Our first visit to Morocco and we spent a lot of time researching the ideal accommodation. We wanted a traditional Riad and not a hotel; we wanted it near to the main square; we wanted the decor - including the bedrooms - to be Moroccan and not modern/trendy; we wanted a spa; we wanted to be able to eat in if required; we wanted a cookery lesson; we wanted a trip to the Atlas Mountains; we wanted friendly and helpful staff. It looked from the photographs and reviews that the Riad Dollar des Sables met all these requirements, and in the event it greatly exceeded our expectations. The reason for our visit was a celebration as myself, my daughter and my daughter-in-law all had special birthdays this year, and we all agreed that a spa hotel in Marrakech sounded just the job. I really cannot imagine we could have made a better choice. The Riad was typically Moroccan with an inner courtyard where we sat and relaxed or ate our meals, surrounded by mosaic columns and wonderful Moroccan decor, and the many little extra touches that owner Cathy had added. The bedrooms were all beautifully decorated, again with so many extra touches. The photographs on the web really don't do justice to the beautiful rooms. On top there was a sun terrace and at one side was the spa and hammam. We all treated ourselves to a massage one afternoon and each of us was convinced that our half hour massage had only lasted five minutes, we were so relaxed! We ate in the Riad two out of the three nights. We had intended to eat in just on the night of our arrival when Cathy offered us a meal, as we thought we would be tired after the journey. It was a wonderful start to our visit and a great introduction to Mouna's delicious cooking. And to our amazement we were each presented with a beautiful Moroccan dish as a present to celebrate our birthdays! I had mentioned in an email to Cathy the reason for our trip but what a surprise to find she had been so generous. The following night we had intended to eat out, but some previous clients had returned to the Riad, also for a special celebration, and Mouna was cooking them a special couscous, so Cathy suggested we might like to have the same meal. Having tasted Mouna's cooking the previous night we were only too happy, and our meal was served under the stars on the sun terrace, so the two parties were able to dine separately. The next day we had our cookery lesson, which started by accompanying Mouna to the souk to buy the ingredients, then cooking two tagines (meat for two of us but vegetable for my vegetarian daughter) and a spiced green bean starter. The Riad kitchen, just like the rest of the Riad, is beautifully decorated. Finally of course we ate the products of our lesson - this was lunch as we had decided to go to a restaurant the final evening. Cathy and all her team could not have been more welcoming. Cathy herself accompanied us for the whole of our first morning including a late lunch and then negotiating on our behalf for a caleche for an hour. The Riad was ideally located, right in the souk and only five minute is that from the main square. Cathy showed us round the souk and introduced us to stalls and their owners. making clear the price we should expect to pay for various items. Obviously we were lucky as she was not too busy to do this that morning, but bear in mind that she would not always have the time to do this for clients - we were very lucky. However the night of our arrival Saleh gave us a map and marked on it and explained various points of interest. By the time we went round the souk with Mouna for our cookery lesson we were beginning to find the maze of lanes and stalls not quite so daunting. On our last morning we went round the souk on our own and managed to find all the stalls again, and when we were in the spice market buying our spices to take back home, who should come in but Mouna! Mention has been made by other clients of Fouad, the night watchman, who made us very welcome the night of our arrival, and offered to take us round the souk after we had eaten. But by that time we just wanted to get to our wonderfully decorated bedrooms and go to bed! One thing that struck us throughout our visit to Marrakech, was the easy-going and secure atmosphere there. Even though the souks were exotic and crowded we never felt in any way unsafe as women on our own, and the general attitude to religion, which might have been a concern in a Muslim country, seemed very relaxed. We took up Cathy's offer of being met at the airport - well worth it. We were not only met by Saleh, but bearing in mind that there is no way a taxi can get any nearer to the Riad than the main square, so he then accompanied us through the souk, taking our two cases for us: well worth the money - I cannot imagine we would have found our way on our own. I have made no further mention of a trip to the Atlas Mountains - yes, Cathy will indeed organise one, but we just didn't have time - well, it's a good excuse for a return visit!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Riad Dollar des Sables is a nice traditional guest house of 6 rooms ( 3 doubles, 2 twins and a very romantic Suite for two and can be transformed into a triple with an extra charge ). The ideal location inside the Medina ( 400 meters walk from Jema El Fnaa Square) allows you to explore the city easily. The Riad is located at the entrance of the main Souk,called "Smarinnne" and the famous Square "Jema el Fna" only at a 2 minutes walk. Upon arrival, we recommend you to book our airport pick up, especially by night , to avoid the fake guides; we can also meet you at the Square , or pick you up at the airport, for an extra charge (150 Dhirams :1or 2 guests . So don't hesitate to contact me , giving me your flight details so that I can arrange this service with my private driver.Our driver will drop you at jema el fna Square within 10 minutes, and we will be there to meet you. As soon as you get inside the House , you will be touched by the enchanting atmosphere of Riad Dollar des Sables. The whole staff is welcoming you with a smile, and a special attention : coloured candles, fresh roses petals at your feet, delicate flavor in the air and oriental music..Just to make you feel in the mood and comfortable.Passing through the corridor, you will discover the peaceful courtyard and its fountain made of traditional mosaics.On its terrace, Riad Dollar des Sables offers a relaxing and traditional Hammam ( run with wood) and massages for a very good price;First, you will be invited to share with me (Cathy) a sweet refreshing mint tea and moroccan pastries.As I'm living all year long in Marrakesh since 2006, I know quite well the city and shall be happy to share with you my experience , giving you all the useful information and good adresses to enjoy your stay .We shall give you a map to sign the main monuments to visit or restaurants around. We can also provide moroccan meals at the Riad,cooking classes ( mornings) with my cook Mouna, guided tours in your language with official guides, or excursionsinthe surroundings of the city, body treatments at the Riad provided by professionals only. ... more less
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