“Morocco’s prime tourist destinations–cities like Marrakesch, Meknes, and Fes–have fine hotels,” writes Global Investing Correspondent Vivian Lewis.
“But the most attractive and cheapest places to stay are their Riads. These are old Arab houses built around courtyards, open to the sky, with little gardens or pools in the middle. From the street they are just nail-studded doors in high blank walls. But, inside that door, the Riad is a haven of peace and luxury, shut off from the noisy town, with all its rooms opening onto that quiet, green courtyard.
“Many such Riads have been converted into boutique guesthouses, usually with no more than four or five bedrooms. Old Arab tiles and artworks, such as carved wooden doors, window frames, and screens, are typically used in these restorations, which are carried out to the highest standard. Bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms and divans for sprawling on like a pasha. Breakfast is served in the cool courtyard, and other meals may be available, too. Often there is a hammam, or Arab steam bath, massages, and treatments.
“Riads are open the year round, as Morocco no longer has a tourist season. In the cooler, wetter winter months, the inner courtyards are often cunningly covered with transparent plastic sheets that catch the rain and funnel it down a long hose to the garden or pool. Luckily, Morocco’s winter rains fall mainly at night.
“Some Riads provide wine and snacks for their guests. If yours does not, you can buy a bottle at a Western-style restaurant and take it back with you. Meknes and Fes have been major wine-making centers since Roman times, but it is hard to find a bottle in these cities’ Arab and Islamic souks.
“Morocco’s Riads are very Internet-conscious. A Google inquiry about the Riads or any major city will turn up a host of websites and photos.”