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Hotel Highlights

  • Immaculate rooms, classically decorated with African artworks
  • Perfect setting for exploring Djemma el Fna square and shopping in the souks
  • Extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff

Overview

Behind a virtually unmarked wooden door in a winding medina sidestreet lies Riad Azzar, a traditional Marrakchi courtyard home adorned with African antiquities. Here the welcome is warmer than the roaring fire in the lounge and the service as immaculate as the bright white rooms.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Riad Azzar with us:

A Myriam Mourabit-designed candleholder

Facilities

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Need To Know

Rooms

Six, including one twin room and three suites.

Check–out

11am, but this may be flexible depending on subsequent arrivals. Check-in: 1pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $147.42 (€118), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.00 per person per night on check-out.

More details

Rates include Moroccan breakfast. You can rent the whole riad for €950–€1,150 a night (four-night minimum).

Also

The riad is closely involved with an educational initiative to provide secondary schooling for rural Moroccan girls, so make sure you’ve a few coins spare to help them with their cause. There’s a selection of in-room treatments available, including manicures pedicures, facials, waxing and massage.

At the hotel

In room beauty and massage treatments, library, CD selection. In rooms: free bottled water, Les Sens de Marrakech toiletries.

Our favourite rooms

Suite Zemmour is the riad’s most romantic, with deep purple soft furnishings and a traditional, alcove-set Morrocan bed. The black marble bathroom includes a free-standing roll-top tub. On the first floor, Suite Taznarth has an hand-carved cedar balcony fitted with a violet banquette, as well as a fireplace and a pristine tadelakt bathroom. Suite Zayan also has a functioning fireplace, together with ornate wood-pannelled walls and a wispily draped four-poster. The rooms on the ground floor, although without air-con, are still pleasantly cool.

Poolside

Azzar’s palm-planted courtyard has a rich jade pool at its centre; ideal for cooling off in the sunshine or taking mint tea in the lantern-lit evening. If you’re more interested in warming up, there are loungers on the terrace to soak up the sun.

Packing tips

Riad Azzar is a (blessedly) TV-free zone, but if you do require cinematic sustenance, a portable DVD player will help. Otherwise, all you need is suitable shoes for strolling the souks. The terrace loungers come complete with sun hats.

Also

Smoking is allowed only on the terrace and patio.

Children

Cots are free for babies, and there are extra beds available (€35 for under 12s; otherwise, €50). Babysitting is €5 an hour, with two days’ notice.

Food & Drink

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Hotel Restaurant

Fatima, the riad’s gifted cook, can produce excellent Moroccan dishes at all hours of the day. There’s a small area with cushioned banquettes off the courtyard that serves as a restaurant – but you can dine wherever you like.

Hotel Bar

There’s no defined bar area; you can sip, sup and savour wherever you wish.

Last orders

There are no set-in-stone opening times – you can get whatever you want, whenever you want it.

Room service

Drinks and snacks are available 24 hours a day.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Cool and casual linens and sandals.

Top table

Take breakfast on the roof terrace and enjoying watching the medina morning.

Local Guide

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Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

Riad Azzar  is in the medina, so you're only a few steps away from the temptations of the souk – haggling can be quite an addictive pastime. The staff at the hotel will also be happy to help you arrange diversions further afield, including hot-air balloon, cycling or quad-biking expeditions and Atlas Mountains trips. There's a golf course less than five kilometres away (ask staff for details), and the riad's chef, Fatima, is happy to atrrange cooking classes.

Local restaurants

Al Fassia (+212 (0)524 434060)  on 232 Ave Mohammed V serves traditional Moroccan cuisine in a highly untradtional manner – it's staffed and operated exclusively by women. Bô & Zin (+212 (0)524 388012) is a Thai-style salon a little out of the way on the Ourika road, but worth the trek for excellent Southeast Asian dishes and a very trendy atmosphere.  With less-than-demure belly-dancers and skilled musicians, Le Comptoir on Avenue Echouhada (+212 (0)24 437702) has a fantastic energy, making it a great place in which to eat trad Moroccan or international options with a group of friends. Le Fondouk (+212 (0)44 378190) in the heart of the medina serves Moroccan dishes with a few diversions into Mediterranean cuisine along the way. Book ahead at weekends. Le Tobsil (+212 (0)24 444052) is best-known for multi-course Maroc cuisine, and unless you have an enormous appetite, the set menu can be a bit of an extravagance. Prices include wine and aperitifs, and performances by traditional gnaoua groups.

Local cafés

The roof terrace of Café des Epices (+212 (0)524 391770) in the spice souk is the perfect place to position yourself for people watching in the medina. It's popular with the young, arty Marrakech crowd, and wouldn't look out of place in Hoxton.

+ Enlarge
Souk-side cul de sac

Riad Azzar

94 Derb Moulay Abdelkader, Derb Dabachi, Marrakech, 40000

Riad Azzar is in the heart of the Medina, steps from Djeema El Fna square.

Planes

Marrakech Menara is a 20-minute drive away, with direct flights to London, Paris and and other major European cities. The hotel can organise one-way transfers (MAD200 for up to four passengers, added to the final bill).

Trains

The Moroccan state railway, ONCF, runs inexpensive (but limited) services to Marrakech from Casablanca, Fez and Tangier. Look for TCR (Train Climatisé Rapide) trains to guarantee an air-conditioned journey in summer.

Automobiles

Driving in Marrakech can be horn-filled and hectic, but if you insist, hire a car from the Avis desk at the airport. To reach the hotel, follow Avenue de la Menara to the city centre.

Reviews

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Anonymous review

by Benji Wilson , Square-eyed scribbler

Apart from being a name amusing to foreign tongues, thus meriting many out-loud repetitions, the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech is the city’s main square and social hub. That doesn’t mean you would want to spend too much time in this – one man’s hive of activity is another’s teemingly touristy Leicester Square, and there are only so many times you can pretend to be dazzle…
Read more

Riad Azzar

Anonymous review by Benji Wilson, Square-eyed scribbler

Apart from being a name amusing to foreign tongues, thus meriting many out-loud repetitions, the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech is the city’s main square and social hub. That doesn’t mean you would want to spend too much time in this – one man’s hive of activity is another’s teemingly touristy Leicester Square, and there are only so many times you can pretend to be dazzled by a stall selling old teeth or a bloke with a tethered monkey.

What makes Riad Azzar, in the south Medina, so special is that it’s no more than a stone’s throw from the Djemaa, which means that you can dip in to the charcoal waft of the street food or grab an orange juice from one of the endless ranks of vendors, safe in the knowledge that you can dip out again. In a city as raw and raucous as Marrakech, some calm before, during and after the storm is a real boon.

As usual with a Marrakech riad the outside of the building is an exercise in discretion. Buildings in the old town are mainly windowless, instead facing inwards around courtyards. What that means is that you haven’t a Djemaa’s hope in el Fna of finding your temporary home. We were picked up by a bagman on the far side of the Djemaa (it’s closed to traffic after 1pm, or at least it’s supposed to be), and then battled through the crowds of hawkers and gawkers, past a mosque and down a couple of I’ll-never-find-this-again blind alleyways.

But once you arrive there may be no need to leave – inside, Azzar’s aesthetic takes wholesome dollops of Bedouin and marries them with discreet Western luxury. The lanterns in the stairwells, the artwork on the walls and the textiles have all been carefully, and locally sourced. Some of Marrakech’s rebooted Riad’s have gone so design-led that you could be holidaying in the Architectural Review.

That’s a bit of a non sequitur in a city that is still essentially an African trading hub. Azzar redresses the balance: our room overlooked the courtyard pool and was cool and shuttered, with a stark black tadelakt bathroom (this is the smooth polished plaster that somehow grants instant karma to the humblest of bathrooms) and a standalone tub, vintage fittings, ornate mirrorwork. The whole place echoed the formula: take Morocco, add serenity, remove dust, turn down volume.

A little bit of Azzar’s history helps to understand what they’ve tried to create here. Dutch owner Cees van den Berg was a high-powered financial director, racking up airmiles in the low millions before reaching breaking point and jacking it in. He and his wife Maryk moved to Marrakech, and Azzar, and its newly-opened sister hotel Riad Siwan, are the result. Cees and his wife’s desire to just get away from it all-evident. Nothing about Riad Azzar is flash, high powered or overly structured. They see a lack of wireless broadband as a selling point, not a glaring omission, and after half an hour in the heated plunge pool, or chugging away at a Casablanca on a lounger in the roof garden, you will too.

The theme continues: there are no room keys, in fact there are no keys at all, which is a blessing on the pocket and turns in to a balm for the mind: once you’re in the riad that holy trinity of modern life – watch, keys, mobile phone – ceases to matter. Rooms go unlocked because there is a 24 hour doorman who knows who you are and lets you in and out. Food and drink are supplied as and when you choose to eat and drink. The message is clear: the only blackberries here are the ones that go in a blender.

Cees and Maryk’s build-your-own de-stressing zone project hasn't been without hiccups – deadlines are a concept unfamiliar to most Moroccans. But for the casual shopper their suffering has been a boon – they know a thing or two about local craftsmanship. And if you’re in the market for a lantern or some furniture (few people are capable of leaving Marrakech without one or the other – come over to my place and I’ll show you my soap dishes), make sure to tap their knowledge for the best places to go and the prices to pay. The medina is fast, furious and fun, but if you really want to make some purchases, those in-the-know don’t go near it.

Bored at my attempts to haggle, Mrs Smith, went to try a hammam – again at Maryk’s recommendation (as Marrakech hammams are very much unequal, you may want to side step those that seem to think a lack of basic hygiene is part of a venerable tradition). I went back, lounged on the roof terrace and watched the storks flying overhead (they nest on the old city walls.) Mrs Smith returned in a state of near bliss, claiming that every particle of dead skin had been expertly scrubbed from her body to the point where she was barely there any more.

Less successful was a trip to La Nouvelle Ville: we had read of art deco architecture and French café culture. We found a building site. The saving grace was stumbling across a café called Le Chineur on Bo Mansour Eddahbi. As luck wouldn’t have it, our taxi on the way back managed to hit an old lady, albeit with the gentlest of nudges. We laughed nervously as our driver informed us that this was ‘comme d’habitude’. If Marrakech’s demographic is skewed on the young side, now you know why.

Our last night emboldened us to hit the Djemaa el Fna, if only so that we could say to one another, ‘shall we go to the Djemaa el Fna, darling?’ It is everything it is cracked up to be, which means equal measures delightful and discombobulating, where you’ll get fed for next to nothing, blinded by rows of bare bulbs, stumble across storytellers, hucksters, charlatans and jugglers. What made it most memorable, though, was the knowledge that Riad Azzar was no more than a whisper away.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Riad Azzar's Guestbook below.

 

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

After walking through the mayhem of the city, a tiny door opens into a tranquil oasis, beautifully styled but also nice and homely. I liked the great breakfasts, and an amazing staff tends to all your needs. The hands-on approach from the owners was also a great touch.

Rating: 8/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

We were in the centre of the Medina with all the atmosphere but in a haven of our own, with a wonderful atmosphere. The roof terrace is lovely, even in February, and the first-floor rooms were very comfortable. The dinner we had the first night was delicious and the breakfasts were authentic. All in all we very much felt we were in Marrakech and not in some bland hotel where you could be anywhere.

Don’t expect

The rooms on the ground floor were a bit chilly in February. I would have loved a fire lit, and a hot water bottle in my bed!

Rating: 10/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

It's great for a house party. Twelve of us took over the whole riad for four nights and had a fabulous time. The staff were brilliant – always on hand to make cups of tea or bring wine and beer (even after midnight) and they never seemed to mind what time we got up for breakfast! They cooked us dinner on two nights (one at a sister riad, Siriwan) and it was all delicious. The owners, Cees and Maryk, went out of their way to make us feel welcome, suggesting places to go, things to do and even finding a doctor to come and stitch up a leg!

Don’t expect

Two rooms don't have air-conditioning which could be a problem in hot weather (it wasn't an issue for us as we left the doors open but might not be an option if you don't know all the guests). The local muahdin could also do with a few singing lessons…

Rating: 8/10 stars

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

The best things about Riad Azzar are the location and the lovely food that their employees prepare. We dined in a variety of restaurants in Marrakech and the food we ate at the riad and at a local cooking class were by far the most delicious. This only reaffirms what we were told: in Morocco, home cooking is the best. It may seem a little dull, but you won't regret dining in the riad.

Don’t expect

We were one of two couples staying at the riad, and at one point the only couple, so the fact that there are no room keys did not bother us. Were all six guestrooms occupied and if the riad were a bustling place with people coming and going all the time, it might have been an issue so I would bear that in mind for my next booking.

Rating: 9/10 stars