72 Riad is laid out in traditional riad style, with a twin rectangular central courtyards (complete with banana trees), flanked by rooms on each side. One has an elegantly decorated communal room with an intricately carved ceiling, earth-toned furnishings and beautiful copper lanterns. The second has a floor tiled by traditional craftsmen and a light, modern colour palette of rose and vanilla. Hungry? Breakfast and lunch can be arranged wherever you’d like, and there’s a locally loved eatery on the rooftop too. Catch a bird’s eye view of the Medina while you enjoy leisurely evening meals en plein air.
Noon; check-in from 2pm; both times are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £200.93 (€235), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include breakfast, afternoon mint tea and pastries.
At the hotel
Hammam, massage (techniques depend on masseur available), roof terrace, Internet access. In rooms: WiFi, daily bottled water and fresh fruit, organic bath products and air-conditioning; suites also have Nespresso machines and Bose Bluetooth speakers (some come with private terraces and hot tubs too).
Our favourite rooms
The Grand Suites are light-filled and have original carved wooden ceilings; some are split over two levels and one has a Japanese-style square tadelakt bath.
The outdoor pool is open from 10am to 6pm, but there's no lifeguard on duty so little Smiths will need to be accompanied by an adult.
Wa Marrakech is decked out with three traditional Tadelakt treatment rooms, a relaxation room and two hammams. Massages, body scrubs and facials focus on holistic healing methods and use locally-sourced Argan oils and herbs (grown in the Ourika Valley).
A compass to help you through the labyrinthine souks – although the detailed and personalised map of the Medina provided by the hotel might make the compass more of an accessory than a necessity.
In summer, on the roof terrace by candlelight; in winter, in the dining room.
As though you’re at home.
Moroccan cuisine, whenever and wherever you choose. Orders must be put in at breakfast for lunch, and by 2pm for dinner, since fresh produce is bought daily from the market. Open-air La Table du Riad is open for dinner; book ahead to ensure a seat at one of this bijou restaurant's 11 tables, and settle in for sumptuous seasonal dinners of saffron-spiced chicken tagine, traditional tanjia and hand-rolled Moroccan pasta.
Alfresco aperitifs are poured at Dolce Far Niente Sky Bar between 6pm and 8pm; otherwise, drink wherever you please in the riad.
Breakfast is from 8am to 11am; lunch is 12.30pm to 3.30pm; afternoon tea is served between 4pm and 6pm, and dinner is dished from 7pm till 10pm.
Order from the restaurant menu between 8am and 10pm.
The nearest airport is Marrakech’s Menara Airport – fly there direct from the UK and elsewhere in Europe. Transfers are available on request and can be arranged as follows: MAD240 for a Mercedes Viano minibus (up to two guests); MAD300 for a Mercedes Viano minibus (up to three guests); for larger vehicles please contact the hotel directly. A fast-track immigration service at the airport is offered (MAD660 per person); this service must be requested when booking. Call our Smith24 team to book your flights and any extras.
The Moroccan state railway, ONCF (www.oncf.ma), 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.
Driving in Marrakech can be horn-filled and hectic, but if you insist, our Smith24 team can arrange a hire a car for you to pick up at the airport. To reach the hotel, follow Avenue de la Menara to the city centre. There’s parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Relax with leafy mint tea in the equally verdant inner courtyard, hop into the hammam or ask for a masseur to be sent to your room, then listen for the muezzin’s call to prayer from the rooftop terrace. The hotel is tucked into the winding streets of the Medina, so try your luck at haggling for tea sets, lanterns, Berber-woven rugs and leather babouches. Or watch the acrobats, gather round the griots and immerse yourself in the scents and sights of main square Jemaa El-Fnaa. The Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech has it all under one roof, just a 10-minute walk away.
You can see the Koutoubia Mosque from the hotel rooftop; it’s especially majestic at sundown. Beyond that, to the south, is decorative-arts museum Dar Si Said and Bahia Palace – where you can see just how intricate Moroccan tilework can be. For more modern design nous, swing by Yves Saint Laurent’s old pad, the glorious Jardin Majorelle, for sizzlingly bright hues and the loftiest of cacti. Then get better acquainted at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum next door. The Musée d'Art Contemporain Africain Al Maaden (aka MACAAL) is another snapshot of Morocco’s more up-to-date arts scene.
Guéliz, to the north, has tagines of all types, served in a scarlet-hued dining room. Close by is historic Grand Café de la Poste, which is more than a little reminiscent of Casablanca, with its art deco interiors and Gallic menu. Bô & Zin is more modern, with dim-sum and Asian-inspired mains, low lighting and live music.
The first thing we notice is the calm. Imagine floating in a big tank of honey as baby seals nuzzle the soles of your feet with their noses. Well, it might be my overactive imagination but that’s how everything feels to me after leaving the kamikaze scooters, wayward smells, exuberant salesmen and general chaos of the Marrakech medina (the labyrinthine old city) and entering 72 Riad. Stunning is one obvious superlative for the place. Majestic, sumptuous, opulent… or as my Geordie compatriots might say ‘like, really really really nice’.
‘How long have you worked here?’ I ask Giovanna, the polite Italian lady who has just presented us with rosewater to wash our hands, and some of Morocco’s ultra-sweet mint tea and sugary biscuits. ‘Ever since I built it,’ is her reply. Which was five years ago, in case you're wondering.
72 is laid out in traditional riad style, with a big rectangular central courtyard (complete with banana trees), flanked by rooms on each side. Downstairs is an elegantly decorated communal room containing a huge modern dining table and a tiny, yet fantastic-sounding stereo stocked with the ubiquitous ‘chill’ CDs. I consider asking if any of them feature ‘Rock The Casbah’ by the Clash, but think better of it and reassess my dad-gag humour tendencies. The high ceilings are intricately carved, and gently lit by beautiful copper lanterns. The colours are all deep chocolates, earthy and rich. And the place manages the neat trick of feeling grand and homely at the same time. It’s an Elle Deco dream. (This is helped by the friendly staff pottering around, and the smells produced by the riad’s in-house chef, Fatouma.)
There seems to have been a comfort avalanche, with futons, huge cushions and decadent paddedness everywhere. ‘Where did you get these wonderful fabrics?’ Mrs Smith eagerly asks, no doubt with visions of turning her west London basement flat into Riad 25d. ‘Milan,’ is the reply. Rugs it is, then.
Riad 72 only has four guest rooms. There is also a terrace on the roof with comfy loungers, an inviting salon area, and fantastic views across the city, with the towering Koutoubia mosque dominating the skyline – if you discount the Atlas mountains in the background, that is. You can also see into a number of the local houses (everybody lives on top of one other in the ramshackle medina), in an atmospheric, rather than curtain-twitching way. Later in our stay we notice someone has set a box/stick/string/breadcrumbs trap for the pigeons. Said birds eye the crumbs cautiously, some might say cockily, as Mr Smith begins to regret ordering the pigeon pie at dinner the previous night.
All this and I haven’t yet mentioned our room. (That’s the great thing about Marrakech – so many thoughts, so little time.) We are in the cavernous Karma Suite, which, once again, seems both huge and cosy. The ceilings are very high, with carved wooden beams over our massive bed. As we fling ourselves down on our backs we notice a huge ornate skylight, 30 feet or so above us. (Our concerns over how this might prohibit lie-ins are soothed away when we wake up to discover that some clever soul has pulled blinds over the windows of the dome from outside).
Having slept in later than we expected that morning, Mrs Smith thinks that we need to make up for our laziness and shake a leg later in the day. She decides that at 6pm on a Saturday evening. In Marrakech. As the crow flies, there’s a park about 500 metres from the riad. It takes us an hour to find it, through some of the most hectic, chaotic streets I’ve ever encountered. I am dressed in a white sweat top and shorts and feel just a little out of context. Mrs Smith has pulled up the material on her slick running top over her face. ‘Zorro!’ shouts a passing youth. A sense of humour is not something the locals lack.
To compensate for all that attempt at virtue, we go for an evening of too much alcohol at Bô Zin, an upscale joint in the new town. Having rechristened it 'Boozin' (with the customary bottle of bubbly of course), and we head to the White Room for a nightcap. (It may have been the cocktails, or the jog through diesel fumes earlier but I swear we saw a sixth-form band, singing a cover of Puffy's ‘I'll Be Missing You’ there.)
We finish off the night with a bit of late-night squabble back at the riad that neither of us can remember the cause of. Although I'm sure it had something to do with Mrs Smith mistaking the neighbouring Dar El Bacha palace for our hotel, and attempting to force entry.
We wake with headaches and smiles, laughing at our silliness the previous night and looking forward to a day of relaxing on the roof. Then we hear how the hushed tones of the staff even echo around the whole riad, and realise that if they sound that loud... What kind of racket did we make the night before? Oops. Luckily for us there were no such other inconsiderate guests to disturb the rest of our stay, and we are able to recharge our batteries in peace.