One of my favourite trips of 2019 was to Marrakech in Morocco.
It was a very brief trip unfortunately (just two nights) and it has left me desperate to return and explore more of not just Marrakech but of the rest of Morocco too. For this part of the blog I’m going to cover the booking itself and review the fab hotel we stayed at. I’ll talk about what we got up to on a separate blog so that I don’t bore you with too much info, lol!
When I want to book a trip away the first thing I do is check www.skyscanner.net for flights. I generally have a rough idea of when I want to go, but I’ll search the whole month for best available flights rather than specific dates. Once I get an idea of what dates will be cheapest to go, I then head over to www.booking.com and check out hotels for those dates. This may take a little bit of going back and forth to match up the best deal as the cheapest flights may not correlate with the cheapest stay for your chosen hotel. Or I check out www.expedia.co.uk as you can often get a good saving by booking the flights and hotel together.
On this occasion I went with Expedia. I never book the fanciest of hotels, as all I use it for is a base, somewhere to shower and sleep, what else I require from a hotel will largely depend on where I’m travelling to. For this trip I knew I didn’t want to stay on a resort as it was such a short stay. I wanted to be right in the middle of everything so I opted from a traditional Riad (A traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard) in the Medina. Although there wasn’t going to be a lot of time for sunbathing, I wanted it to be an option, so I chose a Riad that had a small sun terrace on the roof and a dipping pool in the courtyard. I’m not much of a swimmer so a dipping pool suited me perfectly, it is exactly as it sounds, a pool big enough to dip in and cool off.
Another requirement I look for is a private bathroom. When booking on the cheap there will always be options for shared dormitories and/or shared bathrooms. And whilst that is a perfect way to save some pennies, I do like to have my own space, so a private bathroom is one luxury I won’t budget on. On this occasion, I also opted for a place with breakfast included, this isn’t something I always do, again it largely depends on where I’m going and where the hotel is located. It can often work out cheaper to eat breakfast elsewhere but I purely went with ease due to our limited time there.
The total cost for this trip with return flights with Ryanair from Stanstead to Marrakech and a two-night stay for 2 people was a brilliant £195. The hotel I chose was Riad Laora and I couldn’t fault it. We had a welcoming email from them within 24 hours of booking to thank us for choosing them and to offer their services to collect us from the hotel for a small fee of 15 euros which I accepted. We were due to arrive at the hotel around 9am so I asked if it would be possible to swap our breakfast for our departure day to our arrival day instead due to us leaving there so early and they happily obliged. They also said that we could book dinner at the Riad for 15 Euros each and they would get a chef in specially to prepare it, so I accepted that offer for our first night.
We were collected from the airport and taken to our Riad, the car wasn’t able to pull up right outside the Riad so we were greeted at the nearest possible place by a member of staff who walked us the rest of the way, just 100 yards or so. The Riad is very small, just 7 unique guest rooms on 2 levels that surround the courtyard where we were invited to sit for some breakfast. We were provided with a lovely selection of pastries, marble cake and a pot of mint tea.
When we were ready, we were shown to our room, the aptly named Aubergine room due to its décor. It was a beautiful room in a traditional Berber style with simple dark wood furniture a very comfortable bed with plush velvet bedding, a seating area and a bathroom with the biggest bath I have ever seen which I couldn’t wait to get in but I had a city to explore first, it would have to wait a few hours (it was worth the wait). The receptionist had asked what our plans were during our stay and I told them what we would like to visit. Again, they offered their services and said that their driver could take us where we wanted to go, and we could call him when we wanted collecting which was great. Most places were in the vicinity of our hotel which we planned to check out the following day but that morning we were going just slightly further out so accepted.
Obviously there are taxis and other modes of public transport but as we were in the middle of the medina it was reassuring as 2 female travellers that the staff were so helpful and could assist us in this way, so for me it was worth the small surcharge.
After a day of sight seeing we enjoyed our evening meal in the courtyard. We were the only guests eating there so it felt a very personal service. Morocco is a largely Muslim country so alcohol is prohibited in most places but available in the majority of hotels, being a small hotel the selection was limited to a few bottled beers or bottles of red and white wine which they cork for later in your stay if you don’t want to drink it all in one sitting. We were served a 3-course meal, starting with breads, pickled vegetables and a mixed bean salad. I wasn’t too keen on the courgettes, but the cauliflower dish was lovely. Our main course was a chicken tagine and a bed of couscous sprinkled with cinnamon. It was absolutely delicious. Desert was a natural yoghurt with honey and more cinnamon which was also lovely.
Breakfast the following day consisted of yoghurt, pastries and some crumpet/pancake hybrid which we both loved, plus of course some mint tea. We had planned to eat out the following day but the Riad was a little way from the centre of the Medina, and with the Medina being a maze of winding alleyways and us been 2 blonde females, were erred on the side of caution and decided to eat at the hotel that evening too rather than attempt to navigate the streets in the dark. I just want to stress at this point that for the most part I felt very safe in Marrakech and the people overall were very friendly and helpful, but I always trust my instinct. Whilst a part of me regrets that I didn’t really get to dine elsewhere, the food at the hotel was so lovely it didn’t really matter.
At 3pm on our second day I asked if it would be too late to request dinner for that evening and the member of staff not only assured us that would be fine, and that he would ask the chef to prepare us something different than the previous night. So, after a few more hours exploring we returned to the Riad for another delightful meal. The starter was a sort of samosa dish and the main this time was a meatball dish served with eggs and couscous. Desert was sliced oranges sprinkled in cinnamon, very simple but sweet and tasty. For fussy eaters, we both did very well at just trying everything they gave us and surprisingly, liking all of it.
After dinner we sat up on the roof terrace with the rest of our wine and listened to the beautiful sound of the nearby mosque summoning the locals to prayer from its minaret.
We had get up very early for our flight home. I normally try to get a late afternoon or evening flight to maximise my time at a destination but unfortunately there was only one flight back to Stanstead available that day. The hotels driver was ready in the courtyard at 6am to drive us back to the airport. Honestly, I could note praise the staff of this little Riad more. They were friendly, attentive and very helpful, making our short stay with them very easy and enjoyable. The only minor, was that the air conditioning in our room wasn’t very efficient.
If I was to go to Marrakech again, which I hope to do one today, I would definitely stay for longer and would happily stay back at Riad Laora, but maybe just for a few days, and then a few days elsewhere in a different part of the city to get the most from the stay.
Life is an adventure,