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“Sometimes It's Better To Not Return To Something You Once Enjoyed ...”
3 of 5 bubbles Review of El Fenn

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El Fenn
Ranked #53 of 495 Hotels in Marrakech
Certificate of Excellence
London
Level Contributor
124 reviews
82 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 371 helpful votes
“Sometimes It's Better To Not Return To Something You Once Enjoyed ...”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 August 2012

I have really wrestled whether to write a review or not. The problem is that we didn't particularly enjoy our stay at the El Fenn, but Megan, who I understand part-time manages the riad is really excellent and personable and a mine of information. So to write a review and say anything that could be construed as negative about the riad feels like an attack on her. But, I only have good things to write about Megan and her assistance in every way.

A few years ago I wrote a rave review about the El Fenn, and maybe I had rose coloured spectacles, or perhaps things have changed? Certainly we now have a much bigger experience of what Marrakech has to offer, so we have a more informed broad opinion.

I suspect many people pick the El Fenn for the same reason I did a few years ago - they select it because it is linked with the Branson name and Virgin group. So people feel comfortable with that. However, I don't think there's that connection anymore? I've certainly heard a few people say "isn't the El Fenn under new management?"

One of the problems with going to Marrakech in the summer is that it is low season in Morocco, so this is the time you may not have access to all of the riad, and you may have to deal with some building work. We have now been at the El Fenn twice, and both times there have been issues with building work, and both times I've been woken up by banging far too early in the morning. I 100% understand that work needs to be done, but there are also paying guests around who are trying to get some peace away from their mad noisy lives - so any noisy work should at at least be kept to something like after 9.30 or 10am. Or am I asking for too much?

Now, this is a tricky one. The El Fenn now feels grubby. There are various fabric covered seating areas, and they are those same fabrics that were there a few years ago - and they feel grubby. There are books laying around the place, which is great, but they feel grubby. The riad is not dirty, people are always cleaning, the rooms are very clean, but it's time to change all those fabrics, especially up on the roof terrace, and perhaps keep all the books in the library after they've been cleaned. During our stay we dined a few minutes away at Maison MK and you feel the contrast - you're happy to sit down anywhere, it looks and feels clean, you don't want to constantly wash your hands. And then you go back to the El Fenn and just want to throw away all those grubby scratchy fabrics.

Sadly, a small note that further soured our stay. Many riads have don't have locks on the bedroom doors. At least the El Fenn has locks on the inside of the doors, but you cannot lock your door once you leave. This doesn't really bother us. However, at another riad a few years ago, the night before we left, we found something in our room had been tampered with while we were having dinner up on the terrace. And I am really sad to say that on our last morning at the El Fenn someone tampered with some of our belongings while we were up on the terrace having breakfast. Nothing was taken, but as soon as went back into the room it was clear a particular item had hastily been tampered with. So, from now on if I stay at any riads I've not been to before I will be asking if bedrooms can be locked. So I strongly advise the El Fenn and any other riad to seriously consider locks on both sides of the door. I really hate that on both occasions our belongings were tampered with when 'someone' knew we were on the premises eating, and they were less likely to be disturbed.

I do NOT want to put anyone off staying at the El Fenn. If it's your first time in Marrakech then you will probably enjoy it very much. It is in a good location, and truly, if Megan is around you would be hard pushed to find a better host. But if Megan had not been at the El Fenn during our stay we would have checked out early - she was the saving grace. Loved her.

There are some amazing riads in Marrakech, and right now the El Fenn is not at the top of its game. It needs to get back on track - I hope it does. And if you are going to Marrakech I absolutely believe you should try and stay at two or three riads and get a bigger impression of what the Medina has to offer. We are not interested in the touristy souk or the main square, Jemaa el Fna, at all. But every year, once or twice, we return to Marrakech to experience the riads because they are all so varied and give different experiences. But for now the Riad El Fenn will be taken off the 'must return' list.

.

Room Tip: Ask if there are any building works going on, and get a room far away from them.
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  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank Serial_Traveller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
willemsmit2011, General Manager at El Fenn, responded to this review, 19 August 2012
dear sir | madam, we greatly appreciate your time and effort to provide us with your feedback.

It is good to hear Megan has been such a wonderful host. She joined our team a few months ago, indeed on a part time basis, as she is a professional writer. After staying at El Fenn as our guests she joined El Fenn and besides doing a great job, she is also a great colleague to work with.

Riad El Fenn was co created 10 years ago by Vanessa Branson and she has been the owner ever since together with Howell James. During those years El Fenn has been extended from the original 6 rooms to the current 20 at El Fenn and 4 at Riad Vanessa. Rafik and I joined on the day exactly a year ago and have been managing it since.

The summer is indeed very different from the rest of the year. Because of the heat and ramadan it is low season. We therefore used this period to create a new entrance to our restaurant, and repainted our spa. We are very sorry to hear this has troubled your stay and do sincerely apologize. Perhaps good to know: the next construction will be our kitchen and will probably take place next summer. As we are learning from this, we will communicate this (as soon as the period has been finalized) when a reservation inquiry is made. We will also post it on our website and other social media.

In the last year we went through the riad with 'a dust brush' and most rooms have been repainted and all the fabrics in the courtyard have been changed over the last 3 months. The Kelims on the roof terrace are indeed always a challenge and are normally changed every 3 months as the sun completely wears them out. We decided to take it over the summer this time and should have known better as there is a thin line between shabby and chique. We also agree the books feel a bit grubby and besides Vanessa is taking out a whole new lot, we will take your advice and keep them in the library.

Our top priority is the well being of our guests of which safety and security is number 1. To ensure this we employ, on a 24-hours basis, a professional security company to guard over you and your belongings. We are therefore very pleased this has so far not let to any issues.

Last but least; we do hope you will return to El Fenn, which you enjoyed once and we hope you will be able to experience we did put your valued feedback into actions.

warm regards, Willem
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
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English first
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 August 2012

This place is the closest to paradise I have ever experienced! I've stayed in Marrakech riads many many times, but this by far excelled the rest.... The special touches made all the difference, like coffee and pastries left outside your room in the mornings, that you can eat anywhere you choose in the riad, the wonderfully staff... It was spotlessly clean, and a joy to aimlessly wander around looking at the works of art!
We stayed in the pool suite, room 14 I think? Because it was my birthday, and I was spoiled rotton! This room is ranked as one as the most romantic in the world, and WOW!! It was soo special, we didn't want to leave it, of an evening the staff would light lanterns all round the roof, overlooking the mosque! Can't wait can't wait to go back.... Highly recommend this place, you won't be diss appointed!

  • Stayed June 2012
    • Value
    • Location
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
2 Thank Stevensboot
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
willemsmit2011, General Manager at El Fenn, responded to this review, 19 August 2012
Dear Steven,

thank you so much for your very kind words and the time and effort taken to share this. We indeed hope to see you back soon as our guests at Riad El Fenn,

warm regards, team El Fenn
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 August 2012

Went down to Marrakech to switch off and relax....and I could not have chosen a better spot to do so then Riad El Fenn. Staff was there to meet me at the airport and just made my relaxing break start right there. Arriving at the riad I was taken up to my room with it's own private terrace - literally just magical as I could already see myself read my books there. The riad is full of funky art and beautiful pieces of furniture/fittings you find literally in every corner. The other guests were of the type you wish for...they're there but yet they aren't. Although in the bar/restaurant they guarantee such a great and lively atmosphere. When I walked back to my room I however left the buzz all behind and retreated to my own little world.

The management and staff are friendly, efficient and full off ideas when it comes to how to spend the day in Marrakech or in the mountains - the latter I haven't done this time around as my stay was too short....but I have already planned to go back in November when the weather is no doubt slightly better (i.e. cooler) to venture out during the day.

Just amazing....so thank you all!

Room Tip: My advise would be to speak to the check in staff before traveling down or upon arrival and just dis...
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  • Stayed August 2012, travelled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Larry C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
willemsmit2011, General Manager at El Fenn, responded to this review, 19 August 2012
Dear Larry,

Thank you for taking the time & effort to share your experience with us. It is always wonderful having you as our guest and we indeed hope to see you coming November!

warm regards, the El Fenn team
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London, United Kingdom
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 August 2012

I keep going back to Riad el Fenn. Maybe it's the art or the perfect setting inside the old city, but what really stands out is the personalised service. Although it is has expanded into a luxurious "super-riad", it has never lost its charm and feels like home every time I walk through the front door. I intend on continuing to be a frequent guest and it is the only place I'd recommend to stay in Marrakech for a truly exceptional experience.

  • Stayed May 2012
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Elundgren
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
willemsmit2011, General Manager at El Fenn, responded to this review, 19 August 2012
Thank you for your warm words! best, willem
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Raleigh
Level Contributor
39 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 11 August 2012

I traveled with friends, and the staff made every effort to ensure our time in Marrakech was stellar. From the morning coffee and tea outside your door to afternoon tea and sweets in the verdant courtyard, you are made to feel honored and welcome. Great staff all around, and they will connect you with whatever day trips and experiences you are interested in... each booking with a reputable and professional service. Above and beyond any expectation for attentive, respectful and thoughtful service. The rooms and open spaces are simply gorgeous, and the location perfect for seeing all aspects of the Medina on foot. If you are there for a time, the limited lunch and dinner menu and same breakfast daily is a drawback. In all, highly recommended.

  • Stayed July 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank MRTebo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
willemsmit2011, General Manager at El Fenn, responded to this review, 17 August 2012
Thank you so much for your great review and feedback. Good to hear you enjoyed the recommendations made.

We absolutely do agree we need to bring more variety to our served menu's so we are doing our homework; the last 2 weeks a separate entrance has been created to the restaurant, which will be opened to the public in September. We then start serving a daily changing menu.

Furthermore an open kitchen is being created on the roof to serve our guest an 'a la carte' breakfast.

Again thank you for your wonderful feedback and we hope to see you back soon!

warm regards, willem
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London
Level Contributor
12 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 August 2012

There's one huge problem with Riad El Fenn, it's just so difficult leave. Once you step through the door of the riad the fast speed of modern life slips away and you find yourself embracing the mellow pace of Riad El Fenn.

The Riad is beautiful. Luscious greenery, sunny spots for sun bathing and quiet nooks for relaxing can be found through-out. The charm of the building is matched by the charm of the staff. Nothing was too much for them and it felt more like being welcomed into someone's home rather then staying in a commercial hotel.

For me, the highlight was taking a cooking class with the Chef. We visited the local food market, saw him haggle and left with the ingredients to make his mum's recipe for lamb and quince tagine. Back in the kitchen it was fun to watch him work, get involved and see the kitchen staff in action. Best of all the food tasted fantastic.

  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank joannamarie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
willemsmit2011, General Manager at El Fenn, responded to this review, 17 August 2012
dear joanna, thank you so much for the wonderful feedback. It was great having you as our guest and you made Hafid, our Chef, his day.

Hope to have you as our guest again soon! warm regards, willem
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LONDON
Level Contributor
32 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 August 2012 via mobile

Stayed for 3 nights we were fortunate enough to have room 14 one of the suites!! Excellent room. Food was amazing only tgd breakfast was limited n the same each day!!! The spa was under renovation so cannot comment. Service was a little slow at times but executed well b friendly!! Will stay again. Location perfect!!

  • Stayed July 2012
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank AMARAKA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
willemsmit2011, General Manager at El Fenn, responded to this review, 17 August 2012
Thank you so much for your wonderful review and feedback. We are so pleased you enjoyed room 14 as we just redid it!

Spa has now a beautiful turquoise colour and a new spa menu. Concerning breakfast, it was good you pointed out the limited breakfast selection. We are currently creating an open kitchen at the roof to be able to start serving an la carte breakfast.

Thanks again for your kindness and time and we hope to see you soon so you can check out the alterations.

warm regards, willem
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Additional Information about El Fenn

Property: El Fenn
Address: Derb Moullay Abdullah Ben Hezzian | Bab el Ksour, Medina, Marrakech, Morocco
Phone Number:
Region: Morocco > Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz Region > Marrakech
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#15 Business Hotel in Marrakech
#16 Family Hotel in Marrakech
#28 Spa Hotel in Marrakech
#30 Romantic Hotel in Marrakech
#36 Luxury Hotel in Marrakech
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): £££
Hotel Class:4.5 star — El Fenn 4.5*
Number of rooms: 20
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Special Offer From 11/05/ 2016 to 31/08/2016 DIRECT BOOKING OFFER We assure that you'll always get the best rate available when you book directly with us. Whether you book online or by email, our team are on hand to answer all your questions from pre-booking to check-in and even after you're gone. With 20 individually styled rooms and suites, a four-bedroom private riad, 3 swimming pools and its own hammam spa, El Fenn is a unique boutique hotel combining grandeur and historic architecture with hideaway nooks, terraces and gardens - making it the most peaceful place from which to enjoy Africa's most exotic city.Our story began with two friends on the hunt for a small riad to buy as a holiday home. It was 2002 when Vanessa Branson and Howell James walked into the almost ruined courtyard of one of Marrakech's formerly great private homes. Nearing dusk and with the sound of the muezzin's call to prayer echoing in the air, they instantly fell in love with the atmospheric house which was being sold with three smaller neighbouring homes. They soon realised that their holiday home was going to become so much more.At the time, only a handful of Marrakech's riads had been converted to small hotels and Vanessa and Howell knew they wanted to open a place offering something different - a home from home retreat that combined great food and service with the spirit of the building's past and a contemporary decorative twist. During a two-year renovation, local craftsman used traditional techniques to breathe new life into the building. Polished lime plastering was used in a rainbow of colours to create walls, baths and bed frames, original tiling was renovated and carved cedar ceilings restored. Retro furniture sourced from local flea markets was combined with one-off bespoke pieces to create a unique interior. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Riad El Fenn Marrakech
Riad El Fenn Hotel Marrakech

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