Mad, magical Marrakesh is the most wonderful city break. It is a heady mix of spice, sights and hopefully, plenty of sunshine. The most amazing way to see the city is to be in the medina, immersed in the culture, and so it was with this in mind we began looking at Riads within the medina walls. There was something about Riad Star that caught our eye. Read on for our full Riad Star review.
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Our stay was hosted by Riad Star. All opinions are entirely our own.
What is a Riad?
A Riad is a residence with multiple floors and plenty of rooms, all centred around a courtyard. Traditionally these would have had a fountain in but more and more, you will find a plunge or swimming pool instead, especially when they have been converted in a hotel. The central courtyard is an escape from the madness of the medinas outside, a releif from the heat in summer and serve as an outdoor lounge. These buildings were once the home of the richest residents of Morocco and many have been turned into hostels, hotels and restaurants. A stay in a Riad is an absolute must for any trip to Morocco with many beautifully restored and bursting w8ith personality in a way that many chain hotels lack.
Riad Star Location
Riad Star s located just northeast of the Medina’s centre. You will be just a minute or two from the beautiful Ben Youssef Madrasa. It is about ten minutes down to Marrakesh’s main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. To get down to El Badi Palace and Bahia Palace and Saadian Tombs is twenty-five minutes or so by foot. Although all is calm inside, it is a delight be just steps from the hustel and bustle of the medina.
A Look Around Riad Star
Our Room – Star
Riad Star is divided into two sections, one that ascends from the dining room and the other that surrounds the courtyard and pool. Our room was on the first floor (second floor if you are from the USA), overlooking the courtyard and was called Star. To one side we had two large windows with some beautiful wrought iron curls. The windows could be opened fully to feel like you were on a balcony. In between these two windows was the dressing table so it had wonderful natural light.
We had a large seating area in one corner. It was a little dark for reading but perfect for chilling out and getting some rest. On the other side of the room was a table with a TV on. We didn’t watch it but popped it on try and find some music as we got ready in the evening. There was also a cupboard with wardrobe space and shelves full of helpful bits and bobs. We had a hair dryer, an iron, a safe and mini fridge…so far, so normal. However, we also had a head massager and in the wardrobe, some traditional Moroccan clothes to try on if you fancy getting into character. So cool!
Around the room were some lovely old photos of both the previous owner (more on that later) and other vintage celebs. These are interspersed with those wonderfully designed homewares that make Morocco special. Even the lamp on the wall was intricate and beautiful, nestled into an small area of stucco design.
The room’s ensuite was full of deep, dark colours, contrasted with a bright gold sink. It felt very luxurious. There was also a little stucco work in the shower to tie it in with the room and rest of the Riad. The shower was strong, hot and had a lovely, large head. The luxury continued with the products provided. There is a shampoo, conditioner and body cream displayed in pretty little bottles that stay in the room. Then there was the hand soap which smelled divine and didn’t strip our hands.
The bed wads a large double with a little extra room for ignoring each other. We both thought the medium firm mattress was comfortable but I do wonder if it because we had been on very uncomfortable futon style mattresses for the previous three nights. The pillows were soft but not horrendously so and we didn’t need the other cushions for extra boost. As we were visiting in January, it was cold in the evenings but the proper duvet saw to that nicely.
The Dining Room & Kitchen
The dining room of Riad Star is simply stunning. It is used for breakfast, dinner and as a rest spot and reception. From floor to ceiling it is pure white and the stucco goes up to the first floor, continuing on the balconies. The walls etend up to a skylight that lets in the sunlight. Under the first floor are the tables which have huge mirrors to help bounce the light around in the sheltered area.
We really loved checking in here. We took a seat on the comfy seats and were presented with mint tea and some coconutty cookies. As we sipped and munched away, we filled out our registration forms and after a nice relax, were shown to our room. It was a world away from queueing at a large hotel check in desk.
Round to the side is a tea and coffee area that sometimes has snacks too. This is free and open to all guests, all day. Next to this table is the kitchen. This is also open for use but it is reserved for the cooking lessons offered at Riad Star during lesson time. We didn’t have the chance to join a lesson but we did get to try some of their signature dishes during our dinner at the Riad.
We only managed one breakfast during our stay as we had to get up far too early on our first day to dash to Jardin Majorelle. Moroccan breakfasts are never fast and usually involve a few courses brought out over a little while. Thus, we decided to skip it on that crazy morning. However, on day two, we had a little more time and could luxuriate in the many treats on offer….and bear in mind, this was a “small breakfast”. For breakfast we had:
- A full pot of deliciously strong coffee.
- A small fruit salad each with pineapple, apple, strawberry, grapes and more.
- Fresh orange juice.
- A little mezze of cheese, olives and dips.
- Two msmen (flaky, addictibe flat breads).
- Huge slabs of chocolate cake.
We were lucky enough to be offered a dinner on our first night, an offer we snatched up eagerly. We were expecting one tagine because apparently we had ignored the rest of the time we had spent in Morocco where multiple dishes were served. Dinner at Riad Star was no different. Four sizable plates came out and we began to dish up, thinking that we had everything but with a flourish, a tagine appeared, sizzling with tender lamb and juicy prunes. As well as the tagine, we tried:
- A salad/coleslaw with a little mayonnaise and some lovely sweet raisins.
- A courgette dish, packed with garlic and topped with cheese that i am SO excited to recreate!
- Zaalouk – A divinely slippery aubergine and tomato salad with paprika, cumin and herbs.
- A shredded onion and veggie salad surrounded by orange slices.
Each of these side dishes was bursting with flavour and we tried our best to finish them but there was too much for even these two greedy Brits. Then, just as we thought our trousers would burst, a plate of pink grapefruit and raspberry arrived, followed by a giant fruit bowl. Some of the fruit in the bowl was already prepared for ease of eating and so we ploughed on. I really loved the pink grapefruit with its sprinkles of cinnamon. It was a fun and new taste combo.
A Look Around Riad Star
The plunge pool is backed by a beautiful tree centrepiece. I wanted to get in so badly but the temperature never rose enough. It didn’t stop me from trying though! I couldn’t get straight in but I did have my feet in for a few minutes. I can imagine it is pure heaven in summer.
Riad Star Rooftop
At the top of the property is a fabulous rooftop. There are several areas for people to eat, lounge or do a little yoga. (Yoga mats are stored up here). It would be so wonderful to bring a bottle of wine up here and huddle in one of the cabanas. In fact, if it were summer, we would have asked to eat dinner and breakfast up here as the views of the medina and just lovely. In one direction you can see huge minarets and the call to prayer is always a splendid backdrop.
We decided to take advantage of the in-house Hammam on our last day. We opted for a couple’s treatment which included a traditional hammam, a massage and a manicure or pedicure. Upstairs we went to the tiny hamam and the lovely beauty therapist looked a little confused to see two people. She had obviously been told it was just one of us. Well, no bother, we stripped down to our bottoms and each took a marble slab in the steam room. We got the works. The wash with local luxury soap and rub down were delightfully thorough. The beds were almost too hot but that was just what I wanted! I did wonder how Mr Fluskey was coping, being less of a fan of hot things. We came out dripping wet and with bright red skin, soft as a baby’s bottom.
It went a bit awry afterwards. I lay down for a massage while Karl was taken outside to wait, wet and rapidly chilly. It was sunny, but still January. As my massage proceeded the lady kept making calls. I believe it was in a desperate effort to find a helper as someone turned up and came into the room (yes, I was under a towel but I was rather topless). It wasn’t a very relaxing time. Mr Fluskey and I swapped and I had my nails done outside. Again, I was rather cold after a few minutes.
Honestly, I don’t think it is set up for a couple’s treatment so I’d recommend doing it solo or just taking turns.
The Room of Delights
So, what is all this about Josephine Baker?
Josephine Baker was an American dancer who took the world by storm in a little banana skirt. There was a particular love for her in France and it became her adopted home. She embraced the praise and ran with it, using her fame to fuel her activism and support for equal rights. Oh, and don’t forget the time she helped the French resistance in WWII! In fact, it was her work in World War II that brought her to Morocco. The Pashah of Marrakesh invited her to come and live in Marrakesh and continue her important resistance activities. It was Riad Star that was her home.
If you are planning to stay at Riad Star, here is some information you might like to know:
- For the best rates and to see her sister Riads, check out the Riad Star website.
- Download the app here for an easy way to view your reservation and book extras. It also has super helpful offline maps of the medina.
- Riad Star offers some great extras like a local mobile phone to borrow during your stay,
- Riad Star is a host for a bi-annual storytelling festival which is a traditional art form in Morocco.
Final Thoughts for Our Riad Star Review
There’s just something about Riad Star. The intricate white stucco that rises from the dining space, the cooling presence of the pool, the unwaveringly polite staff….I don’t know, but it has such a lovely atmosphere. It really is an oasis of calm and a super place to stay during a visit to Morocco.