Beyond the bustling, serpentine streets of the souks, tucked away down an assuming alley, is a riad so peaceful, built with such ardor and resplendent care, that one could easily forget that they are sitting in the centre of one of the busiest markets in the world. Riad Spice, the latest addition to the string of riads owned and lovingly restored by Mike and Lucie, is an impeccable example of what can be achieved when a hotel is built and run with a genuine care and consideration towards the guest’s experience.
Upon arrival at Riad Spice, I was greeted by Zouhair, the riad guardian. He advised that I download the Riad app, a measure that I cannot recommend enough. If, like me, you’re prone to falling into misadventure abroad, then this app will no doubt prevent and/or rectify any scrapes that may befall you. As the app has some functionality offline, you can use it as a GPS to get you back to your hotel, however lost you may be. It also contains a comprehensive guide to haggling with the sonorous souk salesmen, something you definitely need to read up on if you’ve not experienced this before.
Similar to the rest of the buildings under the care of Mike and Lucie, Riad Spice is a series of rooms built around an open air courtyard featuring a crystalline pool beset with glimmering LED’s that twinkle at night. Sadly, despite realising that a picture in the pool, whilst the lights flicker in their ethereal glory would no doubt garner one of the finest Instagram photos I’ve ever posted in my life, I didn’t have anyone with me who was willing to hang over the balcony with a camera at 5 in the morning. Should one of you dear readers capture this ‘Gram of a lifetime and be propelled to fame and fortune, please don’t forget my royalty cheque. In all seriousness though, cultural, gastronomical, and adventure points aside, if you’re one of the many who dabble in travel and lifestyle photography, then Riad Spice has character in spades. Every detail, from the kingly wooden carved doors to the patina of the window latches, is quietly beautiful and utterly photogenic. I could have spent a week photographing the details alone, all of which are testament to, and evidence of, the 8 years spent restoring the building to its former glory.
Once I was settled into my room, a stunning suite that opened out onto the roof terrace, I decided to venture out and explore the souks. Although my initial plan to win over anyone and everyone by walking around like I owned the place and acting like I was going to faint in horror when a trader offered their first price, did work for a little while, these guys are good. Really good. They know you know their strategy, and they know how to outsmart you. Haggling is like being drawn into an improv sketch in a comedy club: you’ve got to hold your nerve, make people laugh, and you know you’re definitely not drunk enough to be doing this right. But, boy, is it satisfying. Yes, you may get the odd trader who is abrupt or has no time for shenanigans, but you must remember that this is their livelihood, and that sale you’re trying to barter down to the bare minimum could be what feeds their children that night. Whatever the outcome, the souks can be exhausting, and you will be glad to return to the blithe serenity of the riad afterwards.
Dinner that evening was served under the stars, up on the roof terrace. Now, I’m primarily a food writer: I get to eat and work in some incredible restaurants, but I have never experienced anywhere that lauds such care and attention upon the dining experience as well as the quality of food itself. Dish after dish was brought out to us, drinks refilled before we could even think to ask for them ourselves. A separate tagine was prepared especially for me to accommodate my allergies, and I wasn’t made to feel awkward for requesting this. This level of care and attentiveness meant that the dinner conversation could flow freely, no pauses to request condiments or waiting for used dishes to be whisked away. What this created was a dining experience that you just don’t get or expect in the vast majority of restaurants, never mind hotels. Being the esurient monster that I am, I happily gobbled my way through several delicious courses before stumbling back to my room for the best night’s sleep I’d had in the longest time.
The rooms at Riad Spice are impeccable: featuring intricately carved walls and bucolic wooden furnishings, this hotel is luxuriously comforting without trying too hard. There is an air of serenity, of safety, a feeling that you have arrived home. Doors are left unlocked and you are free to enjoy the building without interruption. Although there are staff on hand, you don’t feel like a guest, you feel like you live here (well, either that, or I’ve just reached a point where I’m taking liberties and have lost all sense of social boundaries). Joking aside, time stands still here, and despite the excitement and hustle and bustle that lies beyond the riad walls, the temptation to remain within is pretty strong.
Breakfast at Riad Spice is a similarly relaxed affair, you simply let the staff know when you are ready to eat and they will prepare it for you. I was up quite early, due to the laudation of prayer echoing across the rooftops as the sun began to rise. Whatever your religious persuasion, there is something beautiful and quite moving about the voices reaching high above the minarets as the sky turns burnished ochre. Rather than clamber back into bed, I decided to stay out on the terrace and watch the birds flock overhead until it was time to eat. Plus, the sunrise over Marrakech is remarkable, and there was no way I was going to miss out on a photo opportunity like that…
Why stay at Riad Spice:
Guys, I honestly cannot think of any reason why not. Riad Spice doesn’t feel like anywhere else I’ve ever stayed. It’s a home from home, somewhere you can be at ease. There is something special about the place that I just can’t put my finger on, all I know is this is somewhere everyone should try at some point in their life time. The owners have a strong social conscience, they set up the non-profit Henna Cafe to help local women into employment. The Instragram possibilities are endless. They have an incredible cookery school at their sister hotel, Riad Star. The food is off the scale delicious. The souks are hilarious. It’s a only a short journey from the airport. I could go on all night about this place. If you have any reservations about booking, please don’t. I cannot think of any way in which this beautiful hotel could ever disappoint you.
Rooms cost from £128 per night including a delicious breakfast served on request. Guests can also enjoy the facilities at nearby sister property, Riad Star, including a hammam, spa and cookery school. You can book direct online at the Marrakech Riad website, https://riadspice.com/
Flights from the UK are plentiful and well priced. Ryanair currently have return flights to Marrakech from Manchester for £16.99 each way this December.
You can find an abundance of information about the properties on their free app, “Marrakech Riad Travel Guide” available on Google Play and the Apple Store.