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Historical Traveler Reviews Riad Hayati Marrakech
Complete with a Canary
This was our first visit to Marrakech and our stay at Riad Hayati complemented it in so many ways. From the hustle and bustle of the Souks (about 5 mins walk away) we found peace and relaxation in the Riad. Everything was made so easy for us, the Riad offers guides for trips to the Souks, tips on restaurants, tea whenever we wanted, gorgeous home-cooked local cuisine, beautiful rooms, warm hospitality and charm all provided with light background music and a tweeting canary in the corner of the open courtyard.
We must have spent as much time in the Riad as we did discovering the sights and wonders of Marrakech, just relaxing on the roof terrace until the sun set.
We have travelled to and stayed in many places around the world and Riad Hayati is defintely one of our favourites. Its individual understated elegance and style beats the "glitz" of the big hotels in the new town of Marrakech. Although it is close enough in location (about a 10 minute taxi ride) if you fancy a night out in the new town.
I have recommened Riad Hayati to all my friends and I will certainly be booking myself there for my next visit to Marrakech.
How to Enjoy a Shopping Trip with your Wife....
For some years now I have tried to make significant wedding anniversaries 'special' by planning memorable trips away with my wife, Emma. We started gently at the 5 year point with a visit to the Park ...Central Park in New York, progressing at 10 years to a night at the Opera...the State Opera in Vienna, through to a 15 year celebration to see a Flower Show.... Monet's Waterlillies in the Orangerie in Paris. So here we are this year at our 20th Anniversary, and I was in need of another interesting trip that will delight and guarantee me enough Brownie points to see me through the next 5 years...
My choice of location this year was influenced greatly by a great adventure that I embarked on at the turn of the year, driving 4,400 miles from York to Banjul, the capital of the Gambia as part of the Plymouth to Banjul Challenge, a madcap Charity Rally that follows the Paris Dakar route across the Sahara. Due to our 'scenic' route across Morocco via Fes, we had missed Marrakech and I had gaily promised Emma on my return that I would take her there some day. Since there's no time like the present, I therefore quietly organised a "shopping trip" for her in the Souks of Marrakech for our wedding anniversary. She had previously told me that if she went shopping then she wanted female company so I scouted out her favourite friends to accompany her... with their husbands as 'counterweight company' and guardians of the traveller's cheques of course.
After a restful night in the Gatwick Hilton - a mere 400 metre covered walk from bedroom to check-in desk, we left on an early morning EasyJet flight that saw us into a taxi on the outskirts of Marrakech by 1015 on Friday morning. We wove our way through narrow cobbled streets, flanked by high mud-brick walls to our Riad in the northern part of the Medina, some 500 metres from Jemal El Fna, the main piazza in Marrakech and a wonderful ever-changing scene of varied people and colourful, noisy activity.
Owned by an experienced Arabist who heads the Middle Eastern division of CNN, Riad Hayati, was a haven from the exciting, but constant, hustle and bustle of Marrakech. We were met by Abdel, our resident houseboy and Mina the chef who looked after us marvellously over the following three days with a seemingly effortless charm. We emerged from a hot, dusty and inconsequential street into a cool white courtyard, where rose petals floated and trickled off a Damascene fountain into a cool reflecting pool. A banana tree rose from a corner of the courtyard, throwing a vivid splash of colour against the white walls and leading the eye past a black wrought iron balustrade round a first floor landing to the blue sky above. Our rooms were equally tasteful, with white tulle elegantly draped over a four poster bed with (what certainly felt like) Egyptian cotton sheets offset at the far end of the room a deep-set tadelakt plaster bath that proved sumptuous for wallowing in to cool off after a prolonged visit to the souks and alleyways of the Medina. The finishing touch was the addition of a celebratory bottle of champagne, gratis of our host, who was aware of the occasion behind our visit.
After a light lunch, and a sufficiency of an excellent chilled Moroccan Rose, it proved too hot to do anything other than take a siesta and we re-met in the pavilion on the roof terrace for a refreshing cup of afternoon tea prior to our evening sortie into 'real' Marrakech. Jemal El Fna is an 'ocean of activity' that comes alive after about 7pm with a profusion of engaging storytellers, acrobats, herbalists enrobed in vivid blue Mauritanian djelaba or blue turbaned Tuareg up from the deserts of southern Morocco with dried lizard skins, ostrich feathers and eggs and all kinds of remedy and quackery. Brightly lit fresh orange juice sellers line the edges of the square, handing across the territory to rows and rows of freshly cooked kebabs, spiced soups, couscous and, surprisingly enough, steamed snails; Berber women offer Henna tattoos, young boys with massive 16 ounce gloves face up in organized boxing matches, and a veritable potpourri of people of all colours, races, ages and dress. East meets West and Northern Africa meets Southern Africa in Jemal El Fna. King Mohammed V1 has been very active in promoting Morocco as a safe place for western tourists and it seems to be working. Tourist Police, both in uniform and in mufti, patrol the alleyways of the Souk, and the main square and though you might get the odd 'expression of interest' on your bottom in the close pressings of the crowd, one never feels oppressed, hassled or threatened. One should be naturally cautious about purses, wallets and open displays of wealth of course, but there is a great atmosphere of fun, novelty and variety that would be hard to rival anywhere in the world. We retired to a late dinner in the Riad - literally a stones throw from JEF in the centre of the Medina, and a delicious tagine washed down by another major hit on our host's wine cellar. Peace and quiet of the Riad at night was most surprising considering we were in the centre of an established city of 1.3 million people. Perhaps it was the design of old city, with no cars where the main form of transport is by foot, bicycle or moped, but it was remarkably quiet.
Saturday morning saw a late breakfast of fresh pancakes and strong coffee before our guide Abdullah and a grand taxi, arranged by Abdel of course, arrived to deliver us into the Souk for our major shopping and sightseeing foray. We rode to the northern end of the Souks that run down through the centre of the Medina towards the main piazza of Jemal El Fna. Souks are like ancient shopping malls, divided naturally by produce and living areas of resident artisans. A metal workers' area produces a colourful array of lanterns, intricate metal fretwork, brassware and every sort of knick knack you can imagine. Young teenagers sit cross-legged metal bashing, cutting, polishing, and staring back with curious, yet hollow, deep brown eyes. At the top of the metal working tree squat the welders incongruously clad in everyday clothes with only a white rag and sunglasses to protect them from the glare and sparks of the torch. The noise of the metal working is soon lost as we weave through alleys, past the centuries old Caravan Serai where Kate Winslet camped in 'Hideous Kinky' through the dyers' and potters' section to the leather workers' arcade of shoes. Yellow, pointy-toed, babouche slippers call 'buy me - buy me' from every narrow doorway and, to quote the dry wit of the excellent Time Out Marrakech guide, become an obligatory purchase to be offered in lieu of departure tax at Marrakech Airport ! Our girls plunged wholeheartedly into the shopping experience embracing the idea that haggling is all part of the experience. For the faint-hearted, remember the classic Monty Python sketch from Life of Brian, immerse yourself totally in the experience and you will find great humour, great fun and - if you are cheeky enough - great bargains. We toured the carpet co-operative and escaped, despite their polished and well practised sales technique, rug-free to the Herbalist. Here were treated to an exposition of various herbs and spices, most of which proved too tempting to our practised shoppers to ignore and our home-bound suitcases would undoubtedly proved excitable to the Customs and Excise electronic wizardly had we bought all of it! The most interesting item was Argun oil, an extract of Argun nuts which are only collected from the excrement of the goats who harvest them straight from the boughs of this thorny tree some 3 to 5 metres off the ground.
From the Souk, our taxi took us up to Gueliz, an area of development under the occupying French colonists and so named by the locals after the mispronunciation of it's first building - a church (l'église). Our destination was the small, but superlative Marjorelle Gardens created by Yves St Laurent, a constant and current Marrakechiphile. The gardens are not to be missed, but try to go early when it is peaceful and there are few visitors. Thence to Tanneries, which admittedly are not quite as spectacular as those of Fes, but still a ripe enough experience for those who have never seen such a sight before. The Riad provided yet another welcome respite from the heat of the day, and after another much needed Siesta, we made our way to a local Hamman for a steam bath and massage - a luxurious way to smooth away the worries of the day. Dinner was set at La Comptoir, a highly reputed restaurant and bar, well known to Marrakech's Smart Crowd for a delicious Moroccan meal and after-dinner entertainment of well shaped, belly dancers. I must say the tagine was most memorable...
Sunday saw a relatively early start at 8:30 as our grand taxi minibus arrived to take us up into Ourika Valley, an easy and popular daytrip from Marrakech. The Ourika is a respite from the heat of the city, up in the cool of the High Atlas Mountains. Though ravaged by a flash flood some 2 weeks earlier as evinced by the mounds of mud that littered the roadside and choked the storm drains, it was still a good road by African standards an there were interesting stops to see a typical Berber house, with its stream driven mill wheel and plain but functional living quarters - complete with resident mother and daughter midst bread-making. We arrived at the end of the road in the village of Setti Fatma, where after a strong milky coffee and sweets made with marzipan from the local almonds, we set off on a short excursion to see Les Cascades... An hour later, our short walk up to the souvenir house, along a rising goat track of a path, past irrigation courses, emerged at a splendid waterfall of four interconnected chutes that plunged into a shallow clear water pool under which local boys and young warriors bravely immersed themselves in an ice-cold shower. Western tourists were noticeable by their absence, well, some of them were anyway....A hint though, if you do strip off to plunge in, do ensure that your M&S boxer shorts don't become see through in the deluge....it might delight some spectators as the two 17 year old girls next to Emma seemed to think, but equally, it might embarrass others such as your wife and the local imam and his mother out for a Sunday stroll to the local beauty spot...Our exit from the waterfall involved, in the words of Hassan our guide, "a short climb of about 10 feet" which then turned out to be more like 30 feet in reality - easy with closed eyes and a couple of readily offered helping hands from behind for the ladies. On our ramble back down to the rugged valley that stretched out below, we enjoyed the view of a Berber market, signified only by the mules and donkeys standing patiently in the almost dry riverbed and the faint outline of the single mule path that could just be described as it snaked up the mountainside opposite to the twenty-five Berber villages that lie further up into the mountains towards Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest mountain, which lay over the ridgeline on the opposite side of the valley. We stopped for long lunch in Ramuntcho, a marvellous Moroccan / French Auberge halfway down the valley, before heading back down to Marrakech for a last minute dash into the Souks to grab all those last minute things that just had to be haggled into the shopping bag before we left for home. The evening was spent, munching fresh dates and locally grown almonds and sleeping in the cool breeze under the pavilion on the roof terrace, so that Marrakech could experience some rosé induced quality snoring.
The Monday morning EasyJet flight home saw us into London for mid-afternoon with a suitcase full of treasures and presents ....and enough Brownie points from a happy wife to last me for another 5 years...OK, perhaps until Christmas anyway...
A wonderful place
I have stayed at Riad Hayati several times and it is simply the best riad in Marrakech. I have stayed in a number of others and most are too flashy or too expensive. But for exquisite serenity inside a hot and hassly Marrakech, the riad is just perfect.
I stayed several nights at the Riad Hayati. It is an oasis of
calm, in a good location in the old city, but away from the noise
and bustle of the square. The brother/sister caretaking team
provide excellent service. The Riad has only 3 guest rooms,
so it feels like its your own house. The interior design is
simple,yet elegant. I loved the atmosphere, and it was so relaxing to go back there after a day in the busy medina.
We stayed six nights at Riad Hayati, and it was a magical experience at an exquisite gem of a place. The city is fascinating, but the Riad provides the perfect counterpoint to its bustle. We spent many afternoons relaxing on the roof-terrace, sipping the excellent rosé, enjoying a mint tea or drinking a freshly squeezed orange juice, all of which were instantly offered, as we returned from outings.
The staff at the Riad are sensationally attentive and very friendly. The pick-up at the airport was seamless, and the place is maintained immaculately. Every morning we were asked whether we would be taking lunch or dinner, which we did on four occasions: the food was excellent, and the wine kept flowing, all for a very reasonable fixed price.
We were able to see all the four rooms at Riad Hayati, and they are all charming and individual. The location is ideal, close to the central square and the souks, without being too close to the associated noise.
We would definitely stay at Riad Hayati again.
The perfect Riad experience
Simply put, the Riad Hayati made our trip to Morocco. It could not have been more perfect: ideally situated, charming staff, tastefully decorated, excellent food. Our trip to Morocco included a couple brief stints in Marrakech during which we sampled a total of 4 riads all in the same price range, and the Hayati was far and above the rest. A little sanctuary within the medina.
The Perfect Marrakech Escape
Riad Hayati is an absolutely fantastic place to stay, authentically Morrocan but very sophisticated and chic.
You enter through an unassuming door at the end of an alley way right in the very heart of the medina. This opens up into the most beautiful courtyard with a bubbling central fountain filled with flower petals.
The rooms are arranged around the courtyard in traditional style. During our stay it was particularly hot but the rooms at the Riad remained cool and the whole place was an amazing oasis of cool and calm right in the heart of the medina. The beds are fantastic, the baths (with showers) are huge and the rooms have working fireplaces, all very romantic
We were met at the airport and taken right to the Riad on arrival and departure making the travel effortless. The staff manage to get the service just right, extremely friendly and helpful, they are always on hand when you need them but very discrete to the point that most of the time you feel you have the place to yourself.
We ate in the Riad a couple of times during our stay and the food was excellent and very reasonably priced, we had the feeling of eating a traditional meal in somebody's own home. It is definitely worth eating in, but if you can drag yourself away the staff are very happy to recommend local restaurants and make reservations for you.
The Riad is right in the heart of the medina so its perfect for seeing all the sights, its a few minutes very easy walk to the main square Jma al Fnaand and all the souks so very easy to wander back to and put your feet up once you're tired of all the hustle and bustle. We probably enjoyed most just wandering around the back streets of the medina and taking in all the sights of people going about their everyday business. Everyone is extremely friendly and we never felt unsafe.
Marrakech is a fantastic place for a short break with a very exotic flavour, there's lots to see and the weather is very good year round. We combined our stay with a stay in the Atlas Mountains which are an easy drive away.
I really cannot recommend Riad Hayati enough its an absolutely wonderful place to stay it surely must be the most stylish/tasteful Riad in Marrakech and is the perfect place for romantic break.
TripAdvisor Reviews Riad Hayati Marrakech
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