Filled with heirlooms snaffled from the owner’s family château, Riad de Tarabel and its French-accented rooms are dotted with bamboo, cedar and rattan furniture, traditional tadelakt tiling and souk-sourced antiques. You'll find it hidden down narrow lanes in one of the Medina's calmest corners, with tree-lined patios, candle-lit terraces and a peaceful pool tucked within for afternoons spent sipping the freshest mint tea. Add a spa to the mix and you've found yourself a serene corner in the heart of the Red City.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, noon, also flexible.
Double rooms from £205.96 (€230), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €1.10 per person per night on check-out and an additional government tax of €1.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include transfers and a generous Continental breakfast, with tasty extra options such as Moroccan crêpes and cooked-to-order eggs.
Ask really nicely and you may wrangle a private cooking lesson with Riad de Tarabel’s first-class chef.
At the hotel
A local mobile phone to use throughout your stay, swimming pool, free WiFi throughout and laundry services. In rooms: Ortigia bath products and free bottled water; some rooms have working fireplaces.
Our favourite rooms
All Riad de Tarabel’s rooms are beautiful and individually finished, but the Large Suite has, in our opinion, the most impressive bathroom: it’s a split-level affair with an enormous bath tub that’s perfect for long soaks. The suite’s sitting room has an inviting day-bed, and owner Rose-Marie designed the grey patterned zellige tiles; the terrace looks out over the orange trees.
The grey and black tiled heated outdoor pool is in a separate courtyard and is for adults only. Children are welcome in the small rooftop plunge pool, which is also perfect for perching by and dangling your legs into, drink in hand.
Courtyard spa Les Bains de Tarabel is sweetly scented by the surrounding eucalyptus and orange blossom trees. Choose from a traditional Moroccan hammam ritual, soothing massages or youth-lending facials; natural oils and essences from Nectarome are used in all treatments.
A classic Panama hat to fit in with the decor, and a good read to make the most of your down time.
Arrange an in-room massage or mani-pedi.
Welcome, although the riad is better suited to older children who can entertain themselves. However, the restaurant has a children’s menu and is happy to heat up baby food and bottles.
Dinner can be served anywhere in the riad, but nothing beats dining outside on the terrace overlooking the maze of Medina rooftops.
Think cool linens and silks, flowy and floaty beach dresses, and romantic glints in the eye.
La Table de Tarabel’s staff organise dinner à la carte with guests; it’s really more like enjoying a meal prepared by a personal chef who specialises in incredible Moroccan and international food than dining in a restaurant. For breakfast, Moroccan crêpes, cooked-to-order eggs, organic muesli, pâtissserie, cakes, home-made yoghurt, fresh fruits, fresh orange juice, marmalades, honey and hot drinks are on offer.
There’s no bar, but you can order drinks to enjoy at any time of day or night.
The restaurant is open from noon until 10pm.
No room service as such, but ask nicely and your meals, snacks, and drinks can be delivered to almost anywhere in the riad.
Riad de Tarabel is neighbors with the Dar el Bacha Palace, right in the heart of the Medina.
Marrakech’s Menara airport is 15 minutes away by car. There are regular flights from the UK and mainland Europe. Flights and transfers can be arranged by the Smith24 team; call any time, day or night.
The Moroccan state railway, ONCF, runs inexpensive (but limited) services to the Marrakech Railway Station from Casablanca, Fez and Tangier. The station is 10 minutes away by car, and free transfers can be arranged with the hotel.
Driving in Marrakech can be horn-filled and hectic, so we don’t recommend hiring a car unless you’re heading elsewhere in Morocco, too. If you decide to hire a car from the airport, follow Al Mhamid Avenue to Avenue Guemassa, continue on Avenue Guemassa to Avenue Ahmed Ouaqala, then take Rue Dar el Glaoui to Route Sidi Abdelaziz. Look for signs to Dar el Bacha Palace, which is next to the hotel. Parking is available approximately five minutes’ walk from the hotel for about €5 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
Riad de Tarabel is in the Medina, so in a few steps you can barter for treasures in the kaleidoscopic souk, then snack on pigeon pie from a stall in the Jemaa el-Fna, amid acrobats and belly-dancers. For a bit of calming green space, pop on over to Jardin Majorelle, a wonderland of greens, blues, and yellows bequeathed to Marrakech by Yves Saint Laurent – head in as early as you can to avoid the daily crowds. And to find out more about the designer's time in the country, there's a museum dedicated to him. Over the road, 33 Rue Majorelle sells a stylist-curated collection of local art, and designer accessories, and is connected to the Kaowa juice bar. For more cultural sustenance, MACAAL (Musée d'Art Contemporain Africain Al Maaden) showcases the country's most exciting modern art.
If you fancy getting out of town, plan a day-trip to the Atlas Mountains,Sahara Desert or coastal town of Essaouira, all but a drive away, or be whisked by 4x4 to Berber villages, the Plateau de Kik, the Ourika Valley or Lake Takerkoust. The staff at the riad will also be happy to help you arrange diversions further afield: camel- or horse-riding day treks to the desert or the mountains, or ballooning.
Try Le Tobsil for dinner; it’s a dark, candle-lit hideout tucked away down a maze of pink-walled alleys and is regularly hailed as one of the city’s best meals thanks to its table-filling Moroccan feasts. Handy guides can be dispatched to find lost guests and then escort them home afterwards. Le Foundouk also regularly tops where-to-eat-in-Marrakech wishlists. Al Fassia at 232 Ave Mohammed V serves traditional Moroccan cuisine in a highly untraditional manner – it's staffed and operated exclusively by women. Bô & Zinis an NY-style salon a little out of the way on the Ourika road, but worth the trek for contemporary cocktails and Southeast Asian dishes. Palais Soleiman on Dar Layardi and Palais Gharnata on Derb El Arsa both provide traditional Moroccan cuisine in beautiful surroundings.Le Grand Café de la Postehas been around since the 1920s; it’s somewhat of an institution in Marrakech, with an art-deco setting of checkerboard floors, potted palms and pillow-piled sofas.
The roof terrace of Café des Epices in the spice souk is popular with the young, arty Marrakech crowd. The no-frills, souk-side eatery Chez Chegrouni (+212 (0) 246 54761) offers classic dishes of skewered meat, lamb and plum tagine, and fluffy aromatic couscous at fabulous prices in Unesco-listed square Jemaa el-Fna. They don’t take reservations so join the queue to devour hearty portions of traditional Moroccan fare. There’s no better spot for a mid-souk stop-off than Café Arabe. Ask for a rooftop table and admire the mountain views.
For pre- or post-dinner drinks, you should find yourself in blingy but brilliantLa Mamounia’s classic Churchill bar at least once.
Within the peaceful confines of boutique hotel Riad de Tarabel, I’m lying in a Victorian roll-top bath tub in front of an open fire. Mr Smith is here too – following what is clearly a very important football match on his phone – but there are no arguments over the stupidity of reading a phone while bathing, or who gets the tap end, because he’s in his own bath. Twin tubs and an open fire? This is my kind of room. Before you imagine a cosy British retreat, I should clarify – we’re in Marrakech and we’ve been sunbathing all day. December is the perfect time to visit Morocco for some winter sun that doesn’t leave you feeling unseasonably summery just before Christmas.
The last time we visited the city Winston Churchill once described as ‘the most lovely spot in the whole world,’ we were here for adventure. A seven-foot tall hooded gentleman followed us down a dark alley before we realised he was escorting us to our restaurant; we got trapped between a donkey and a moped in a chaotic corner of the souk; and we ate unidentified things on skewers. This time we want to relax – we had agreed, somewhat decadently, that we wouldn’t leave Riad de Tarabel from the moment the (complimentary) driver drops us off until the moment he picks us up. Not even Djemaa el-Fna market traders, Chleuh dancing-boys and snake charmers; nor the haggling opportunities of the souks; northe highly recommended Maison de la Photographie, would tempt us outside.
A member of the riad’s staff greets us, dressed in white knee-high socks, cropped white harem pants and a smock, finished off with red Converse boots and a fez. He leads us down a series of dark and narrow alleys we would have hesitated to traverse alone. ‘Welcome to Tarabel.’ We stoop through a fortress-like door into a courtyard, where a babbling fountain and orange-laden trees set the scene for the weekend and instantly confirm our decision to stay put. (Especially as it transpired that the riad has its own shop – no haggling required!)
Inherently inward-looking buildings, riads are often un-noteworthy from the outside, but luxurious within; this is no exception. Built in French-colonial style around three courtyards, the thick-set walls protect guests from the sun and the Medina’s chaos. Alongside two bath tubs and an open fire, our Junior Suite has a traditional tiled floor, a double bed with enormous pillows and marble-topped bamboo tables, a pair of antique armchairs and a shower that’s best described as Moroccan-hammam-meets-Victorian-luxury. The riad’s refined sandy-beige and charcoal-grey palette is the perfect backdrop for wicker furnishings, antique maps and a flock of (stuffed) exotic birds. It’s luxurious enough to make you feel spoilt, without making you worry about spilling your sun cream. It feels like a home away from home, albeit nicer than our actual home – and with staff.
With promised temperatures in the 20s, we head straight to the roof terrace. Each guest gets a mobile phone on arrival with two numbers in the contacts – the kitchen’s and the manager’s, ‘so that if you need something, you can just call.’ Initially reticent to be so demanding (‘You call,’ ‘No, you do it,’ ‘I’m too shy,’), we phone down for lunch, and soon a table is set with a white tablecloth, silver cutlery and green and gold tableware. A vegetable pastilla sends Mr Smith into a state of rapture.
Sated and by now slightly sweaty, we hit the pool. After a bold start, Mr Smith decides that standing knee-deep is just as refreshing as a swim; I busy myself with making watery footprints around the edges. The near-freezing water is no doubt refreshing in high summer, but right now, we’re in danger of losing toes.
We while away the afternoon reading on an ornately carved four-poster day-bed on the roof. Just beyond the aloe-vera-topped walls surrounding us, khobz sellers ply their trade – hawking traditional flatbreads to passers by; burka-covered ladies barter over spices; and family-laden mopeds hare around tiny streets; however, the only sounds we hear are circling birds overhead and the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer sung out from nearby mosques five times a day. Our view: plane contrails in the sky above.
Suddenly starving, we change for dinner and sit by another roaring fire. A recent convert to vegetarianism, I eye Mr Smith’s chicken and green-olive tagine enviously, while he devours both that and my veggie alternative. ‘You can dip some bread into my sauce,’ he offers generously, without a hint of a smirk. Chocolate soufflé finishes us off and only lashings of mint tea save our stuffed stomachs in time for bed.
We wake to the sound of a distant cockerel, revelling in the knowledge that you have nothing to do. Breakfast is served from 8am until ‘whenever you’d like it,’ so we amble up to the roof at about nine. Fruit, yoghurt and pastries are followed by pancakes and cake, and – despite sacrificing the honey to a nearby table to keep bees away – we polish off the lot. We devise a hectic schedule of lunch, massages and dinner. An on-site hammam is in the works, so with relief and disappointment in equal measure, we forego being scrubbed to within an inch of our lives and instead book an in-room massage. We could barely leave our room without someone making the bed, replacing the water, or even ironing our eveningwear, so when we returned this time, it was no surprise to find it transformed with candles, Berber music and massage beds. An hour later, we emerge relaxed from head to toe and that’s how we stay for the rest of the weekend.
We wonder, could we move into Riad de Tarabel? Or at least smuggle some staff members home? We agree on a weekend getaway every December and a new ensuite with twin bath tubs for our new house. In the meantime, Mr Smith will keep trying to crack that vegetable pastilla recipe.