Escape the hullabaloo of the medina by discovering these four special riads
We recently headed to Marrakech for the debut issue of Nataal magazine to explore its burgeoning creative scene. It was a frenetic visit as we navigated the labyrinthine medina and sprawling modern neighbourhoods to meet the people shaping the city’s cultural life, from designers Amine Bendriouich, Laurence Leenaert, Artsi Ifrach and Noureddine Amir to artists Hassan Hajjaj and Yassine Balbzioui and gallery and museum directors Imane Barakat (Comptoir des Mines Galerie), Zayneb Kadiri (MACAAL) and Björn Dahlström (mYSLm). The city has an unrelenting and irresistible energy, more so now than ever, making its peaceful riads so essential. No Marrakech experience is complete without a stay at one of these tranquil traditional houses so here’s our pick of four of the best, each with its own unique personality.
For bohemians: Riad Kbour & Chou
Riad Kbour & Chou is resolutely hidden away in the medina. You have to head down a small alleyway and duck under an arch into near darkness to find this secluded residence but it’s well worth the trepidation as you emerge on the other side of its unassuming doors into a beautiful garden courtyard. Belgian hosts Jacques Van Nieuwerburgh and Nicolas Bodé have put their heart and soul into this restoration, and it shows. Each hand picked detail of the interior design adds authentic and often quirky charm to the five rooms and communal areas. We borrowed bicycles to hit the streets with, and enjoyed evenings of opera and wine on the patio.
3, Derb Enajem, Zaouia Abassia riadkbourchou.com
For grown ups: Riad Jaaneman
The Italian family who owns Riad Jaaneman used to use the building as their home, and it retains that intimate feeling with its fireside dining room and living room fully stocked with books and games. However the overall mood is one of pared back luxury offering five sizable suites mixing Neapolitan and Moroccan touches. Our favourite is the Leale on the ground floor. It has its own private terrace and infinity fountain, a masculine marble bathroom and master bedroom drenched in dappled light from a huge lantern. The elegant courtyard also has plunge pool surrounded by tropical plants.
12 Derb Sraghna, Dar El Bacha riadjaaneman.com
For sophisticates: Riad 72
Having recently expanded to take over two buildings in the media, Italian owner Giovanna Cinel has transformed Riad 72 into a boutique hotel with all the trimmings. From the groundfloor restaurant serving seasonal dishes to the in-house hammam, plus a cosy library with red velvet sofas and high rooftop courtyard with sunbeds and panoramic view, we were tempted to never leave. Delightful details include the pink mosaic tiled patio floors, art deco furniture and banana trees in the courtyard. Some suites have carved wooden ceilings, headboards made from mashrabiya and tadelakt baths big enough for two.
72 Arset Awzel, Dar el Bacha riad72.com
For the in-crowd: El Fenn
Meaning ‘fine arts’ in Arabic, El Fenn is a living gallery, where its owners Vanessa Branson and Howell James share their collection of contemporary art as well as changing exhibitions (on our visit by photographer Hans Silvester). It’s also where you’ll see and be seen by the international jet set who have long been drawn to Marrakech. Head to the Berber tented roof terrace for its delicious five-plate set lunch, or downstairs to the concept store, cocktail bar and large swimming pool. Each of the 28 rooms has brightly coloured walls and idiosyncratic details such as camel leather floors and copper roll-top baths. Hang around long enough and you’ll spy the riad’s family of tortoises slowly making their way around this five-star joint, too.
Derb Moullay Abdullah Ben Hussain, Bab El Ksour el-fenn.com
Photography Elina Simonen
Words Helen Jennings
Published on 20/06/2018