Where I Stayed in Marrakesh — Riad Alili

Recounting my accommodations on my month long journey, it’s time to venture into North Africa and Marrakesh. Of all the cities on this trip, it took me the longest to decide where to stay here.

You have two options in what area to stay in the Medina or outside. My internal debate was that I would feel trapped, overwhelmed staying within the walls and all the chaos outside the door in the Medina. If I stayed outside in a traditional modern hotel,  it would be a 20-25 minute walk to one of the Medina gates.

So I headed to Twitter to ask a Marrakesh travel expert. Simple question, “Staying in Marrakesh, Medina or New City?” She got back to me, “Medina, not even a debate.”

Okay, then. I focused on the riads in the Medina. Riads are just B&Bs that were townhouses and now have been converted into small hotels. Most have 8-12 rooms around an open courtyard. A few are extremely high end, while most are great bargains with a lot of modern conveniences, spas and style.

The problem is that there are 1,144 riads to choose from according to TripAdvisor, and I feel bad for the one ranked at the bottom. My search terms were modern, pool and airport transfer. The majority include a pool and good percentage will pick you up from the airport because it can be seriously difficult to navigate your way through the maze-like Medina.

I had a list of the top riads that looked like cool places according to the pictures, positive reviews and were under $100 a night. The list kept on growing the more research I was doing. This was going on over 5-nights. It was getting ridiculous and a little stressing. There’s too many to choose from. I was ready to set up a roulette wheel with all the names and just let fate decide.

When I narrowed it down 3 or 4, I let TripAdvisor’s rankings do the choosing, even though their ranking can be lopsided and inaccurate.

Riad Alili was the highest rated at No. 10 out of a thousand. It has climbed to No. 8 since my stay, and that’s what I call the Why Am I Not There? bump.

No doubt, it was best decision I’ve made out of all my choices on this trip. The first thing I think of how is how comfortable my stay was from the accommodations to the staff. You’ll see a lot of reviews for riads saying “It’s an oasis of calm”. Then I stayed in one and I’m saying, “It’s an oasis of calm!” The design of the riads keeps all the noise of the outside from getting inside. You’ll barely hear the noise outside in the morning.

Alili has seven distinct rooms all decorated differently. I stayed in the Jasmine room.  When you get to the room, you get choose how you want it to smell. You get a little tagine with some amber resin in it and matching bottle of body wash, lotion and shampoo. I got jasmine, obviously. You get to keep the tagine and resin when you leave along with a small hand-carved wooden camel.

Breakfast is included and it’s a must to eat. Bread, eggs, yogurt, fruit, juice, tea, jams — the whole deal. I looked forward to it every morning. I stayed for dinner my first night since I arrived at 8pm and it is a must to have dinner there. Its pretty much a home-cooked meal in a tagine. You also get mint tea and cookies when you arrive.

The center courtyard has a lovely pool and Jacuzzi that’s lit up at night with candles which will make it romantic for all you lovers out there. You can also head-up to the roof and watch the sunset over the Atlas Mountains and Medina or just get some rest and sun.

As you’ll find, the staff is just wonderful. You’ll know their names and feel sad when you leave. They helped me find places in the city, with a booking for a camel-back tour and they’ll give you a phone to call if you need help or get arrested.

As for location, all riads are located deep inside the Medina. You’ll get lost the first time after you leave. A few hints for you. Take note of signage and storefronts around the alleyways. Walk a minute in every direction and take some pictures of the surroundings for references later. Google maps isn’t useful in the Medina.

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