My daughter and I stayed at the Palais Sebban for 3 nights. I had never been to Marrakech before, although my daughter had, but not at the Palais Sebban. We booked a prestige twin room through Expedia. We had to arrange transfer from the airport to the Riad, by phoning them before hand and having a quote for 20 Euros – well worth it, as we didn’t feel like haggling with taxi drivers, two ladies on their own. It all went very smoothly, with the taxi driver there to welcome us when we arrived.
I had never been to a Riad before and didn’t realise that you couldn’t drive a car up to the entrance, but a porter (who was lovely and named me Fatima and my daughter Aisha), took our cases along the narrow dusty non descript, alley ways; to the door of the Riad and the reception area.
Oh my Goodness is all I can say, when the carved doors were opened in to the Riad for us. The Moroccan mosaics, carvings, pillars, furniture were breath taking. The ceiling looked like an intricate wedding cake turned upside down. We were served mint tea and Moroccan pastry on arrival and were shown around the restaurant, plunge pool and roof terrace. We couldn’t believe how lovely it was.
THEN we were shown to our room. An even bigger ‘Oh My God’. The porter had a key that opened the large old padlock attached to the heavily carved double doors and we entered our room. It was a breathtaking, palatial, mirrored, maroon and gold paradise. It took us a couple of hours for it all to sink in. Took photos, but none truly captured the magnificence of the room. You had to see it to believe it. Our room was called Oudaya. All the rooms and suites are called different names and are all individual in design and décor. All of the guests we spoke to, were enamoured with their rooms, but we never got to get a peek at any of them. That didn’t matter, we were so pleased with ours. Just one thing; the Palais Sebban was so fabulous, that we were spoilt and other Morrocan architecture just wasn’t as good as where we were staying. Richard Branson has a Riad just around the corner that he rents out to people. We had a look in there and it wasn’t a patch on the Palais Sebban!!!!
The Riad is really central to everything, within the walls of the Medina. You only had to go out of the Riad’s lane, turn left, then left again, walk a few hundred yards, then left again and straight in to the main square. We were two women on our own, and never felt threatened in any way. We respected the local tradition and wore head scarfs and long dresses and were commented on how we had made that bit of effort. However, there were a couple of teenage girls staying at the Riad, who went out every day in mini skirts and had their bottoms pinched and prodded and were leered at – and I am sure had a completely different experience of Marrikech than we did – poor things. It doesn’t take much to cover up a bit.
We had breakfast included, and had a glass of fresh orange juice and a buffet at our disposal. You could order omelettes, fried eggs, pancakes and the like and there was a nice choice on the main table for you to indulge in. Fresh breads and a chocolate cake, fruits and ham and cheese. I think that I read other people who weren’t happy about the breakfast, but I certainly was, and the setting you enjoy it in, is superb. I have to say that prices at the Riad are expensive compared to other eateries in the area. We had a lovely bottle of wine for £22 (you can’t buy alcohol anywhere else in the Medina) and the Terrines are about £12, but fabulously delicious. Their Moroccan deserts are certainly worth a dabble for about £5.
I read one review that complained about the location as he had nowhere to park his car (obviously doesn’t know what a Riad is) and said that the staff were unfriendly, well all I can say to that man is perhaps you get back what you give out.
Be strong ladies. You don’t need a guide. If you get a good couple of guide books (we had DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Marrakech and Marrakech Select – an unusual book that I bought on Amazon with a fabric Mosaic cover and lovely descriptions of the city by someone who lives there). You must walk around as if you know what you are doing, even if you don’t! People try to get you to buy things and take taxis or get henna tattoos, and have photos with their monkeys or wrap snakes around your neck; but you must be firm and friendly and just say ‘no’, with a firm swipe of the hand, and they will go away. You don’t have to get stressed about it. Everyone is just trying to make a living.
We bought a lot in the Souks. It’s a bit tiring, but generally, we found that we started our bidding at about 30% of the asking price and paid no more than 40%. We were firm and found that we were quite good at it all!. I think that sometimes I drove down the price a bit too much, and genuinely felt that some of the traders weren’t happy. I think that you need to pay what you feel is a good price, and that is how we did it at the end of our trip, and felt better for it.
We found some lovely little restaurants in the souks and generally went for first or second floor balconies, so that we could observe all the Moroccan madness below us. We watched the sun go down over the main square, whilst sitting on the top floor of the Café De France, which was surreal and noisy and aromatic and amazing. We went to the best night club in the new town, called Le Comptior and saw the belly dancers and sophisticated Morrocan socialites going about their business. We had lunch in the best hotel in North Africa, the Mamounia; with a fabulous garden to walk around and mix with rich and famous. Small lunch with drink cost £100, yes we had a brain storm, but thought what the hell, we’re here to experience everything, and we sure did! We had a horse drawn carriage around the medina wall and the new town and saw the palace and the storks nesting naturally on the old city walls. We paid 200 durum, which was more than we should have, we haggled him down to that, but he did have the nicest looking carriage and horses. We really wanted to go to the cosybar for our last evening out as they do Jazz and have a very good name, but we were just too tired on our final night, and ate at the Riad instead – tranquil harmony. We met some people on the plane home, and they had spent every night at the Cosybar and loved it . We should have made the effort. May be next time.
We loved our break at the Palais Sebban. It couldn’t have been better.
Sharon Robinson and Gemma Newman (Fatima and Aisha).