Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £128.75 (€150), 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 usually include Moroccan breakfast.
Manager Madeline knows Marrakech (and Morocco) inside out – ask her anything.
At the hotel
Courtyard, iPod docks, WiFi, TVs, DVD players
Our favourite rooms
Leale – which means honest and trustworthy in the owner’s native Italian – is the most secluded, set away from the others. The bright duplex suite has a private terrace where you can dine if you wish, and its own little fountain. Partenope – the ancient Greek name for his hometown, Naples – is filled with vintage Neapolitan photos, and has our favourite bathroom in the house, all South American green marble and dark Moroccan tadelakt.
A dip in the shaded courtyard plunge pool will keep you cool in the Moroccan heat.
Aloe vera: even if you think you’re incredibly sensible and definitely won’t get sunburnt. (We speak from experience.)
Yoga, Pilates, guided meditation, massages and beauty treatments are all available on request.
It’s a grown-up stay, much better suited to adults.
It’s almost your home-from-home, so wear whatever’s comfortable in the heat.
There’s no restaurant as such, but meals can be served in the courtyard and on the roof terrace on request. Traditional Moroccan cuisine is order of the day. The breakfasts each morning are a honey-drenched delight of local pastries.
There’s no bar, but staff will be happy to serve you something to sip anywhere you’d like.
You’ll breakfast at the entirely civilised hours of 8 to noon. Lunch and dinner are whenever you like.
As with all food and drink onsite, it’s an on-request deal.
Riad Jaaneman is in the Dar El Bacha quarter of Marrakech’s ancient Medina.
Touch down at Menara Airport, not far from the city. There are daily flights from many major European cities.
Regular trains run to other major Moroccan cities, including Tangier, Casablanca and Fez, from the main station in the centre of Marrakech.
Driving in Marrakech is best left to the professionals.
Worth getting out of bed for
Dar el Bacha’s one of the quietest quarters of the Medina, but everything’s walkable. Jardin Majorelle is a tranquil paradise of greens, blues, and yellows given to Marakech by Yves Saint Laurent, and it’s a must if you’re finding the bustle of the Medina a bit much (get there as early as you can to avoid the daily crowds). Just over the road, 33 Rue Majorelle sells a stylist-curated collection of local art, designer accessories and the like.
For dinner, you’re spoilt for choice. Le Tobsil (Derb Abdellah Ben Hessein) is a dark, candle-lit hideout tucked away down a maze of pink-walled alleys – it’s regularly hailed as one of the city’s best meals thanks to its table-filling Moroccan feasts, and they dispatch handy guides to find lost guests and then escort them home afterwards. Le Foundouk regularly tops where-to-eat-in-Marrakech wishlists, and another of our favourites is Gastro MK at Maison MK (book your table in advance: places are very limited for non guests). For pre- or post-dinner drinks, you should find yourself in blingily brilliant La Mamounia’s classic Churchill Bar at least once.
If you fancy getting out of town, plan a day trip to the nearby Atlas Mountain foothills, perhaps, or be whisked by 4x4 ro Berber villages, the Plateau de Kik, the Ourika Valley or Lake Takerkoust.
It’s late September – baking hot, blanket sun – and Riad Jaaneman is impeccably dressed for the weather in crisp white, with a bright azure plunge pool and airy archways the height of two men. I look up, through banana leaves as wide as roofs, at tiers of shaded balconies, then I look back down and catch Mrs Smith’s eye. Happiness.
Mrs Smith, I should say – spoiler alert! – is a woman. I, too, am a woman. This is a situation that typically delights me, but the week before our trip, a friend called to remind me that homosexuality isn’t just frowned upon in Morocco, it’s illegal. 'Have fun!' he’d said. I’d nodded to myself, a little afraid. But if anything were to characterise our time in Marrakech, it would be surprises – and great ones. Like right now. Seconds earlier, we’d been standing in a dark alley frequented by kittens curled up on scooter seats. And now, we were in this dazzling, ice-bright courtyard, a parallel universe of palms, pillars and homemade biscuits.
Riad Jaaneman has five individually decked-out suites, and Anouar, the incredibly kind day manager, takes us to Partenope, which has a bathroom so beautiful it could charm a snake: all South American marble, kryptonite green, set against smoke-and-mirror walls, crowned with a temple of towels. Our suite is wrapped around a courtyard, which means the only windows we can look into are our own. I love this. I also love that there’s a corridor between the bedroom and bathroom, because it allows you to do tourism within your own space – and the more passport stamps, the better.
Before any such fun can be had, Mrs Smith has to take a work call. An international Skype affair – the only type of affair she’s allowed. When everyone on the call starts shouting, I slip downstairs with a pile of New Yorkers to the plush burgundy sofa in the reading room. This is one of the joys of Jaaneman: the shared spaces are genuinely appealing. It feels like a friend with exceptionally good taste and real estate has said: 'Come and stay at my house! I won’t be there, but please feel perfectly at home.' And somehow, you do. It’s familiar, yet precise and clever in the way it’s put together. Neutral Moroccan tadelakt (plaster, but it’s polished like concrete) and tile-work is brought together with Castiglioni design lamps and wünderkammer pieces from all over the world.
Finally, we force ourselves out before the last of the light. Jaaneman is in one of the sleeker, sleepier areas of the Medina, the perfect introduction to the city. Policemen in decadent uniforms lean on their guns like genteel canes. The occasional mule dips its neck to eat from a pile of neon-orange carrots. This is my third time in Marrakech, and the last 10 years have been kind to it, at least from this visitor’s perspective. My first time, I was 16 and DETERMINED to show my midriff; the second, I was accompanied by a sizeable male, but still remember each outing feeling like a shakedown. No longer true. We feel perfectly left alone to wander through the pink-blue haze of the souks, past powder-mountains of spices, and boucherouite carpets hung like abstract paintings.
Full marks to us: we even manage to keep our PDAs under wraps. Numerous people ask us if we’re sisters. (That said, they also ask if we’re Shakira and/or Lady Gaga – so accuracy is not a determining factor). Anyway, everyone has their quirks, but I’m not that into calling my lover my sister, so in the end, we go for cousins. This would be fine, but I keep on getting the French wrong. 'Nous sommes coussins,' I say, again and again, with a benign smile. Which means ‘cushions’. Don’t mind us, everybody, we’re just cushions.
We arrive at Jemaa el-Fnaa square – thrumming drums, cobras poised in front of tambourines – just as it’s dark enough to see the smoke rising from all the barbecues. I’d forgotten how amazing it is. Within 30 seconds, a monkey is touching my bottom. Then, as soon as I turn around, the monkey – who has long fingers and is wearing a diaper – is standing on Mrs Smith’s head. Words will never be enough to do justice to her face. My heart pangs.
We dip out onto Jaaneman’s roof terrace that night, but it’s even better over breakfast in the morning, with clementine juice, honey cake and coffee, surrounded by strange and dreamy succulents. Jaaneman’s terrace is slightly higher than those around it, so the view is a sea of terracotta and green enamel roof tiles, TV dishes that all face in one direction as if in prayer, and light-as-paper birds that flit from one roof to the next.
Meals are one of the things Jaaneman does best. Of all our mouthfuls in Morocco, dinner at Jaaneman outstripped the rest. The ceremonial flash of steam as Simou unsheathed our tagines, sauces bubbling like a kind of dance. Lamb surrounded by prunes so hot they’d melted; preserved lemon, sweet and tart, with buttery green olives and chicken that fell apart against the back of a spoon. Mrs Smith and I looked at each other a lot with our mouths vaguely ajar. I’m not sure if that’s attractive as a general rule, but it was the kind of meal where you want to keep reaching for each other’s arms to make sure it – and you, and everything – is still real.
The same must be said for the whole stay at Jaaneman. To the extent where – always the sign of a good holiday –we probably left each other with thumb marks. It couldn’t be helped. Scenes played out as if in a film: ice-fogged Casablanca beers lit by a comically perfect half moon; fennel-seed-spiced French toast on our last morning; the width and whiteness of our bed; all these secret spaces. Jaaneman is a place that makes you reach for each other, again and again.