Savour the sights of Marrakech's markets

Playground of the international jet set, wellspring of inspiration for many a designer, and gateway city for those looking to visit Africa for the first time, Marrakech certainly attracts a diverse cast of travellers. For some, a resort will be fine, but if you’re looking for an authentic taste of the city, a stay in a riad (a traditional townhouse with inner courtyard) within the Medina is obligatory. Problem is, there are hundreds of them… Jane Duru narrows down the field a little with a visit to the Angsana Riads Collection.

Angsana Riad Si Said courtyardThe colourful courtyard of Riad Si Said
First impressions?

Wow. Seriously impressive - Riad Si Said is beautiful. You’d never know it from the outside, as the imposing high walls and heavy doors that line the streets of Zitoun El Jdid hide all from the view of the casual observer. But stepping over the threshold into Si Said feels like being transported into a miniature kingdom.

The first thing to impress itself on your senses is the gentle scent of orange blossom wafting through the air – and then, as you wind your way through the sinuous corridors, more pleasant smells, foodie ones this time as you head past the kitchen, until finally, on admittance into the airy courtyard, you’re met with a visual feast. Drapes, the zesty orange hue redolent of a Buddhist monk’s robes, hang from each corner, bringing with them a calm opulence whilst a faint air of stillness clings to the now-vacant tables dotted around; the leafy palm trees in the centre lead the eye upwards towards the mezzanine floor and canopy above, and the multicoloured zellige tiling sings from every surface. In a word, it’s lovely.

Angsana Riad Blanc alcoveCurl up with a book in one of the many alcoves
Ideal for…

Couples, especially if you’re staying at Riad Si Said or Riad Tiwaline. These two feel the most intimate of the collection’s riads. Although the largest in the collection with seven suites, Si Said, where I’m staying, feels relaxed and calm, and lining the courtyard are gorgeous little reading nooks, filled with hand-crafted chess boards and coffee table photography books on Marrakech. It’s perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle outside the riad walls.

Tiwaline is even more sanctuary-like and its Berber-style décor – all dark woods, mood lighting, and fires in every room – plus its petal-strewn pond, simply add to the romanticism. Other riads in the collection may do better in catering to families.

Mellah suite The Mellah suite has a private balcony with view of the pool
The room

I’m staying in the Mellah suite (all the rooms are named for some aspect of Marrakech; mellah means Jewish quarter) situated a level above the courtyard. French patio doors framed by swishy floor-length curtains lead me into a delightful large living room space, double bed at one end and bathroom suite at the other.

In fact, there’s so much space I don’t quite know what to do with myself – attached to the main room is a balcony overlooking the pool (sadly undergoing renovation during my visit), a secondary room that houses the mini-bar (I never did figure out what I was supposed to do with this) and a well-appointed bathroom, which is itself a series of antechambers. I could’ve spent entire mornings under that shower, if it weren’t for the small matter of seeing Marrakech.

Zellige tiling MarrakechRestored original features can be seen throughout the riad

Still, it feels homely rather than stately, with the burnished red and mustardy ochre tones echoing throughout the room, and a deliciously lemony aroma of essential oils is so relaxing that I instantly resolve to bring the smell back with me. There’s no television – in fact the ‘mod-est’ con I see is the hairdryer - but that’s no great loss. Who comes to Marrakech to watch telly anyway?

Best room

In Si Said it has to be the luxuriously large Royal Suite Africaine, with its series of linked apartments decked out in traditional prints and pale greens. Well worth splashing out on.

Eating and drinking

The great thing about staying at Angsana Riads Collection is that you can use the services of all of their riads. Five of them are located within ten minutes’ walk of each other, with the sixth, Bab Agnaou located on the other side of the Medina. So one night you can sample a menu of pastilles, tagines and couscous dishes at Si Said’s Moroccan restaurant, and the next head to Bab Firdaus for Thai. That said, the former, whilst informal, is fairly expensive for Morocco, so be sure to schedule some meals outside your riad for a more authentic cuisine experience. Take breakfast on the roof terrace for a sunny start to your mornings.

Angsana riad terraceSleep under the stars or simply enjoy the view from the rooftop
Jane Duru

Savvy travellers should book the ‘Discover’ package. On arrival you’ll be given 10 questions about the city and get 5% off your bill for each one answered correctly, so up to 50% discount - not a bad reward for simply finding more out about Marrakech!

All guests are offered the option of having a mobile phone, so that when you inevitably get lost in the souks you can call the front desk for directions. Take advantage of having access to all the riads and head to Bab Firdaus which houses the spa. Or if you don’t feel like leaving yours, a spa attendant can be on hand to give basic treatments.

A must-mention – the service is wonderful. Staff are warm, attentive and accommodating without being overbearing. Tours, transfers, drivers and guides can be organised if needed, food requests are no problem, and they’ll give great recommendations of what to do and see. Turndown service is excellent too – after a day out and about, all you want to do is relax and returning to a room that has already been primped and decluttered makes it much easier.

Angsana spaIn the spa choose from Thai, Javanese or Ayurvedic massage
Room for improvement

Wi-Fi signal strength in the rooms and courtyard is poor, but there is better reception near the front desk. Alternatively, hop across the road to Riad Blanc where the signal is fine from any position.

Out and about

Forget the souks for one day and check out Zitoun el Jdid instead. There are lots of local shops dotted around – visit the wonderful little babouche shop right next to Si Said where you can pick up a good quality pair. You’re right next to the cultural gems of Dar Si Said (Museum of Moroccan Arts) and El Bahia Palace too. But if the souks are calling to you, the riad is only a fifteen-minute walk from Jemaa el-Fna square and the surrounding bedlam.


Angsana Riad Collection, Riad Si Said
N 1-2-4 Derb Abbes El Fassi, Marrakech 40000, Morocco
Tel: +212 524 388 905/906.

Kuoni (01306 747 008; offers three nights from £495 per person (saving up to £180 per couple). The offer includes return flights from London Heathrow Airport with lounge access, private transfers in the resort and a premier room at Angsana Riad Si Said on a bed & breakfast basis (based on two sharing). Valid for travel in June 2012 when booked by 18 May 2012.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.