My friend Amy and I have been stationed in Germany for the past 3 years, and we wanted to make one last vacation before we return to the US next week. We were originally going to stay in a hotel outside of the medina but we decided to go with the Riad Joya at the last minute, and we were both glad we did.
Day 1: The Riad was wonderful in every way. A stay here includes an airport transfer, which went without a hitch. As others have mentioned, it's a bit of a walk from where the car drops you and the entrance to the Riad. There were no concerns for us about getting lost though - Noureddine met us at the car drop-off, had a porter grab our suitcases for us, and showed us the way to the Riad. He was extremely helpful and informative even in this first meeting, telling us a bit about the area we were passing through and showing us some landmarks as we went. Once we arrived at the Riad we were given Moroccan tea and pastries while our belongings were brought to our room.
As soon as we were ready we were brought to our room on the 2nd floor - a free upgrade from the room that we had originally booked. The room was lovely, with a king-sized bed, large couch-seating area, a writing desk in a little alcove, and the bathroom area. Bathrobes, very soft towels, slippers, and toiletries were all provided (shampoo and conditioner separate, instead of the usual cheap "conditioning shampoo" combo that you see most places). The shower itself had 2 attachments, either a sprayer that hooked into the wall or a rainfall attachment built into the ceiling. The water was plenty hot with good pressure. The bed was firm, but since this is very common everywhere in Europe Amy and I weren't bothered by it at all. Housekeeping did an excellent job, with fresh fruit and water replenished every time we returned to the room and candles lit before we returned in the evenings.
When we had freshened up and were ready to start seeing the area, Noureddine walked us to the main square, carefully pointing out landmarks along the way so that we could find our way back. He also pointed out a few things in the square (ATMs, that sort of thing), made sure we had his number if we needed anything, and wished us a pleasant day. We had a great day exploring the square and the souks in the side-streets, and when we returned to the Riad Noureddine booked a dinner for us at the local Cafe Arab (decent food, although not our favorite place that we ate while in Morocco). He also booked a trip for us to the Atlas mountains for the next day, despite the late notice. When we retured from dinner he was up waiting to make sure we made it back safely, something we noticed that he did every evening while we were there.
Day 2: Breakfast the next morning was very good - freshly-squeezed orange juice, Moroccan tea or coffee depending on our preference, bread, croissants, cheese and a variety or jams/spreads. We discovered the 2nd morning that we could have requested eggs as well if we'd wanted, but we were both happy with that was provided.
Our guide to the Atlas mountains, Balja, (I'm probably messing up the spelling, sorry!) also took us to Essaouira the day after, and was extremely knowledgeable and competent. We had a great time seeing one of the local Argan Oil coops, riding camels, and wandering through a town in the mountains.
When we returned that day, we wandered the souks again before eating dinner at the Riad. Noureddine and Mehdi recommended a lemon chicken tagine when we asked that morning, so that's what we went with. It was fantastic, made with fresh ingredients from the market that day, and the chicken was very moist. We had a bottle of local wine as well. This meal was a little pricey compared to other meals that we had during our stay, but it was delicious and worth doing at least once.
Day 3: Breakfast was as good as the first day, and we got an early start to Essaouira, a harbor town about 2.5 hours away. Balja stopped on the way so that we could take pictures with the goats in the argan trees, and when we arrived he showed us to a local fish market that catered less to tourists and more to the locals. With his recommendations we selected some fresh fish from the morning's catch and it was cooked on the spot for us. As simple as it was,this was probably our favorite meal of the trip. It cost about 300 dirham, which for 3 kg of fish is pretty cheap! After making sure we knew where we were in the town and where to meet him, Balja left us to our own devices for a few hours.
That evening we ate at another recommendation of Noureddine's. I don't actually remember the name of the place, but it's next to the Boulangerie up the street. Dinner there was good, although not as good as at the Riad. We met a lovely pair of friends from South Africa who worked in the Consulate, and got to enjoy some great conversation with people who have similar tastes and lifestyles (that sort of thing is the best part about travelling to a place like this, btw - don't be afraid to strike up random conversations with people around you!).
Day 4: The next morning we got in some last-minute shopping, then had couscous with a local carpet-seller that we had bought from the day prior - Palais les al Moravides. The shop was another recommendation by Noureddine, and we found it far superior to a cuple other places we had checked out in the main square and some of the souks. After couscous another porter loaded our bags while Mehdi and Noureddine showed us how to properly make Moroccan tea - definitely worth asking about even if you don't buy a tea set while you're there! Then another trip to the airport and the conclusion to our last vacation here.
All in all a wonderful stay - ask for recommendations on places to eat and shops to buy things at (we bought carpets and lanterns at places that Noureddine recommended, and tea sets at a place that a scarf-seller recommended - Haj Ahmed Chhaima in case ou're curious). Getting those recommendations helps find delicious food and better-quality gifts, instead of the standard cheap tourist fare. I would definitely stay at the Riad Joya again if I ever have a chance to revisit Marrakech!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Riad Joya is a luxury intimate retreat nestled in the very heart of the Medina of Marrakech in the historical and protected area of the Mouassine, just few steps from the Djemaa el Fna square, the main monuments, the souk and the most exciting attractions of the “red city”.A gem of timeless beauty and sophisticated atmosphere, where discrete luxury fuses with eclectic style.The property reflects the traditional architecture of the riads, built around a small courtyard which is an oasis of tranquility, and features two stylish salons and a panoramic roof terrace.The roof top is the best place to savor a sumptuous breakfast, unwind during the aperitif ritual or surprise the one you love with a romantic dinner under the stars. ... more less
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