From what I can tell the Riad Medina Azahara is not so much a Riad as a loose association of small guesthouses around the Derb Debachi area. If you know this in advance then you won’t suffer in the same confusion that my family and myself endured – all of which was very disconcerting when you’ve only just arrived in a place already as “organisationally challenged” as Marrakech. And the Riad staff would in turn be doing themselves and everybody else a big favour by communicating this fact up front.
Despite reports of its difficult location and no sign on the door we found it straight off. Then the farce began: we knocked…and knocked…and knocked. 10 minutes later and not a little worried, we were saved by a woman a few doors up who beckoned us inside. She explained how the Riad Medina Azahara was closed for redecoration, but that she was in charge of our booking (showed us her copy of our reservation). She would take our money (paid only deposit at that point) and then take us to rooms in her riad. We were plonked in a beautiful room with a “bien venue”, and mustered enough French to say “Erm, I booked two rooms...where’s the other one”, at which point we were left you to stew for an hour. Next thing it was “Bonjour, Allez avec moi”. In the following ten minutes we all saw a lot of Marrakech alleyways before we ‘found’ our new destination…which it must be said was bijou and beautiful, and we could relax, though I could have done without the previous hour and a half. Without some passable French I would have been stuffed. And how did I, just 3 days earlier, manage to book rooms in a riad that was shut for redecoration? At that point I was ruing booking with them and wished I had just gone with a normal riad…are there any? Most people we spoke to who stayed in any kind of riad said that they or others staying in the same riad as them had similar problems.
The organisational chaos of the Azahara continued. We were due to do a three day tour and then return to the Azahara. Given the previous chaos we wanted to confirm with them that they had our booking for this second stay. The best I could get out of them was an “I don’t know but it will be no problem”. We did have rooms when we got back – in a different (and equally nice) Riad close to the Derb Debachi, and after a few hours the showers were fixed (quite handy when you’ve just spent 3 days in the desert)…though the next day the entire medina lost its water supply. Bit of a theme developing…They are not keen on alcohol in Morocco - that's coz they couldn’t organise a… etc. Quaint though. I’ve been there 3 times and love the place.
As for the quality of rooms, cleanliness, breakfast and service in the riads we did stay in – they were excellent.
One general thing: If you book this or any other Riad by deposit only, with the balance to pay on arrival, make sure you have enough cash to cover (several days of) it on arrival as many/most riads won’t take credit cards. If the price was originally quoted in euros, I also suggest you take enough euros to cover it as they will “round up” the dirham/euro exchange rate so you’ll be paying a bit extra in dirhams. If you must pay dirhams be aware that you can only get them in Morocco, so you may have to get quite a lot out of the ATM on your first day to pay the balance on rooms. Make sure your ATM daily allowance covers it. And let your bank know you’re going to Morocco, as many of them see large foreign cash withdrawls as suspicious and will put a stop on your card…they may call you at home to let you know…but you aren’t there!
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- Also Known As:
- Riad Medina Azahara Hotel Marrakech