03 Jan Those typical Moroccan Riads
One of the great adventures when spending your holiday in Marrakech is to stay at a classical Riad in the middle of the ancient Medina. It’s by far the best way to fast track yourself in to that magical Morocco mood and to really enjoy that exotic and romantic Moroccan culture. It’s also in the Riads you get that 1001-night experience among intricate architecture and ravishing artefacts.
The word Riad means “enclosed garden” in Arabic but has over time come to represent traditional Moroccan homes and chic boutique hotels built around a roofless courtyard filled with lush plants and beautiful water features. A typical Riad in Marrakech, like Riad 72, always has three levels including the roof terrace. The building regulations forbid constructions in the Medina that are higher than a palm tree and because of that you don’t see any tall buildings in the old town, except for the Mosques and Minarets of course.
The traditional construction, with all the rooms facing the open courtyard and without any windows towards the streets, is typical Islamic architecture designed to maximize privacy from the outside world. It is also a way to protect the Riad from the strong sun, the hard weather and the Sahara Desert sand as much as possible. Riads are serene hideaways and the perfect oasis to return to after a day in the hectic and busy medina.
The Riads in Marrakech often have very simple entrances and doors and it is very hard to know what doors hides extravagant palaces and what doors hides old ruins. Another interesting detail when you enter a Riad is that you immediately must walk to the right or left, again due to privacy. You should never be able to look directly in to the Riad from the street.
Once you have entered a Riad, there is usually a sitting room in connection to the entrance where the guests and visitors can wait to be greeted. In the centre of the Riad you find the courtyard, usually square or rectangular. Often it is built around a pool or a fountain, since water is a sign of wealth in Marrakech. Water also has an important symbolic value where fountains are said to represent paradise. You should also find a lush garden in the courtyard filed with banana plants, citrus trees and sometimes even palm trees.
On the bottom floor there are also usually two rooms, on each side of the courtyard, often used as living rooms or dining rooms and on the second floor you find the bedrooms. At Riad 72 we have 12 beautifully decorated suites.
On the top level of a Riad you will find the rood terrace, often with spectacular views. However, in the traditional Muslim culture it was not common to use this level for other things than to hang the washing, therefore men were seldom seen up here. The terrace of the Riad 72 is unique since it’s the highest in the Medina. From here you can overlook the roof tops, the famous Koutoubia tower and the Atlas Mountains in the distance. This is a perfect spot for a sunset cocktail or a romantic dinner.
The walls and floors of the Riads are usually made of a material called “Tadelakt”, a waterproof plaster surface that are often used for baths or sinks. The word Tadelakt means “to rub-in” in Arabic and you make it with lime plaster (sometimes mixed with crushed marble) that is polished and treated with soap to make it water-repellent. It is very durable, and you can shape it and colour it as you like. Another material often used, and a way to show off your wealth, is the tile or Zellij as it is called in Arabic.
Another typical architecture characteristic of a Riad is the arch-shape that is used for doors, gates and windows. One traditional belief is that a horseshoe arch will protect you from the evil eye and bring you good luck.
Come visit us sometime at Riad 72 and experience that Moroccan Riad-magic in a truly stunning setting!