The Riad Revolution

It’s difficult now to imagine Marrakech without its boutique riad hotels. The Red city was founded nearly a thousand years ago as the capital of a great Empire. It grew in importance as a trading post until its glamorous heyday in the middle ages when Camel trains crossed the Sahara to reach its Caravanserai and markets. For centuries the medina was relatively neglected, during the French protectorate (1912-1956) a modern City was built in neighboring Guiliez and the crumbling old town was left to the locals.

A turning point can be traced to the a 1980’s when a French tv channel broadcast that a Palace in Marrakech could be bought for less than a pied a terre in Paris. Adventurous foreigners began to buy riads and refurbish them using Marrakech’s skilled artisans to chisel away creating white stucco , zellij tiles for walls and floors whilst gloriously decorated wooden ceilings reappeared or were created from scratch.  The riads in the media began to emerge in all their glory again.

star team

It wasn’t an easy process with carts and donkeys taking away rubble down the narrow derbs. Some new riad owners found the process of refurbishment and handicrafts-men with their own ideas, challenging. The local administration and the Ministry of Tourism gave this transformation their full support recognising that the refurbished riads were showcasing Morocco’s architectural heritage and craftsmenship.  Today’s glamorous Riad scene is frequented by politicians, royalty, and celebrities alike.

British riad owners have helped to boost tourism from the UK to Marrakech which now stands at 500,000 tourists a year. Where better to experience the Red City and the rhythm of its traditional life than a Riad hotel in the Medina?

The Riads make an outstanding contribution to employment in the medina and owners who have spent years building up their businesses have developed a strong relationship with their guests who often stay two or thee times a year.

serviced riad dar star marrakech

Since buying Riad Cinnamon as a holiday home in 2005 Mike and Lucie Wood have built up their Marrakech Riad group of four luxury riads each with their own individual charm and character. The original Riad Cinnamon in the El Baroudiyine district by the Ben Youssef Mosque was a merchant’s house boasting a splendid entrance hall with plunge pool, 5 individually designed rooms with ensuite showers a comfortable lounge and one of the best roof terrace views of Marrakech. You can look out over the city with its ancient minarets and the views of the snow capped Atlas beyond. At night you can watch the moon rise over the Medina and imagine yourself in the land of the Arabian Nights. Guests are lent a mobile phone to call the concierge for directions and Mike has written a comprehensive smartphone app of what to see in the Medina.

Riad Papillon is in a fashionable derb just off the Dar El Bacha antique shop district is delightfully secluded peaceful riad with 5 luxury rooms and ensuite showers, plunge pool ,lounge and terrace. Enjoy the convenience of an English speaking riad and staff who can help you search out that special purchase you are looking for.

Riad Star just behind the Marrakech museum has a twenties themed Art Deco interior with a splendid patio dedicated to the glamorous Josephine Baker the exotic dancer with the famous banana outfit who created a senstation in prewar Paris where African dance and Jazz became popular. She was also a decorated member of the French resistance. The Pacha Thami El Glaoui received her in his palace and gave her the use of Riad Star. Today you can relax with a soothing massage in Riad Star’s hammam

Riad Dar Habiba is an intimlate traditionally designed riad with 6 individual rooms and open patio with a plunge pool. Relax in the courtyard after a hard days shopping in the extensively renovated Mellah quartier.

Internet rates give the benefit of a 20% discount and you can order home cooked meals at the riad. There is free wifi and flat screen TVs in all rooms. Every convenience and dedicted service from your concierge 24/7 so that you can relax and enjoy living in the Medina.

ebony room Riad Star Marrakech, the perfect family room