The choice of accommodation in Marrakech is really between branded hotel and local Riad, and in most cases my money would be on local Riad. But why, and what is the best Riad in Marrakech?
The answer to the first question is fairly straightforward. A stay in Morocco is all about the experience, and the assault on the senses. Yves St Laurent famously declared that he discovered colour in Marrakech, which is a statement you probably will not really understand until your first visit. All of the colours seem more vivid. The sky just seems more blue, and against the “rose red” city of Marrakech, it really stands out. You have the scents from the perfume souk, the taste of the spices in the cooking, the mayhem of the medina, contrasted with the silence of the deserts and the splendour of the mountains.
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A Riad is local accommodation, with rooms based around a central courtyard. Often they are located down winding alleyways and the magnificence inside is hidden behind an anonymous wooden door. Indeed, your first reaction on your first visit to a Riad, when you knock on the door, is “I’m going to kill that travel agent who recommended this Riad to me.” So I had better be careful with my recommendation on the best Riad in Marrakech!
The branded hotels are a great option if you just want a great holiday with everything contained in the hotel. If, for example, you’ve come for a bit of sun, some golf, and the occasional trip out, something like the Fairmont, or Club Med will be fine. You know exactly what your are going to get.
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If you want a bit of adventure, a real Moroccan experience, then it has to be a Riad. One thing to bear in mind is that Morocco is a Muslim country, a fairly relaxed and welcoming country, but Muslim nonetheless. This means that alcohol can be hard to find. If you want wine with your meal, or a bar with your accommodation, you must look for this in your search for accommodation, or specify this to your travel agent. Many of the restaurants will not serve alcohol, and Riads are often family homes, so again may not have a bar or serve alcohol. Many do, but do not assume that that they do. If alcohol is important to you, perhaps consider one of the branded hotels.
Marrakech is a reasonably small city, and it is possible to travel through most of it by walking. However, most of the things that you are likely to want to see are going to be based within a 10 to 15 minute walk of the Medina, and it therefore makes sense to choose a Riad that is close to the Medina.
The Best Riad?
It is probably impossible to choose the “best” Riad in Marrakech. There are a number of very fine properties, each with their little differences. In this blog post, I will be featuring one Riad which I think is fairly high up there, and in subsequent posts, I will feature one or two others that I think are worthy of consideration. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for, so more money means more luxury and more features and facilities.
The tag line to the the Dar Jaguar’s website immediately tells you that you have come to something very special, if not the best Riad in Marrakech. “Lose your Mind and Come to your Senses”. This is Morocco!
The imagery on the website that confronts you is immediately striking. I am not a great fan of carousel front pages, but you will probably want to see all five pictures of the hotel before scrolling down
The Riad was discovered and restored by Lucia Silver. After a romantic break in Marrakech, she fell in love with the spirit of the city, and decided that she had to keep a part of it. Once you have visited Marrakech, you will understand why, although you may decide to just buy a pair of leather slippers from the Souk rather than an entire Riad. However, thank goodness she has done because she has recreated a little of the magic, and which keeps you wanting to come back and discover a little more. The website contains some information about the story, and again this is very Moroccan: it is a land of storytelling, and you will find storytellers in the Jfaa and in many of the cafes
Lucia has sought to incorporate all the elements of mystery, romance and exoticism into the design of the Riad that so entranced her and inspired her to create this little haven. Each room is individually designed, and she has worked with local craftsmen to ensure that everything is as authentic as possible. She has included the traditional craft of tadlekt which is a coating on the walls made by scrubbing the walls with lime and olive soap and then polishing with river stones to provide a soft yet luxurious covering.
The difficulty with the individuality of the rooms is choosing which one to have. You can choose between Babylonian Vamp, Peridots’s Powder Room, Damascan Blush and Gossamer Wings. But the jewel in the crown has to be the State of Grace Suite. Its features include
- A King Size four poster bed, hand carved
- An open fireplace
- A private Juliet balcony
- A freestanding copper bath
The walls are intricately decorated, the lighting subtle, the furniture dark and unique. This truly is a room for a special occasion, for romance, with a touch of Arabian Night exoticism and splendour.
You will have noticed that there are only four rooms and the State of Grace Suite. Riads are generally small, with just a handful of rooms, and often not much else. Some Riads will have a spa or hammam attached. They will offer breakfast, but not all will provide any other meals. Some will help with excursions or recommendations for excursions and others do not. You are really a guest in someone’s home, and it is important that while Berber and Arabic culture imposes important responsibilities and duties towards guests, that feeling of respect must be reciprocated.
Dar Jaguar Experiences
This Riad offers a number of experiences to enhance your stay
- A 1001 Nights Banquet with entertainment on their rooftop restaurant
- A private cooking lesson, including shopping trip and three course meal
- An excursion to the Mountains and waterfalls of the Atlas area, or to the coast
- Came rides and dune buggy riding
- Body Massage
- Private’s group belly dancing lesson
- Private group yoga lesson
- Henna Tattooing.
Dar Jaguar Packages
This is the type of getaway which screams out for a bespoke approach rather than simply taking a one size fits all package. Dar Jaguar does provide themed packages, although it is not something you can book online. It needs to be personalised. Themed packages can include Christmas and New Year, romantic weekends, Blissful spa and pampering, an Aladdin family adventure. You could go for the “Odyssey Escape”, exotic explorations for the culturally curious, or the “Crimson Rose” escape, romance for lovers, where you can enjoy your love story in sumptuous comfort.
It is possible to book the entire Riad for gorgeous “Girls Getaways” and stylish hen parties. It is also a perfect place to host a retreat, to lose your mind and come to your senses. Alternatively if you would like to attend one of the retreats that are held there, there are further details on the Dar Jaguar Website.
So, is Dar Jaguar the best Riad in Marrakech?
The answer very much depends on what you are looking for. This is a Riad which takes you into the very soul of Marrakech. It encourages you to explore. One of my inspirations for Marrakech is the Graham Nash song, Marrakech Express, which encourages us to go there to see what we can find. We go if we are culturally curious or in need of spiritual release and inspiration. The Riad is intimate, romantic, exotic, challenging. Are you?