Riad Siwan is as ravishing as Moroccan buildings get: loyal to its North African roots, yet with stylish contemporary furnishings at every turn. Ornately carved columns tower in the courtyard, and there’s a sun-drenched and spacious terrace on the roof. Inside, impeccable service awaits.
Get this when you book through us:
Guests staying fewer than three nights get a set of Sense de Marrakech soaps; stays of at least three nights get a 45-minute massage for one guest
11am, but flexible if there’s availability. Check-in, noon (earlier if the room is ready).
Double rooms from £244.50 (€275), including 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.
Rates include Moroccan breakfast.
Treatments, massages and cookery classes can all be arranged.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, treatment rooms and library. In rooms: under-floor heating, fresh flowers and fruit, home-made pastries, free bottled water and Les Sens de Marrakech bath products.
Our favourite rooms
We love a good roll-top bath; pick Sidi Ifni or Qamar if you do too. We’re also fans of Sidi Ifni’s sleek four-poster, and Qamar’s courtyard-facing veranda. If you’re more of a fireplace fan, opt for either of these, Walata or Ifrane. Only rooms above the ground floor have air-conditioning.
There’s a small, unheated plunge pool surrounded by sunloungers up on the spacious rooftop. It's better suited for cooling off than swimming laps.
At least 10kg of spare baggage allowance for tagines and trinkets from the souk; desert-heatproof sun cream.
Smokers can light up on the patio and roof terrace.
Cots for babies are free; extra beds for over-12s cost €75 a night. Ask a day in advance for babysitting (250 dirhams, until midnight).
Under the chandelier in the main dining room for the best view, or ask the staff to set up a private table in the ground-floor lounge with music and a lit fire.
Kaftans and curly-toe slippers.
Masterful Moroccan fare, such as lemon and chicken tagine, is served up in the decadent dining room, where grand columns have been stripped to their original stone and a glass chandelier hangs between them. Aubergine fabrics set off the cream tadelakt walls. Dietary requirements can be catered to, with advance warning.
There’s no bar, but drinks are served anywhere in the riad whenever you like.
Meal times are flexible: apart from the start time of 8.30am for breakfast, sustenance can be suppled at any time.
Drinks and snacks can be brought up to your suite 24 hours a day.
Riad Siwan is tucked away in the Medina, a leisurely stroll from Djemaa El Fna.
Marrakech Menara airport is a 15-minute drive away, with direct flights to London, Paris and and other major European cities. The hotel can organise one-way transfers for €20 for up to four passengers, which will be added to the final bill.
The main rail hub in the city can be reached in fifteen minutes; the hotel can organise one-way transfers for MAD165. From here, ONCF runs services to Casablanca, Rabat and Fes. Look for TCR (Train Climatisé Rapide) trains to guarantee an air-conditioned journey in summer.
The riad is in the heart of Marrakech’s old town, so it’s probably best to leave the wheels at the city gates. If you have driven, secure parking is available 100m away.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel can arrange hot-air-balloon rides and day trips to the Atlas Mountains, as well as guided tours of the city, golf, camel rides and cycling.
Dar Moha (+212 (0)524 386400; www.darmoha.net) in the Medina serves classic Moroccan cuisine, with a sub-menu each for tagines, couscous and pastillas (flaky pigeon-filled pastries). Le Tangia (+212 (0)524 383836) is a stylish brasserie with a rooftop terrace on Derb J’did, serving excellent tagines, couscous and fish dishes.
Grab a spot at Café de France (+212 (0)524 391770) for mint tea, people-watching and ice-cream if it gets too hot.
Marrakech’s horizon is low, speckled with the occasional peak of a mosque or palace tower. So it is with a certain royal pleasure that I find myself lounging like a sun lizard, glass of dry Moroccan white wine in hand, atop one of the tallest points in all of the Medina, on the upper terrace of the palatial Riad Siwan.
This relaxation is much deserved, be assured. After a lengthy flight, Mr Smith and I bravely hopped into a private car and tackled the rugged, mule-ridden obstacle course into the heart of the city. Here we were wordlessly transitioned to a porter who hauled our bags into a jaunty blue wheelbarrow before taking off, turning right, left and right again through the labyrinthine alleys of the sprawling medina. As we got further from the noise of the busier paths, passing lazy cats and the occasional fruit stand, the alleys narrowed until we arrived at the large, unmarked door of our new Marrakech home.
Our eyes widened as the nondescript door in the dark alley opened way to the lush, bright core that is Riad Siwan. Dramatic art, intricate lattices and coolly assembled tropical plants – from our first step inside, the seven-room riad has us stunned. And within seconds, we are getting the grand tour from jovial owner Cees Van den Berg.
Cees and his wife Maryk bought the riad as a crumbling hovel filled with dirt and exposed to the elements. The couple painstakingly restored the entire space to opulence, working with a local husband-and-wife team who tackled the light fixtures and glasswork. The result is an oasis that pays tribute to the traditional patterns and colours of vivid Marrakech, incorporating modern conveniences – hello, rooftop plunge pool! – and dramatic ironwork.
Each of the seven rooms – named after Moroccan villages or meaningful Arabic words – features high ceilings, local art and posh marble bathrooms, and most have a four-poster bed and fireplace. Ours is Qamar (the Arabic word for moon), a bright, tapestry-adorned space with beamed ceilings and a private veranda overlooking the gardens. But it is the giant, cavernous bathroom that’s earned our room its name. Stark black marble is lit by a beautiful ceiling fixture designed to appear like the night sky. These Smiths will soon be splashing under starry twinkles in a giant tub, sweetened up with local jasmine bath lotion and padded around on heated floors.
When Mr Smith and I first booked our trip to Morocco, I don’t think we intended to spend much time in our lodgings – but Riad Siwan has an uncanny way of easing the pace and helping travellers relax. Forget fumbling with fortress-style locks to get into your room – the riad forgoes keys, which is an instant mind-easer. Though we’d planned to drop off our bags and dash to the first palace, we soon found ourselves reclining on deck chairs, sipping wine and snapping pictures of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains from the tower instead.
It is no small accomplishment that this boutique abode can remain such a soothing space: Riad Siwan is perfectly situated just a quick walk from the loud, bustling main square, Djemma el Fna. When we finally depart from Siwan’s tranquility, we are amazed to discover that the noise and chaos of Marrakech’s vibrant streets is only a few feet from our door.
Despite its maze of souks, Marrakech is easily navigable. That said, Mr Smith and I soon learn that it takes at least a few tries to see or do most things in this ancient city. The path to the dazzling Medersa Ben Youssef eludes us; multiple haggling attempts are required before we have any reasonable success; our first expedition to see Yves Saint-Laurent’s beloved Majorelle Gardens is thwarted when the country’s princess decides to pay a visit for a spontaneous stroll. Luckily, Van den Berg and his staff are always at the ready to offer new tips, or soothe bruised egos with cocktails and offer up sedentary alternatives.
At Riad Siwan, everybody’s ability to anticipate our needs – from a sun hat to a happy hour cocktail – expedited a transition to full vacation mode, in breakneck speed. During our first evening’s cocktail hour in the garden, we set up downstairs in the garden. The wine here seems brighter, the breeze smells like garden blossoms. And when the staff brings out a few snacks, Mr Smith crows that even the Pringles taste revolutionary.
Balance out the bustle of the medina with the riad’s spa services. Riad Siwan does not operate a full-time hammam, but there is a spa room on site for massages, oil treatments and facials. One day’s bargaining with the feisty vendors of the souks is enough to warrant a 45-minute massage, surely? In true Moroccan fashion, body treatments at Riad Siwan take advantage of all senses. Rose water, argan oil and orange blossoms are as much a treat for my nose and appetite as for my tensed shoulders.
Drowsy with sweet-scented relaxation, we are delighted when we opt for an in-house supper one evening. The dining room is set among centuries-old columns and the Van den Bergs have transformed a giant circular skylight into a dramatic cascade of glass raindrops. Under those faux-rainstorm glassy drops, we feast on a romantic, quiet dinner of roasted aubergine and lemony chicken tagine prepared by the riad’s chef. In between licking our bowls from the seductive dessert (a slightly sweet avocado soup with vanilla ice), Mr Smith and I toast this magical escape with Moroccan red wine.
Beneath a cloudless desert sky the next morning, we take one last look down at the Red City from this bird's-eye view. Hustling vendors, roaming cats and playful kids all just out of earshot – it is a lucky traveller who gets to lord over this ancient North African city quite like this.