After a long wait to pass through customs - coupled with slight anxiety over the fact that I'd miscalculated the number of months left on my passport - 6 are needed to enter Morocco, mine was three weeks short (but I don't think they noticed) - we were met by a car sent by Riad El Mansour and treated to one of the fastest taxi rides we've ever experienced - until, of course, we arrived in the centre and the traffic was jammed solid.
Eventually we parked and we were taken for a 100-yard walk along a narrow lane (that buzzed with mopeds), passing fruit stalls, butchers (live animals) and blacksmiths - all in small shops adjacent to one-another - leading to an even narrower, unmade-up alley with people sitting on their front doorsteps; donkey carts and construction workers, all in close proximity to one-another. After a couple of hundred yards we wound up at an ornate black door, opening into Riad El Mansour, a small oasis of peace and tranquillity.
Riad El Mansour is beautifully appointed, tastefully furnished and is decorated with traditional metalwork and some wood ceilings. We stayed in the suite for six nights. Sadly we had a couple of problems while we were there - the first was a smelly bathroom, which turned out to be a broken joint to the rear of the toilet (fixed within 48 hours). The second issue was the lack of hot water for a couple of days due to a faulty pump. Robert the owner was there and made sure that that was fixed quickly, although it broke his heart when he heard the price. Apparently plumbers are expensive in Morocco as well as the UK.
The good thing about my reporting this here, is that it's now very unlikely that future visitors will experience the same problems. Yes it was very annoying when it happened to us, but there wasn't much more that the Riad could have done in order to make our stay comfortable again.
The Morocco experience was a little intimidating at first, even though I'm 6'5". I think it was the sheer pace of everything, especially in the lanes that you have to walk through to get to the road (and footpath) to the main square. It felt like we had mopeds coming at us from all directions, all narrowly avoiding collision with us and with passing donkey carts and cars/delivery vans. The place felt totally mental and overwhelming and it took a few days to realise that nobody was being hit by anything - we saw no accidents. It seems that the average Moroccan's spacial awareness is vastly superior to mine and, I guess, that of most Europeans who are used to maintaining a 'safe distance' from other vehicles, and who wouldn't contemplate driving at 30mph within touching distance of children, elderly people and donkey carts. I said to the driver who returned us to the airport after our holiday, 'you're an F1 driver', which he loved and acknowledged by thanking me for the comment.
We ate a couple of times at the Riad - both occasions the meal and service were excellent and the terrace very romantic. Another highlight was the massage - we've travelled the world and I've never had better. I think the lady's name is Mezzi. She's an absolute star.
On leaving early in the morning we met three of the staff standing at their doors - I hadn't realised until then that they were nearby residents. I'm not sure if it was coincidence that they were there, but it was very nice to have them see us off in that way.
The Riad arranged a trip for us up the Atlas Mountains. On the way there we were taken by our guide to a Berber house, (cows living indoors etc.) and fed bread and honey. I made the mistake of eating the butter (which in fairness looked dodgy), thinking I'd cope - but I didn't. I paid the price for the rest of that day and the following day. DON'T EAT THE BUTTER!
- 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