The instructions from the manager seemed simple enough. Turn left out of the riad, then left again to find the main street.
We had a little map with the route to Jemaa El Fna market square clearly marked, but within steps of entering the old quarter of Marrakech, we felt lost. Sights, smells and sounds overwhelming the senses. Somehow, we found the square after a detour to a ‘pharmacy’ selling herbs and spices, a short espresso stop at a café opposite an art gallery, and a long walk in the wrong direction. Now it was time for the hard part. To find the way back to our riad. Welcome to the fascinating craziness of the Marrakech Medina.
We had arrived the night before, slightly frustrated after failing to find our driver at the airport and taking a taxi through night-time Marrakech. As we rang the bell and stood outside the modest-looking front door, I kept my fingers crossed we were in the right place. The Medina is disorienting enough in the daylight, but at night after a long day of travelling, it’s a labyrinth. Thankfully, we had successfully found the Riad Assouel, and as we were greeted with Moroccan tea in a sumptuous, poolside lounge, I felt happy with our booking choice.
The Riad Assouel is located off Rue Assouel with the Medina on its doorstep. It may be hard to find for first-time visitors to Marrakech, but the beautiful sanctuary in the heart of the city is worth the search. It was built in the seventeenth century and restored in 2005 with an Arab-Andalusian-style flowing through the property. There is a large roof terrace for dining, sunbathing or taking in the view over the city’s rooftops. The ground floor patio surrounds a heated pool and is furnished with loungers, dining tables and lush, green plants. The en suite rooms are elegantly furnished, and the serene atmosphere is capable of lulling even the most stressed travellers into relaxation.
Breakfast on the patio each morning is a treat with coffee, tea, fruit, French bread and a selection of Moroccan pancakes with jam. A romantic poolside dinner at the Riad Assouel is also recommended. We ordered the Chicken Tagine with couscous, sampling local olives and wine while we waited for the fresh, authentic cuisine.
We spent two nights in Marrakech before heading to the coast. The city is a blend of old traditions with modern style and a strong European influence. For those visiting Morocco for the first time, sight seeing in Marrakech is exciting but slighty daunting. Especially in the winding maze of souks, vibrant colours and hidden corners in the Medina. In contrast, the Riad Assouel offers an oasis of calm and a place to unwind after a day exploring.