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.
- 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