What is a Riad in Morocco?

Adam G
By Adam G
20 Min Read

Where will I stay in Morocco?

This is the first question that occurs to you when you think of visiting Morocco and living a more authentic style of life there. The answer will usually be, “A hotel or a riad”. But what is a Riad in Morocco?

This article will answer not only this question but also describe the open-roofed design of a riad in Morocco, where you can find them, why you should choose a riad over an hotel and other commonly asked questions. 

And we will examine the factors to bear in mind when deciding to stay in a riad. There are four: Location; Service; Size and Design

What is a Riad in Morocco?

It is a classical, traditional residence that is designed around the main courtyard with a garden that is planted with various kinds of vegetation and a water feature, usually including a fountain. As for the origin of the word “Riad”, it has Arabic origins and is equivalent to “garden” in English.

In general, Riads were large old dwellings or palaces that were renewed to be transformed into riads whilst retaining their historic decoration and structure.

As for the view from the Riad, it looks over an internal garden with terraces, patios and plants. In Fes or Marrakech and other cities of Morocco, you can find both small riads with just four to six rooms as well as giant ones with a penthouse terrace and many rooms. So if you desire to experience the real Moroccan lifestyle, just come and visit a riad in which you will marvel at both the classical decoration and other traditional services that are offered there.

The Design of a Riad

As for the architecture of a Riad, it is designed with a ground floor with two to three rooms that lead to a garden. As for the shape of these rooms, they are usually narrow and lengthy with drapes and doors. Some rooms don’t have any walls, but just a wide region to stay in and rest.

Such decorated rooms can be found also in the upper levels of the riad with their magnificent draperies, doors and sometimes inner windows overlooking the garden which are also ornamented with fine metalwork and curtains.

For a lover of privacy and spaciousness, the riad is your best choice since it has inner balconies and a very high ceiling that gives a feeling of magnitude. 

When you come to enter a riad, you will be wowed by the huge size of the main door which can have either intricate decorations or just simple ones. But in both designs, it has a conventional sense. Before you walk through this door, you will come across beautiful artistic designs, plasterwork decorations and tapestries on the walls of a long corridor that will lead to the main yard or garden.

Concerning external windows, they exist only on the upper level of a riad not on the ground level and they are very small, high and look out onto the street. Traditionally, they do not contain glass but will be barred to prevent intruders from climbing in. 

Open-Roofed Riads

If you wish to stay in an open place and enjoy the fresh air, sunlight and rain, then come and visit the riad. It is where you can enjoy nature as there are often high trees adding beauty to the beautiful aspect. So you can just sit and relax with the singing of birds. Don’t worry about staying in such an open area because the high walls and barred windows only on the upper floor give a sense of security to visitors.

Bathrooms and kitchen

Being concealed in a hidden place from the major corridor and the main courtyard, bathrooms and the kitchen are situated on the lower level. As for the design of the bathrooms, traditionally they have squat-over, Turkish-style toilets, but many have now replaced these with Western-style toilets with seats.

You can find the basins either in or out of the bathroom. In the past, people had to bathe in a regional hammam. This is not necessary nowadays since they have a shower in their riad, though some still visit the hammam for the social life they provide. 

To get rid of the heat that emanates from the cooking in the kitchen, they put chimneys in every kitchen so that it doesn’t affect the whole house. But riads don’t have fireplaces and traditional chimneys. 

A Moroccan Riad.

Where can you find a riad in Morocco?

Riads exist all around Morocco, but the most authentic and ancient ones can be found in the old Medina of Fes or Marrakech where you have to walk only for 10 minutes to find the most desirable riads.

Once you arrive at a riad, you can’t know whether you are standing in front of or behind it since there aren’t any direction signs that might lead you to it. For a lover of cosy and personal places, the riad is your best choice. It exists in plain sight but is hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is true that it has very basic decoration on the outside without any special ornamentation, but it hides a completely different world inside.

In order to get there, you are advised to arrange a place where you can go and be met by the staff of the riad so that you will not get lost on the way, as the riads are often situated in isolated districts away from the main thoroughfares and you may have to walk through very narrow lanes to get there. Some people like adventures so they plan to go there on their own but they may get lost trying to do so. But if you take such a risk, just make sure to have a map and the phone number of the riad. Many tourists opt to take a Local Guide to lead them.

Don’t worry if you haven’t made a reservation, because once you get to Morocco, you will find a lot of choices and with the help of the locals, you can select a perfect place.

What about the Rooms in Riad?

The size of the riad plays a very important role in the number of rooms you will find inside. The number of rooms naturally differs according to the size of a riad whether it is a small riad or a big one. Small riads have only three to four rooms and big ones may have up to about twelve rooms. What matters is the individual quality of the rooms, not the number of them. The charming way that the rooms are decorated often makes it difficult to decide which one is the best.

You can feel a traditional touch in the design and structure of the rooms. Such style is what determines the price of a room which could be quite cheap or very expensive. At the same time, you can find rooms that are both beautifully decorated and budget-friendly.

Are you a lover of calm places? Then you are advised to take a room on the upper level of a riad. It is where you can find not only a quiet place but also a private one. They usually have semi-personal balconies that look over the exterior of the riad. As for the design you can find there, the floors of the rooms are all decorated with tiles instead of carpets, as are the bathrooms, which are also decorated with bright and genuine drapes. Other embellishments that can be found are engraved statuettes, hanging lamps and hand-made rugs.

There are modern touches with some of the riads such as WIFI service. There is usually no access to television because such modern technology will make you forget the whole reason for visiting a riad which is to know the feel and history of the city.

Drinking and Eating in a Riad?

There’s no one who doesn’t like to taste and enjoy the local cuisine when visiting a certain place especially Moroccan regional cooking. Morocco is well-known for its food. So come and taste the most delicious dishes of your life.

Here you will be served only authentic cuisine of the highest quality. A team of local chefs will provide you with the most tasty and traditional dishes to help make your visit to Morocco a memory you will treasure for all your life. The simplicity of the dishes at breakfast may be surprising, but they are very tasty options including bread, olive oil, honey, pastries, fruit, mint tea, and juice. As for dinner, they are cooked to your taste from fresh ingredients that are bought on the same day and locally sourced. 

If you have special dietary requirements, just let the staff know. But whatever your choice, you will be delighted at the taste of the dishes delivered to you by the chef.

Regarding alcoholic drinks, you have to ask the staff about them since it is a Muslim country with different traditions that you should respect. But many riads will serve wine with a meal and some even have a bar. 

Your whole Moroccan experience would not be complete without tasting Moroccan food whether you are a foodie or not. In case you don’t know what’s in your meal, just ask the staff and they will be happy to inform you.

The Service in a Riad

One word can describe the service in a riad which is “exceptional” in all aspects from being private and personal to cozy and comfortable. Having a small number of rooms away from the din and pressure-cooker environment of the medina and the crowd makes a riad a special place to stay in. You will feel as if you were in your home being treated like a member of the family by all the staff or even like a prince or a princess in a palace. 

There is nothing more that we can tell you about the politeness of the members of staff as well as the managers and owners. The staff aren’t just remarkably well-qualified but are courteous and polite. Their main intention is to make you feel you are in your own home ensuring that you have the best and most comfortable stay. A visit that you will recall forever. The managers are as courteous as their staff and they will be there beside you, caring for any complaints patiently and without annoyance. 

Why should I choose to stay in a Riad?

If you like to be treated individually and have personal service, then go to a riad, not to a hotel. Their exceptional service will make you feel as if you were royalty.

Some people hesitate to stay in a riad because of its comparatively high cost and choose a cheaper hotel, but you will not have the same kind of experience because the two differ from each other completely.

If you like to be treated individually and have personal service, then go to a riad, not to a hotel. Their exceptional service will make you feel as if you were royalty.

If you would like to have the experience of being in a fairytale with an open sky, the singing of birds and the tinkling sound of the water in the fountain, then what are you waiting for? Come and stay in a riad. It will be a memorable experience that is well worth a little extra money.

If you are looking for a peaceful haven away from the noise of the city, then come to a Moroccan riad. The decoration is another attraction. It is out of the ordinary, from hand-carved doors to works of art on the walls and floors.

Another attraction, in addition to the other reasons why should you stay in a riad, is that you will be able to enjoy tasty and delicious dishes in two ways: either by tasting the cooking of the in-house chefs or just ordering food from the outside. In both cases, you are the winner and you will get the finest cuisine.

Think of these factors when deciding to stay in a riad.

There is only one factor that could be considered an obstacle when you decide to stay in a riad which is that there are a whole lot of them in Fes. This is what makes choosing one a difficult task.

Don’t panic at the possibility of choosing an unsuitable, sub-standard riad. We are here to help you. We will elucidate the four factors to think of when you decide to stay in a riad.

1- The Location

As they say, “Location, location, location”.

The first and most important thing you have to consider when choosing a riad is its location, whether it is located in a suitable position near the places you desire to visit or not.

What makes the location an important factor is that most riads are situated in the old medina which is a part of the charm. Before looking for a riad near the places you want to visit, you have to check if you can get there by taxi or what is the nearest place to the riad where you can hail a taxi. How far will you have to walk? 

But if you choose a riad inside the medina, you can reach the markets/souks easily. But one problem occurs which is that you may have to walk through many streets and that means there is the possibility of getting lost if you don’t know the streets of the medina.

To solve such a problem and to avoid getting lost, you can ask the riad staff for assistance, see if they provide any services of transportation, will they arrange airport transfer or can you arrange a meeting point at which the staff members can come and meet you. They will be happy to help.

2- The Services

Another factor to check is the service that is provided by the riad. There are two types of service: basic services that are offered by both hotels and riads such as towels, personal bathrooms and bedding in addition to in-house breakfasts provided in the room.

Additional and extra services may also be offered and they might include a pool, a restaurant, air-conditioning, a terrace and even a hammam. Some riads offer more amenities such as a yoga studio, or a bar serving alcoholic drinks.  

3- The Size

Both small and large riads exist. You can find riads with just three or four rooms and others with up to a dozen. Choosing a big or small riad depends on your personality and the type of adventure you want to experience.

If you are a quiet person who likes calm places and serenity, then small riads are suitable for you but if you are a sociable person who likes to engage with other people and make new friends, then big riads are likely more your style. 

4- The Design

This is an individualist factor that depends on whether you like traditional designs or not. In both cases, having attractive, awesome designs will add a lot to your visit to the riad, especially if you are an internet fan who likes to post your photos on social media. When your friends see such extraordinary designs, they will be enthralled by the beauty of the details in the photos. 

So try a Riad In Morocco, you will not regret it!

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Adam G
By Adam G
Hello, world, here is a little relevant biography about yours truly.I am a Welsh/ English scientist who retired at 39 to come and live in Morocco with wifey. That was back in 2005 and we haven’t looked back since. We rescued a baby tortoise, Tidgy, in 2011 who is our little girl, as we don’t have children. She is the third member of our happy family. We live in the ancient medina of Fes, the largest pedestrianised, urban area in the world and consider it to be a magical place. We love Morocco and think of it as our spiritual home. I spend my time reading, relaxing, exploring this wonderful country whenever possible, sharing coffee and conversation with our Moroccan friends and neighbours, blog-writing(!) and studying palaeontology and evolution. I have visited over fifty countries and previously lived in the UK, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand, enjoyed them all, but Morocco is the best. My motto is, “Life’s Good!”, as this includes the fossil record, our wonderful world as it is today, and my own life, which has been fantastic. I hope to be able to chat with some of you, gentle readers, and maybe even have the pleasure of meeting some of you when you come to visit our incredible adopted country.
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