right in the center of the Marrakesh medina, a beautifully furnished Riad Kasbah stands. There is a massive pool on the lower floor, and you can view the Atlas mountains and the Koutoubia Mosque from the rooftop patio. The Riad Kasbah’s beauty comes from spectacular woodwork, tall archways, and traditional decor.
You can enjoy the home-cooked breakfast and dinner served on the patio with the breathtaking views. You will also be able to rest easy knowing that you have access to air conditioning and reliable wifi after a long and tiring day of roaming about the sweltering medina.
Dar Darma is about a ten-minute walk from the Jamaa El Fna Square in Marrakesh. It offers luxurious, air-conditioned suites, a terrace that provides panoramic views of the city, and a hammam that provides steam baths.
The apartments and suites here are huge and come with free wifi. Are you feeling bored? Entertain yourself by watching television with satellite channels. If you are hungry, order the traditional Moroccan cuisine and enjoy it on the terrace, central patio, or guest room.
Riad Jemaa El Fna & Spa
The perfection that visitors experience while staying at riad Jemaa El Fna leave them speechless. It is designed with the perfect blend of comfort, simplicity, and quality. Customers leave high ratings and remark on how pleasant the staff was and how excellent the meals were.
At this lovely riad in Morocco, in the heart of old Marrakesh, you’ll be treated like royalty. You can unwind in the immaculate outdoor pool in the middle of the courtyard, in a bar, or on the sunny balcony. If you want beauty treatments, you can use the hammam spa. A delectable meal is also prepared in the morning so that your day kicks off ideally.
Conclusion – What Is A Riad?
One of the first things you must consider when traveling to a destination is where you will stay. While you may enjoy staying in a hotel or resort, Morocco offers a unique accommodation choice you may not find anywhere else in the world.
Opting for accommodation in a riad when you travel to Morocco is perhaps the best way to receive an authentic experience of the Moroccan lifestyle and traditions. The experience of living in a cultural place and receiving Moroccan hospitality will make the stay worth it.
We hope this article answered your question of “what is a riad” and convinced you to stay in one of the most spectacular places imaginable!