What’s It Like to Stay in a Moroccan Riad?

Staying in a riad is definitely something you have to do when traveling to Morocco.

But, what is a riad?

Riad is traditional house in Morocco. It is characterized by having an inner courtyard or a garden as the central element of the building. As a matter of fact, the name comes from the Arab word ‘ryad’ – garden.

Following the Islamic idea of privacy and inward reflection, a riad doesn’t usually have large windows facing the outside. Instead, rooms in a riad will have windows facing the opened-ceiling inner courtyard/garden.

The fountains in Riad Al Moussika
The main courtyard in our Marrakech riad
Close up look at the fountain in the courtyard
The mosaic pattern of the fountain

For that same reason, you often can’t tell that a simple door hides an amazing and beautifully decorated palace. Some of the riads don’t even have a sign outside their doors.

The entrance to Riad Al Moussika
Morocco hides its secrets well - who can imagine the beauty that lies behind this door?

A typical courtyard in a riad would have a fountain in the center, surrounded by orange trees.

Typical courtyard inside a riad
Typical courtyard inside a riad

In the riad that we stayed in Marrakesh, it has 3 courtyards – one of which even has a swimming pool.

A riad courtyard with a swimming pool

Another characteristic of a riad is the few rooms that it has. Our riad in Marrakesh for example, only has 5 rooms. This allows individual attention from the owners and the staff – by the end of our stay I think we’ve met every single one of them.

Why stay in a riad in Morocco?

Because it’s like staying in a palace. In our case, our riad was a palace. Riad Al Moussika, our riad in Marrakech, belonged to a Berber warlord, Thami El Glaoui (check out the book written about him – Lords of the Atlas), who built the riad as a palace for one of his 100 wives.

Well, officially he only had 8 wives, but he had non-official wives as well. It was definitely a different time back then.

Pepenero dining room, Marrakech, Morocco
Pepenero dining room with hand carved plasterwork on the ceiling

After the craziness of the souks and medina of Marrakech, there was nothing like stepping into the tranquil coccoon of our riad. The thick wall (and lack of windows) help isolate the noise. I’m typing this right now listening to the trickle of fountain in the courtyard and birds chirping while just minutes ago I was almost run over by a Vespa and stepped on by a donkey (not at the same time, fortunately).

Jack lounging around in his bathrobe
Jack lounging around in his bathrobe

A riad is what your regular boutique hotel wants to be like when it grows up. Each room is individually and richly decorated. Often that means hand-carved doorways and hand-painted doors and shutters. One room might have a private terrace, another might have a jacuzzi. You definitely won’t see none of that cookie cutter Holiday Inn hotel rooms.

One of the suites in Riad Al Moussika
Our room in Riad Al Moussika
The hand painted closet door - Riad Al Moussika
The hand painted closet doors

Another reason to stay in a riad? The food. Most riads are known just as much for their restaurants as well as their beauty. This is especially true for Pepenero, the inhouse restaurant of our riad. We had food so good there we almost cried.

The only reason NOT to stay in a riad?

The cost. Staying in a Moroccan riad is not cheap. With only a few rooms and the constant upkeep that a riad demands, staying in a riad is not quite what one would call a budget accommodation. Having said that, it’s still cheaper compared to what one would pay for a boutique hotel in San Francisco.

Welcome tea and cookies - Riad Al Moussika

But if you can afford it, I don’t think you’ll regret it. Staying in a riad was definitely one of the highlights of our stay in Morocco. Just be careful. We were so amazed by the beauty of our riad and so pampered by the attention that the staff gave us – it will be really hard to go back to $15/night hostel rooms.

A Moroccan Riad

Where we stayed in Marrackech:
All pictures are taken from Riyad Al Moussika (rated “Exceptional” on HotelsCombined, rooms from $160/night), our host during our stay in Marrakech. Even if you don’t stay there, Pepenero (the restaurant) is worth a visit. Entree starts from 120 Dirham.

Others: Find your own riad to stay in Marrakech.

Valuable Resources

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, for those who love anything weird and offbeat.
  • Resource Toolbox: How I find cheap flights, accommodations, and other travel hacks.

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25 Replies to “What’s It Like to Stay in a Moroccan Riad?”

  1. My all time favorite blog. Light, interesting, fun to read, and best of all I get to live vicariously through your travels. Such a cute couple! Thank you, keep it up.

  2. There are really cheap Riads too, I stayed in a few when I was there, they are just as beautiful but maybe not half as luxurious. Swimming pools were off the table. but a private double was only £10 each a night. One Riad though they totally scammed us so you can't always trust everyone even in places you are staying.

  3. You have convinced us that we must stay in a riad during our trip to Marrakesh next week! Looks incredible! Would you mind emailing me the name of the place where you guys stayed?

  4. Beautiful place! I would definitely give it a try if I go to Morocco. Do people actually swim in that pool? It looks too pretty to be a swimming pool.

  5. First time, I heard about Morocco was in the movie "Along Came Polly" Definitely a beautiful place to visit someday.
    Jill you look really happy and Jack- glad to see you again. Seems like you are now gaining some weight (starvin marvin) ๐Ÿ™‚
    Make sometime to come to beautiful Victoria.

  6. This place looks absolutely beautiful! I love all the architectural details. I'd be willing to fork over the money for a stay at a place like this! ๐Ÿ˜€

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