What is a Riad?

A riad is a particular type of boutique hotel housed in a renovated, grand, old house in Morocco, mainly Marrakech and Fez. I’ll speak in general terms; with riads opening almost weekly now, there will certainly be some exceptions to this description. For a couple of decades now it has been quite trendy for Europeans to buy old riads and renovate them as vacation homes or guest houses. Now there are hundreds in Marrakech alone.

A riad typically has no more than 20 guest rooms, often fewer than 10. The rooms are individually decorated with local décor and materials, in keeping with the period of the house. Rooms are arranged around a cool, courtyard garden, with fountains, orange and lemon trees and maybe a small swimming pool. Colorful tile, intricately carved wood, sumptuous textiles… Moroccans are the masters of creating soothing interior spaces that feel a world away from life just beyond their walls.

Riad Maison Bleue, Fez

Riads are like a cross between a B&B and a hotel. Often, the proprietor is living on-site and directly involved with the guests. There is warmth and personal connection that you find in a B&B but the houses are very large, with spacious public areas so you don’t get that sometimes awkward sense of intruding that can happen in a B&B.

Most riads are located in the old town or medina of their city, which is where most leisure travelers want to be, where the experience is most authentic to the place, where you can step right out and walk around in local daily life.

It used to be that riads were all quite deluxe and out of reach for travelers with moderate budgets. However, these days there are decent options available in a range of prices.

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