“Authentic. Relaxing. Wonderful.”
All Marrakesh riads are not equal. Some are essentially Travelodges with a hundred rooms handily situated next to a petrol station, others are bejewelled with the many treasures of the souks leaving you unable to see the wall behind them and nursing a migraine. Riad Zahr is neither of these.
It is the home of Nicolas and Jean-Rémy, who have created a stylish and tasteful environment that is a pleasure to share with them. The riad is understated, contemporary and does not attempt to dazzle you for dazzling’s sake. Its considered simplicity is quite beautiful and an absolute pleasure to return to day or night (okay, night may be a little more beautiful once a few cleverly placed candles are flickering away). But the real pleasure of staying here can be found in Nicolas and Jean-Rémy themselves, for they are both charming, witty and interesting. They also make an excellent breakfast that will happily see you through to a late lunch.
The riad has three guest rooms and a huge amount of communal space including a rooftop terrace where breakfast can be eaten and warm nights enjoyed. I recommend lying on a lounger and watching the sunset colour the clouds overhead, then wait as they melt away to reveal the stars. Lovely. Our party of three stayed in the Rouge room, which is massive, about 30’ by 10’, and with plenty of space left over even with a very good double bed at one end, an extra single bed at the other and a four-seater Moroccan-style sofa and table, where we permanently set up our laptop for Jr. to watch dvds.
I say permanently because in the whole of our twelve day stay we never once felt the need to hide our belongings in the name of security, or even shut the door to our room. We opened the door when we arrived and closed it when we went home. We’ve never felt so safe and relaxed whilst staying away from home. The Rouge room also has two large cupboards and a bathroom big enough for three, with a roll-top bath and plenty of hot water. Also in its favour, the walkway outside the Rouge room ends at a wall, consequently no one passes by and you effectively have a balcony ideal for crafty late night cigarette and stargazing sessions.
Given the obvious effort Nicolas and Jean-Rémy have taken in creating their home, it is unsurprising that everywhere is kept very clean; that the many power sockets all work and are safe; towels and sheets are spotless. Other reviewers have written positively about the help Nicolas and Jean-Rémy can give you to arrange whatever you need outside the Riad, the mobile you are given to summon assistance should you get lost coming home, the torch for navigating the alleyways at night (although it is only needed for a few short areas, street lighting generally being very good), the 15-20 minute walk to the Main Square (a journey which felt safe to all of us at any time) and the quiet residential area in which the riad is situated. All of this is true. But I would add that the riad is ten minutes’ walk from at least six excellent restaurants/cafes (Chez Fatima Berbere being a favourite), fifteen minutes from the Aswak Assalam Hypermarket (which looks like the end of the world but is handy for picnic supplies) and a few minutes from three tiny general stores and a tabac, all of which sell sensibly (i.e. not tourist) priced cold drinks and bottled water.
Marrakech is lovely, plenty to do and see, souks are the confusion you imagine until you learn to read your map properly (I recommend the Rough Guide city map, practically indestructible and drawn accurately to a high level of detail), some restaurants are closed during Ramadan but the majority are open, likewise the timings of some attractions are curtailed but nothing too inconveniencing. The people are lovely, there are honest taxi drivers and the rest will negotiate to reasonable prices if you threaten to walk away, a strategy that also helps when buying useless stuff you don’t need, but must have, from the souks (handmade brass cockroaches are apparently my weakness).
But ultimately this holiday will be remembered for our wonderful stay at Riad Zahr and the friends we made there. At this price I consider it unbeatable and we would all definitely stay here again. In fact we can't wait to return. Thank you Nicolas and Jean-Rémy, we had the most amazing time.
Oh, I almost forgot. They’ve got a gorgeous kitten named Siwa, don’t forget to bring him a toy.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.