We had previously arranged with the hotel to be picked up at the airport ( 15 euros) and my wife and I were met by an English speaking driver who welcomed us. It was dark on arrival and we drove through the maze of streets before stopping after about 20 minutes down a long alley which led to the entrance to the Riad. The alley was old and gave no indication of the jewel that lay behind the doors at the end of it.
We entered into a cool exotic courtyard luxuriant with large plants and trees, coloured lanterns swung from some giving the interior a mysterious air. The manager that night, Mustapha, greeted us warmly and we were invited to sit in an alcove and given mint tea when the general manager, Mahi, came over to greet us. We already felt at home but he too welcomed us and emphasised that that the Riad was our home during our stay and nothing was too much trouble for us.
He showed us around and talked about the history of the Riad which had formerly been a stately home and was rich in history. Our room was huge with a four poster bed decorated with stars and antiques throughout. The bathroom could have housed 5 or 6 wives but one is quite enough for any man I think. It had an efficient heater as it was cool in the evening and soon warmed up. Although we hadn't booked dinner, even though it was late, dinner was arranged for us and we joined other guests in the comfortable and informal dining room where we met the owner Peter who is Danish.
Peter's approach to life reflects how the Riad is run. He is a gracious host , knowledgeable and charming who has the ability to switch languages at will so that the international atmosphere of the dining room becomes a meeting place of friends and not strangers. We enjoyed the excellent food accompanied by a decent bottle of wine whilst Peter gave as an overview of a city that he clearly loves.
Rising late the next day we took breakfast on the terrace enjoying the views., a flawless blue sky and a sun that was shedding warmth into the day. A view of the Koutoubia Mosque with the sun gleaming on its golden balls sets the scene for the day. Breakfast was simple but ample and the waiters were friendly. We planned the day. My wife later also had Hamman massage in the Riad and said that her skin had never felt so good after it.
Marrakech is not for everyone although those with a spirit of adventure will find much to delight them, as we did. Be prepared to get lost in the maze of Souks but we felt safe even out late and there are plenty of people around to help you if you get lost. It is a city to return and to discover more. If browsing interests you then the endless artifacts will hold your attention and there is much history to focus on. Art is everywhere and some is inspirational. Entertainment ? Just go to the main square in the evening and stroll around sampling traditional music, food and the snake charmers.
Then return to the Riad Ifoulki. It's thick walls create an oasis of calm and each room has its own charm. We felt completely at home within. Before dinner I would sit and play the guitar for my own amusement but before long others would join me . Staff would share their own music with me or ask me to play something. That is like being in your own home. We joined up with some German guests and shared outings enjoying their good humoured company. It is that kind of place.
We also ate out to compare the dinner and we were hugely disappointed with our choice, the Hotel Marrakchi, situated in the square. Good views, low lighting but our food was simply awful and the service indifferent.
If you want a hotel with hard edges, a reception that has little real time for you, formularic rooms, boring architecture and indifferent food then I am sure that the Riad Ifoulki is not for you.
But if you want a sense of delight , a chance to appreciate what life might have been like 300 years ago yet still enjoy modern conveniences, the ability to be in the middle of the old town within minutes, authentic food beautifully cooked, friendly and caring staff and to start your own adventure in Marrakech this is the place to do it - just relax, keep your mind open and be prepared to learn.
The key is will we return ? The answer is Yes.
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- Also Known As:
- Riad Ifoulki Marrakech