At the risk simply repeating the previous reviews Riad El Mansour is definitely more than well deserved of the ‘tripadvisor’ award it proudly displays in the lobby. Not only for the quality of the accommodation and board, which is exceptional in itself, but mostly for the excellent staff looking after you and you’re every need during your stay. It does actually feel like a home from home.
The Riad is sited down some smaller alleys in a very local area in the North West of the Medina not far from the city gate of Bab Moussoufa on Rue el Gaza and the big black door at the end of the alley system hides the oasis that is the Riad el Mansour.
You could easily spend all your time in the Riad if you were just seeking a relaxing few days, with its sun terrace, on site hamman and in house dining but then you’d completely miss the fun in negotiating the old town streets, alleys and souks and the rest that Marrakech has to offer.
The local streets and alleys can seem very confusing at first but it takes little time to orientate yourself and with the help of a local map (supplied by the Riad) and Abdess the Day Managers initial help it is reasonably simple to find your way around and down into the maze of backstreets and alleyways to the main square of Jamaa El Fna and the city highlights
We found that walking was by far the easier way to negotiate the old town and it is only a 10 – 15 minute walk to the Main Square and approx 25 – 30 minutes to completely cross the old town to the South and reach the El Badi Palace. That way you get to take in the sights, sounds and smells that are part of everyday life.
Initially the streets can seem very intimidating especially at night – but as Abdess ensures you they are perfectly safe and we wandered back most evenings quite late after eating in town and didn’t even give it a second thought after the first night. The biggest danger is the abundance of mopeds and bicycles that share some of the smaller streets and alleys with the pedestrians – even the crowded souks. Be assured they will miss you as long as you continue in the same direction – the best tip is not to step sideways or turn suddenly without checking over your shoulder first
The Riad can provide evening meals provided you order in the morning and the one meal we ate there was, as somebody already reviewed, one of the best we had during our 4 night stay. Be warned the food is great but the portions can be a bit on the large side with the pastillas and the house dessert being easily enough for 2 (if not 4) by themselves.
Abdess will recommend places to eat and pre book for you in advance generally steering you away from the ‘set menu’ dining establishments - as most of the guide books state that these can be a bit excessive in quantity as well as price.
We generally ate in the old town but there are also a number of establishments outside the city walls especially in the new town that looked promising. Top tip to get Abdess to book as most of the decent places get very booked up and don’t generally have room for passing trade.
Café Arabe – Moroccan/Italian 10 – 15 minutes walk. Great cocktails made with a lot of care in the bar before (even better as they didn’t find there way on to the bill) and a great ambience
El Marrakchi – Moroccan a little further 15 -20 minutes on the NE and over looking the square. Nice ambience and reasonable food – although a little dark. Music and belly dancing upstairs.
La Tajia – Moroccan/Italian furthest away and a good 30 minute walk through the square and to the South (near El Badi) but broken by a visit to the square both ways makes a good night out. Live music and dinner around the central courtyard open to the stars in good weather.
There are also plenty of places for lunch around the square – most with upstairs terraces overlooking the square and in and around the souks. The Art Café was a good stop off for lunch and better value than places immediately on the square.
Check out La Stylia – if you can find it and amazing setting tucked away in the middle of nowhere – we never ate there but supposed to be good for fish lovers and an amazing authentic dining room in a i6th century manor house. It takes some finding but they are more than welcome to show you the splendid dining area.
There is enough to do for 2 – 3 days visiting the sites in town. We got 48hr tickets on the tour bus that enabled us to pick up a number of the sights the same day and cut down on a lot of the walking.
El Badi Palace is worth a visit if only to see some of the storks nests precariously balanced on some of the ramparts. Only 10 dhms entrance fee but check opening times as its shut for a long lunch. Top tip turn left and left again as soon as you enter to beat the crowd to the upper terrace where there is a good opportunity to get some good pictures of the palace with the snow capped mountains as a backdrop before the rest of the crowd arrives.
Jardin Majorelle to spend some time in the picturesque and relaxing gardens. Top tip its open from 0800 and only 10 minute walk from the Riad and it can get crowded with day trippers so visit early to get some good pictures.
The Souks are best discovered by yourselves and worth at least an afternoon just getting lost and discovering alleys and squares that don’t appear on any maps, plenty of opportunity to buy almost anything but be prepared to haggle very hard to get a bargain. The ones nearer the square stay open later at night – some still open till 10pm. Very relaxed and no where near as pushy as they can be in other Arab countries
Jamaa El Fna – visit at different times of day and the scene will always be different from the juice, fruit stands and snake charmers during the day to the food stalls and other entertainment late into the night. Definitely try the fresh orange juice and if feeling more adventurous eat at one of the evening stalls anything from snails, sheep heads to the more ordinary fried fish and kebabs. As one of the stalls proclaimed “not just food, but M& S food at Asda prices”
Take advantage of the bus ticket and take the ‘blue’ route around the Palmeria. It’s a more limited service than the standard ‘red’ route so check times. Good views of the golf course and some of the more affluent dwelling and resorts as well as the palm forest itself. Stop off and have the camel ride experience if it takes your fancy.
Definitely take a trip to the Oirika Valley in the Atlas Mountains if your time permits. It can be organised through the Riad for a driver and guide when you get there. Some of the reviewers advised against having a guide. However whilst the route up to the first large waterfall can probably be found, the ‘upper’ route on the way back would be next to impossible (and unsafe) without a guide and there are even more spectacular views of the falls and mountains on the way back. Wear good hiking boots/trainers it’s a bit of a scrabble up and crossings over make shift bridges and stepping stones can lead to wet feet. It can seem a bit pricey at 400 dhms/head for the trip and a further 400dhms (per party) for the guide but over a two hour trek through some remarkable scenery and well worth it. You will need a reasonable head for heights and sense of balance, especially for the long route back as it does involve a short vertical climb once past the cafe (although plenty of help is at hand for a push and a pull). Even then you will pass the obligatory gift stall on the way back.
If by chance you do get lost most of the routes head back towards the square and start again. Take the NW exit from the square between the plant sellers and the fruit stalls, through the arch in the left corner of the smaller square and follow your nose straight, past the Art Café a little jink at ‘demented donkey corner’ another little jink at the mosque stained glass door, straight past Café Arabe right at the end left at the two old guys playing checkers bear left at the foot lathes and carry straight on for about 500yds then left after the snail seller and before the cows head shop then right after the goats trotter seller and follow the alley around to the right till you reach the big black door – easy really.
A fantastic few days made even better by the staff at Riad El Mansour and a special mention to Mustapha, Abdess,Wadia, Latifa and the rest of the staff that made the stay that extra bit special.
Would definitely recommend to anyone.
PS It’s also owned by a Brit – so at least you can get a decent cup of tea.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- 6 bedroom hotel ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Riad El Mansour Marrakech
- Riad El Mansour Hotel Marrakech