If you trying to find the best riad in Marrakaech, you probably do not have to look too much further beyond the Riad Star, otherwise known as Josephine Baker’s Riad.
Jospehine Baker’s story is an extraordinary one, from street child in St Louis, scavenging for food and sleeping in cardboard shelters to internationally recognised star, heroine of the French Resistance and inspiration to as diverse a range as Shirley Bassey, Beyonce and Angelina Jolie. And this at a time of racial segregation, bring her into contact with the likes of Rosa Parks and Daisy Parks.
During the war, Josephine Baker travelled to North Africa to entertain the Allied troops there. She based herself in Morocco, and became friendly with the Pasha of Marrakech. Following an illness in Casablanca, she returned to Marrakech to convalesce, staying in a Riad loaned to her by the son of the Grand Vizier.
Josephine Baker’s Riad has been restored, paying generous tribute to its former resident and the jazz age. It is situated close to the souks and the Musee Marrakech. It provides 10 rooms, which can be configured as either double or twin rooms, and some can be made into triples. Three of the rooms can be interconnecting, which would be ideal for family groups. Each room is individually decorated and named, such as the Josephine, Jazz room, Star, Peace, Paris, Rainbow.
The Josephine Room is unusual in that it has a window facing the street. It is said that the Pasha arranged for local children to sit outside her window and read to her while she was convalescing.
Although Josephine was originally from St Louis, USA, she moved to France and declared that Paris were her country. She also adopted a number of children from different racial backgrounds, partly to prove that race need not be a barrier to normal relationships. You will see therefore that the name of each room has resonance with the Baker story.
The old servant quarters adjacent to the Riad have been acquired and converted into a two room (Ebony and Ivory) riad, which can also be booked together as an independent riad.
Apart from unique rooms, the Riad Star also offers a roof terrace which may well become your favourite room in the Riad. With its amazing views of the Medina and of the distant Atlas mountains, this is a perfect place to take breakfast or to eat your evening meal as the sun goes down, or just enjoy a quiet mint tea.
One of the great pleasures of Morocco is the Hammam, or cleaning ritual, and Josephine Baker’s Riad proudly boasts one of the finest. The Hammam is one of the “must do-s” of Marrakech, along with a cooking class, and the Star has a variety of treatments to leave you relaxed and fresh. Traditional oils or clays will leave your skin feeling softer and cleaner that ever before.
The public areas in the Riad can be used for yoga classes or other functions. The (dipping) pool and fountain will cool you down in the hot Marrakech afternoons.
Marrakech is a city steeped in history and a melting pot of civilisations. It is a place of adventure, a place to go to see what you can find, in the words of the Marrakech song of Graham Nash, the Marrakech Express. Although there are plenty of very fine western style Hotels, and Club Med offer a great family experience https://inspirationtravel.co.uk/all-inclusive-family-holidays/, I would always recommend staying in a Riad to really immerse yourself in that true Moroccan experience. Staying in Josephine Baker’s Riad is more than just a Moroccan experience, it will connect you to one of the most interesting personalities of the jazz age.
There is a reason why Josephine Baker, Yves St Laurent, Graham Nash and Winston Churchill all felt inspired by Marrakech. Why not visit for yourself and find out why.
I have a number of ABTA protected packages through my travel agency Anthony Kingsley @ Not Just Travel, and some excellent tours of the surrounding areas available. Contact me and we can plan, put together and book your next adventure