When I announced our intention of going to Morocco I was flooded with recommendations from readers and friends alike. While they differed on some things, everyone agreed on one thing: Stay in a Riad!
What is a Riad
Before I get into talking about our stay at Riad Lila, let’s lay some groundwork – what exactly is a riad? It’s a question I found myself asking when it was recommended, so I can only assume a few of you are asking the same thing.
So, as per Wikipedia:
A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard.
They are Moroccan traditional houses, normally with two or more storeys around an Andalusian-style courtyard that contained a fountain. Riads were the stately city homes of the wealthiest citizens such as merchants and courtiers.
Recently there has been a surge in interest in this form of house with a wave of renovation in towns such as Marrakech and Essaouira, where many of these often-crumbling buildings have been restored to their former glory as hotels or restaurants. Many of the restored riads in the districts of Mouassine and Lakssour offer the finest examples of restoration as historically these areas contained many of the grand palaces from Marrakech’s Saadian period (source).
TLDR? Riads are former palaces or mansions that have been restored and turned into hotels or restaurants. Most riads are small, containing 6-8 rooms across two floors, and are located throughout the Medina – so there are many, many options to choose from.
We chose to book with Riad Lila because the price was right, and the location couldn’t be beat.
Riad Lila is located in Marrakech’s Medina, just a few minutes from Djemaa El-Fna. The riad can be found on a quiet alleyway a hop skip and a jump from all the action of the souks, the market and more. From our riad, we could walk to almost any attraction in 20 minutes or less.
Getting to Riad Lila was a bit of a challenge. Armed with an address and a general understanding of where to go, we quickly found ourselves lost in the maze that is the Marrakech Medina.
The alleys and lanes of the Medina are unmarked; they twist and turn creating a maze of walls and doorways that all look alike. Maps – both printed and online – are unreliable, so we found ourselves wandering in circles for more than 30 minutes trying to find the right door.
Clearly lost, we had several locals offer to help us find our way. Even when we repeatedly declined help we couldn’t shake one gentleman who insisted on walking us to the door for a price—this included waiting for us to ask for directions at a different riad.
It was only on the first trip that we had trouble finding the riad. There are no street (or alley) markers and no signs for the riad itself, but it was located on a street with another riad, which was clearly marked. This made it much easier to come and go throughout the weekend.
The riad had six rooms/suites to choose from, each offering slightly different features. We chose to go with the Eva Rose Suite – it was the same price as all the other rooms, but offered a king-sized bed. More room for no extra money; tell me who wouldn’t go for that?!
The room itself was simple, but it was perfect for our stay. The bed was comfortable, the room was quiet, and the bathroom was big enough to have a party in. There was a television with way too many options in a variety of languages. After living for quite some time without cable TV, we were at first really excited to watch BBC and CNN, and get caught up in the news in real time. But, after an hour we were reminded how repetitive it is, and how really there’s nothing on.
Unlike traditional hotels, rooms in riads are just that; it’s like being the guest in someone’s house. Our door had a lock on it, but we could still hear the comings and goings of other guests as well as their conversations in the common room.
The hotel offered a number of amenities including a rooftop terrace, pool, restaurant and bar. I was very excited about the roof top terrace and pool, and before arriving had visions of myself lounging next to a palm tree working on my tan. Unfortunately, this dream never became a reality. The advertised pool was little more than a large bathtub located in the shade. It was also right outside of one of the guestrooms, which made me feel like I was encroaching on their personal space just by checking out the pool.
The rooftop terrace was nice although a bit windy. We spent a bit of time up there reading, and Dave enjoyed looking out over Marrakech—unfortunately, I couldn’t see anything because the wall was taller than I am, but I did appreciate the riad’s orientation towards safety.
Although a hotel and bar were mentioned, I never saw them – I couldn’t even tell you where on the premise they were located. Other reviews on Hotels.com managed to find and visit them, but I had no such luck.
Breakfast was the highlight of our stay. No disrespect to the hotel at all; the breakfast was just that amazing. Included in our accommodation price, each morning we would go down to the common area and within minutes we’d be greeted by a tray of various breads, jams, coffee, fresh squeezed juice, and a Moroccan pancake. It was delicious and so incredibly filing. After eating breakfast we could go most of the day without another meal.
The staff at our riad didn’t make the best first impression. Upon arriving, we announced that we were there to check in and I gave my name (as one usually does when checking into a hotel, motel, holiday inn…), but this was just met with a look of confusion. In order to check in, I had to produce the reservation number provided by Hotels.com – not a huge deal as I had it on my phone, but odd nonetheless.
We were shown to the seating area and asked to wait while the room was prepared and our documents were processed. While we waited, we chatted with other guests who gave us the run down of the city – what to see, do and eat – they were incredibly nice, so we didn’t mind the wait too much.
After that initial encounter, the staff were amazing – very kind, helpful and accommodating. As I mentioned above, each morning we were given a more than generous breakfast, and the staff did a fantastic job of tidying up our room each day.
Although we enjoyed our stay, we did have an issue when it came time to pay for the suite. We’d booked online using Hotels.com, which requires a credit card number, so we were a bit blindsided when we were told we would have to pay for the hotel in cash. Thankfully, we’d brought enough Euros with us to cover our stay, but it was a bit frustrating – I book online for two reasons: to have my credit card charged to accumulate points and reduce the amount of physical cash I have to carry.
Additionally, when we asked what the total cost was for the rooms (including city and tourist taxes) the receptionist/owner/#girlboss couldn’t tell us the exact amount without consulting my receipt from Hotels.com which was on my phone. Both Dave and I were a bit confused and concerned that they didn’t seem to have this information on their end.
There was also a bit of confusion that we were charged two different rates for the room (weekday vs. weekend), so after consulting my app she went away for 30 minutes to return only to tell us what amount we owed (no receipt offered). In the end, everything worked out – we were charged exactly what we were supposed to be charged, and we had enough cash to cover it, but I won’t lie, there were more than a few minutes of concern as we waited for her to return with a total.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay at Riad Lila. The staff were friendly, the location couldn’t be beat, and the breakfast was amazing (I think it might have been the breakfast that won us over). Although there were a couple of hiccups when it came to paying for the hotel, we wouldn’t let those hold us back from booking at this riad again.
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