The word “riad” (Arabic: رياض) comes from the Arabic plural of “garden” (rawd), in Morocco in particular it indicates a form of traditional dwelling, built around a garden or an internal courtyard. In recent years, many of these houses have been restored and transformed into accommodation for tourists: the riad is now internationally known as a typical Moroccan hospitable structure.
So how are these “riads” made? What are the differences compared to a normal hotel? Below we will try to explain in a simple way what are the characteristics and the charm of the riad, together with the differences between the riad and the hotel.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MOROCCAN RIAD
In the building there is a garden or an internal courtyard
It is possible to live the unique experience of staying in a typical traditional Moroccan house, in a historic building with an internal courtyard. The courtyard is located in the center of the building and is a pleasant space to relax, often enriched by the presence of a large number of plants, flowers and fountains.
It is located in the medina (historical center of the city)
The riad is a form of traditional Moroccan spontaneous architecture, born in the city, which is why it is usually located in the medina. Undoubtedly it deserves to be considered by those interested in traditional culture and architecture.
The property is quite small
Initially, all riads were private houses of various sizes with rooms that developed around the courtyard. Nowadays, however, they are relatively small hotels (usually 4 to 9 rooms).
The relationship with the staff is very close
Since the structure is small, the owner himself can meet you at the front door. Compared to the hotel, the riad is a place where you can feel at home and receive warm hospitality. Often the staff of the riad is available to provide tourist information and “tips” on how to move through the narrow streets of the Medina, with courtesy.
The riad sometimes has an international flavor
As sometimes happens, the revaluation of the riad is partly due to the rediscovery intervention by foreigners: the old palaces of the Medina have been valued mainly by Europeans, in particular by the French, which is why the riad often has a taste international, consisting of a sort of mixture between Morocco and Europe.
There are numerous luxury riads
Having been originally built as a mansion, the riad already has a great architectural value in itself, which has been further enriched by the fusion with modern comfort.
It is not possible to find a riad in all areas of Morocco
The cities in which it is possible to stay in a riad are limited in number: the prezenza of the riad is a characteristic of the historic city with great urban and architectural value. There are numerous riads in cities that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Marrakech and Fes.
ASPECTS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT IF YOU WANT TO STAY IN A RIAD
It is not always easy to reach the riad
The riad is like a common home: there are not always signs outside the building. Contrary to what happens for the hotel, it is possible that a taxi driver will not be able to get to the front door and finds himself in difficulty if he is only told the name of the riad: it would therefore be necessary to have the precise address.
There is no division into categories
It is not easy to understand the level of a riad, since there is no star rating used for hotels. They have a first or second class classification issued by the bodies responsible for issuing the operating license: first class riads usually have the swimming pool and the wellness center (hammam and massage area). Sleeping in a riad can be an unforgettable experience if you choose a characteristic and stylish one.
It is not said that the service is completely dedicated to comfort
Even if the building is beautiful, you cannot always expect a service that matches a hotel. For those looking for absolute comfort and modernity, a hotel in the new area, outside the medina, would probably be more appropriate.
Each riad has a unique style
The style of the riad can be very varied depending on the taste of the owner. It is advisable to consult images, location, guest reviews, etc. when making your choice.