One of the most beautifully tranquil Riads in the heart of the Marrakech Medina.
For those who don’t recognise the play on the 1984 advertising slogan that reflected the era of New Romanticism and nouvelle cuisine that also pushed the wine it promoted to the number one brand within months, the link with Riad Adore might be lost.
However, whilst Riad Adore might not yet enjoy quite the same meteoric rise to most popular Riad in the Medina, it certainly deserves it and is a far more noteworthy source of enjoyment and relaxation than the wine ever was.
We’d been met at the airport in Marrakech by a driver organised by Pure Riads, the owners of Riad Adore, and whisked efficiently to the Dar-el-Bacha palace where the next link in the relay met us with his ramshackle wheelbarrow. Our cases were transferred and the bright young man in charge of the barrow led us off down a thread of ever narrowing pedestrian alleyways into the Medina.
It’s our first visit to Marrakech and as the alleyways get darker and narrower we look at one another with a degree of unease – especially when we draw up alongside a large door in the mud walls that simply states ‘Riad Adore’ on a brass plate. There are no other visible signs of the hotel we thought we’d booked. The door creaks open in response to a knock from our porter and it’s as if we’ve unlocked the entrance to the Secret Garden from the children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
We’re welcomed by Ibrahim who leads us into this hidden oasis and settles us in a day room whilst a pot of mint tea is prepared. We gaze around with pleasure and relief at the lofty panelled and balconied windows that rise from the beautifully tended courtyard of greenery and polished stone with its central fountain. The Riad is a picture of Moorish and colonial French chic that blends seamlessly into a tranquil and pleasing tableau.
As we sip our refreshing tea served in fine filigree metal rimmed glass and nibble on the biscuits just presented on an ornate tray, Ibrahim explains the workings of the Riad, where the various rooms are (including the Hammam, where our masseuse awaits our travel-tired limbs), the plunge pool, roof terrace and library. He points out on a complimentary map where various places of interest are that he recommends we see during our visit.
We’re staying in ‘Natasha’ a first floor bedroom which overlooks one of the two courtyards, Adore having been created by combining two Riad areas. Riad means ‘garden’ in Arabic and is a traditional Moroccan multi-story house, usually three to four stories high, where each room opens onto the central interior garden or courtyard. Riad Adore has been refurbished to the highest of standards without becoming pretentious, so its décor reflects a warmth and comfort that immediately makes you at ease and this style prevails throughout all of the ten bedrooms and reception areas.
Our room is a delight – cool and light with nice proportions, ample wardrobe space, a wall of window with ornate wooden panelling modesty screens, a bathroom with walk in shower and ‘his and her’ wash basins and all the usual trimmings that any luxury traveller would expect such as a/c, toiletries, hair dryer, Satellite TV, DVD, i-pod docking, safe etc. The room is pleasantly finished with thoughtful design touches including traditional Moroccan table and chairs, Moroccan metal worked light shades, decorative Ali Baba slippers in a lit alcove and long colourful tassels on cords that retain the heavy double curtains. Each room has its own distinct style.
We can’t wait to relax in the Hammam and although the room is not as spacious as we might have expected the treatment is everything and more. A through dousing in warm water followed by a complete exfoliation and a few minutes to relax and absorb the warmth of the room prepares us for the full massage. Nadia, the beautician, is a gem and applies her invigorating but sensitive hands to our arms, legs, thighs, feet, toes, fingers, neck, back, front and shoulders. After an hour we’ve turned to putty and are sufficiently chilled to be ready for a soothing G&T in the library.
We’ve fortunately brought our own bottle of Millers, as the Riad doesn’t seem to have any gin; albeit it does have plenty of mixers, beers and local red and white wine in an honesty bar. Alcohol is against the Muslim faith so it’s really only behind closed hotel doors that you’ll find a drink if you want one. Mohammed, another staff member, provides ice and sliced lemon for us and we settle back on the sofa to await dinner with a feeling of contentment.
Dinner is served whenever you wish as there are no rigid set times for anything really – an approach that reflects the desire of every staff member to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. It’s a notable asset of Riad Adore that everyone shares a sense of care and humour that is infectious.
We’re called to dinner and our table is on the roof terrace, under a Pergola at this time of year, in front of a brightly flaming open fire that throws sufficient heat to keep us protected from the February evening chill.
Cherrie and I eat anything and everything so we’ve made no special request for dining. An array of four different salads appear at our table that include strawberries, apple, cheese, tomato, aubergine stuffed peppers, couscous, squash, lentils, beetroot, onions, garlic, mint and various other ingredients displayed in far better combinations than we’ve just described.
This is followed by a Tajine (traditional thick clay plate and conical ‘hat’ that is baked in the oven for hours with its ingredients) which this evening is lamb cutlets with a variety of vegetables all stewed together in savoury juices with lemon rind, figs and garlic; accompanied by small bowls of rice.
Dessert, as if we needed it, is a filo pastry shell filled with baked apple and it’s with a very contented sigh that we sink into our big bed for the night after descending the winding brick steps to our room.
Breakfast is another colourful affair and sets the scene for each day of our stay with a variety of fresh fruits, orange juice, croissants, bread or cake, yoghurt, crepes or omelettes, honey, jams and coffee or tea.
Although our days are spent mostly ‘abroad’ in the Souks, the Medina as a whole or off to the Atlas Mountains, it’s always a welcome return to Riad Adore where we can be guaranteed peace, quiet and relaxation, even though we’re literally a stone’s throw from the heart of the Souks. The Riad will organise your transfers, drivers and day trips for you if you wish. We’re determined to enjoy as much as Marrakech has to offer over the four nights we’re in the city, in terms of food and experiences but its testament to Riad Adore’s culinary prowess that we’re drawn back again for another dinner with them before we leave.
Our only regret is that we don’t have longer in the city as we’re sure that on a return visit, which we’ll surely do, we’ll allow a little more time for simply sitting and reading in this stylish haven amidst the narrow clay walls of the labyrinthine Medina.
Riad Adore can be viewed in more detail here http://www.riadadore.com/
We flew BA from London Gatwick to Marrakech – a three and a half hour flight
A bonus if you’re travelling from UK is that Marrakech is in the same time zone – so no jet lag or inconvenience.
Transfer from airport to Dar-el-Bacha palace at the Medina is approx. 15-20mins.
Euros are used, as well as local Dirhams which are useful to have for taxis and tips.
Dress modestly if you wish to avoid unnecessary attention as a female.
Haggling is de riguer but treat it as a game. Don’t lose your temper, simply walk away as there’s always another shop with similar products not far away.