We were a little dubious about staying here as, although it has an 81% average rating on hostelworld, the reviews seemed very mixed - people either loved it or thought it was awful. Our taxi dropped us off at the end of a road leading to the Jemaa al Fna, and as soon as we stepped out with our suitcase we were descended upon by various men who wanted to lead us to the hostel.
Clutching our printed directions, we decided to brave it on our own, but one very persistent young guy followed us along and as we entered the mayhem of the main square we decided to let him show us the way after all. He led us for what seemed like miles down lots of winding alleyways, as we got more and more bemused and slightly wary. We then realised that he didn't actually have a clue where he was going, but after stopping to ask various people along the way he eventually took us to a large wooden door set into a high windowless wall in a narrow street. We couldn't believe this was it, but after ringing the bell it opened and we stepped inside.
And what a shock we had. It was like stepping into a calm oasis after the dust and madness outside. The hostel is in a riad, an old Moroccan house built around a central tiled courtyard. In the middle of the courtyard is a little plunge pool, surrounded by tall palm trees and other greenery. The rooms on the ground floor all open into this courtyard. Around the edges are cushion-covered sofas and little tables for people to sit and chat. It was beyond anything we had been expecting.
We were in a group of four so we'd decided to splash out a couple of pounds more and book the en suite room for four people. This was spotlessly clean, with the crispest whitest sheets I've ever seen (I actually saw one of the women who worked there IRONING the sheets on the bed!). One of the beds was a double, meaning two of my friends had to share this, but it was quite large and not really a problem. The other two beds were single, although inexplicably one of them was much narrower than the other and also a lot firmer. However, again this wasn't really an issue. The bathroom was fine and decorated in a 'traditional' rustic style; it was a little dark in the evenings as it only had one dim light. The shower was large although oddly had no curtain nor anywhere to clip it up, so you had to hold it, but it was very powerful and pleasant. Towels weren't included but we'd brought our own; you could pay a supplement if you needed one though.
The staff were generally very helpful although only the owner was fluent in English, but if you speak basic French you could probably get by communicating with the others. Breakfast is included, which was a nice touch. It was simple but really nice - very fresh crusty bread, butter, jam, soft cheese, and either little pancake-style things or slices of cake, with mint tea. Apparently you could pay a bit extra for omlettes etc., but we never felt the need, and most days we were so full from this that we didn't even want lunch. There were meals available but we didn't eat at the hostel as there are so many restaurants just a walk away in the main square.
The location is amazing. Once we'd got our bearings we realised that the long trek we had been taken on after arriving was completely wrong, and the hostel is actually just a five minute walk from the Jemaa al Fna, which is where you will probably spend a lot of your time in Marrakesh. The location alone makes it worth staying here - we had looked at other hostels and hotels but a lot of them seemed to be much further out and required you to get a taxi, whereas with this one the old city is literally on your doorstep.
The only downside to the hostel is that everyone staying there would inevitably gather in the courtyard to sit and chat. This was fine, but some people seemed to think it was acceptable to stay up well into the early hours of the morning, despite the fact that the rooms were directly off the courtyard and the windows have a fine mesh covering them, rather than glass. It could get very noisy and the staff didn't do anything to stop this - when it gets to 2 a.m. and people are still being loud, it's a bit ridiculous. There is a lovely roof terrace which would surely be the place to direct people who want to stay up late - just a thought.
Despite this, we slept very well and had a lovely time here. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be in a central location and not have to pay through the nose. Apart from the occasional disturbed evening, for most of the time it didn't feel like we were in a hostel but more like a little boutique-style hotel. The courtyard was lovely and cool and in the heat of the day it was a nice place just to sit and relax. The standard of cleanliness was unbelievable, especially considering how dusty the city is in general. I will definitely stay here again when I return to Marrakesh (it is a destination that makes you want to go back!).
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- Also Known As:
- Riad Medina Azahara Hotel Marrakech