If anyone says that Marrakech is too busy or too hectic to enjoy, they clearly haven’t stayed in the right accommodation. The secret to enjoying this vibrant, bustling Moroccan city is to choose a hotel or riad that is serene, peaceful, cool, quiet and hospitable. Riad Zaouia 44 is all of these things and more, as I discovered when I stayed there in May.
Zaouia is a riad rather than a hotel. Derived from the Arabic word for garden, a riad is a house or palace with a central garden or courtyard. Many riads around Morocco have been converted into intimate, boutique accommodation and Zaouia 44 is one such property. Hidden behind a nondescript door at the end of a nondescript alleyway, this riad is tucked away from the hubbub of the city in the northern part of the walled medina.
There are just seven rooms at Zaouia 44, each of which is spacious and minimalist without feeling bare. The cool white walls of the inner courtyard continue throughout the rooms, with grey doors and windows and concrete bathrooms. The details are perfectly Moroccan, from the intricate lamps offering ambient light to the black and white prints that dot the otherwise stark walls, depicting life in Marrakech. With an area to recline by the windows and read or nap with the sounds of the pool lapping in the courtyard below, it was hard to tear myself away from the tranquil setting to explore the city, but it was so nice knowing what I had to come back to after a day of absorbing the sensory overload that is Marrakech.
The small pool in the centre of Zaouia 44 was much appreciated in the heat of the day. Unlike many riads in Marrakech, this pool is larger than a plunge pool (although it’s certainly not for serious swimmers) and is surrounded by small booths and ledges where guests can sit and relax with a pot of mint tea, some wine and even a bite to eat. The staff are attentive and ready to cater to any whim; a guest’s wish really is their command. I was greeted daily with smiles, helpful advice and delicious sweet mint tea whether I was in the pool, reclining among the foliage or admiring the views from the rooftop. Day beds on the flat roof of Zaouia 44 allow guests to enjoy the hot African sun, with a cool shower available when the heat becomes too much. But for me, ever shrinking from the sun, the real highlight of the roof terrace was watching the sun disappear in the evening, over the sprawling rooftops of Marrakech. Life is vibrant here, and watching it unfold from above feels like being let in on the city’s best kept secret.
Breakfast is an experience in itself, served on a terrace just below the rooftop, surrounded by redolent flowers and cool terracotta walls. Guests recline on white cushioned benches as staff bring a feast of coffee, tea, bread, Moroccan pastries and a smorgasbord of addictive condiments (seriously, I will never find a marmalade as good as this one). As always, guest’s needs are accommodated, and even if you need to take breakfast early due to a morning flight the staff won’t let you leave on an empty stomach.
Pros, cons and tips:
Pros: This riad is the epitome of tranquility; it is quiet and peaceful with great facilities, incredibly friendly staff and a memorable breakfast. It also has the benefit of being small, so it is intimate and feels like a boutique experience. For the price, this really is fantastic value: rooms start at €90 per night – we booked through Tablet but the riad’s website takes bookings directly too.
Cons: Although Zaouia 44 is within the walls of the medina, it’s a little far from the souks and the main square. The riad is child friendly (which, of course, can be a pro if you’re travelling with kids!) but if you visit during European school holidays, the crying babies can be a little jarring in the otherwise silent riad. The only other con is that, although there technically is wifi, the signal doesn’t reach the rooms and can only be found in one small area of the courtyard.
Tips: Arrange a transfer to be picked up and dropped off at the airport for arrival/departure. You’ll be taken straight to the door and you won’t have to worry about finding your way. For the rest of your stay, catch taxis to and from Zaouia 44; Jemaa el-Fna and the souks are about a 5-10 minute drive and will cost around 30 dirham. When returning, ask to be dropped at Bab Taghzout square (it’s easier for taxi drivers to find than the riad) and walk the remaining 2 minutes from there.
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