Prior to getting a series of short, sharp lessons in humility from stallholders in the souks of Marrakech (face it: their silky bargaining skills are built on something you’ll never know: the real cost of a sales item), you’ll need a damn good breakfast. Something to give you strength to plunge into the maze of hot, narrow lanes where sellers are standing shoulder-to-shoulder to relieve you of twice the amount of Dirham you should have paid for pieces of tat. A breakfast like Riad El Fenn’s homemade yoghurt, slim baguettes, runny jams and fresh mint tea.
Under a pale blue sky in a pale red city, and seated on the riad’s rooftop beneath a casually-thatched wooden awning, you can eat well while practicing your appalling French on the charming, professional and supremely patient waitstaff. Scrambled oeufs, merci. Ah, this is the way to start your day in the Medina: a raffish, if slightly scruffy, area of Marrakech.
Now you’re ready. The nearby souks await. You have nothing to lose but your perky innocence. Hours later, with the happy laughter of contented sellers still ringing in your dust-flecked ears, you’ll return to the Riad El Fenn. Pass me that book of travel clichés, s’il vous plait. “Oasis” is the word. Cool, in both senses of the word, the riad manages to combine restrained elegance with impeccable service.
My wife (described to me by several souk sellers as “your Berber wife” for her ability to turn the gentle art of bargaining into a form of street warfare) and I have just spent five days at Riad El Fenn. Blissful days, indeed, in Room 19. Would we go back? Put it this way: to raise the money, we’d even sell some of the almost priceless items we bought in the Medina’s markets. Almost priceless but, for you, I can do a special price, not a “tourist price”. I consider you a friend. To you, I can offer an antique silver-like serving tray hand-etched centuries ago by skilled craftsmen in the fastness of the High Atlas Mountains. For you, 3600 Dirhams. No, do not thank me, you are a friend. Cash only.
-- Greg Flynn, Sydney.
- Also Known As:
- Riad El Fenn Hotel
- Riad El Fenn Marrakech
- Riad El Fenn Hotel Marrakech
- Riad El Fenn
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- With 20 individually styled rooms and suites, a four-bedroom private riad, 3 swimming pools and its own hammam spa, El Fenn is a unique boutique hotel combining grandeur and historic architecture with hideaway nooks, terraces and gardens - making it the most peaceful place from which to enjoy Africa's most exotic city.Our story began with two friends on the hunt for a small riad to buy as a holiday home. It was 2002 when Vanessa Branson and Howell James walked into the almost ruined courtyard of one of Marrakech's formerly great private homes. Nearing dusk and with the sound of the muezzin's call to prayer echoing in the air, they instantly fell in love with the atmospheric house which was being sold with three smaller neighbouring homes. They soon realised that their holiday home was going to become so much more.At the time, only a handful of Marrakech's riads had been converted to small hotels and Vanessa and Howell knew they wanted to open a place offering something different – a home from home retreat that combined great food and service with the spirit of the building's past and a contemporary decorative twist. During a two-year renovation, local craftsman used traditional techniques to breathe new life into the building. Polished lime plastering was used in a rainbow of colours to create walls, baths and bed frames, original tiling was renovated and carved cedar ceilings restored. Retro furniture sourced from local flea markets was combined with one-off bespoke pieces to create a unique interior. ... more less
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