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The Riads of Morocco

From very basic hostel dorms to full service five star hotels, Morocco has a great variety of accommodation options for every budget and style. On our whirlwind tour of Morocco we stayed almost exclusively in Moroccan riads which are traditional Moroccan homes that have been converted into hotels and hostels.

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While some people claim that staying at riads is not within a backpacker budget, we found a variety of riads that were affordable, full of character, and well located (or at least one of the three).  While sometimes quirky, we wouldn’t trade our nights at the riads for any boring hotel.

Riads are rectangular buildings with a plain brick or stucco exterior but a shockingly exotic interior.  The house is built with a large rectangular courtyard in the center completely open to the sky.  Few if any windows look out to the outside of the building; instead each room has windows and doors that open into the center courtyard.  This design gives the family that lives there a large outdoor area that is completely private. We enjoyed many of our meals and spent much of our time socializing with other guests in this common area.  As is the Moroccan style, the interiors are ornately decorated with detailed carvings, tile work, and bold colors.

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Riads come in all sizes and styles and owners have converted them to suit the needs of tourists of every income level. Being on a backpacker-level budget we were surprised with the level of accommodation we could get at such a low price. The first riad we stayed in was a friendly backpacker hostel called Funky Fes. While the location wasn’t the greatest and water pressure was abysmal at times, the price could not be beat at roughly $12 a night per person for a 10 bed dorm. The real surprise came when we saw the configuration of the room we would be staying in. A large 4 post bed was in the center with bunk beds surrounding. Seeing as we were the first couple to arrive that morning we had the luxury of being on center stage for the duration of our visit!

The riad that we stayed at in Marrakesh was probably the best find of the trip. Due to a pricing mistake, we were able to reserve a beautiful suite at the Dar Balthazar for well under a third of the going rate.

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The suite included a nice bed, our own heat/ac controls, a large sitting room, and an Eric-sized bathtub with the best water pressure we had in Morocco. Unlimited mint tea and full breakfast (as opposed to jam and bread) made this place a real winner.

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When the Balthazar fixed their pricing mistake, we decided that it would be better to move to a less expensive room for the final night in Marrakesh. So, where can you find a room in Marrakesh for around $20 less than 24 hours in advance? The center of it all, the Djemaa el Fna of course! While most places in this neighborhood were far over our budget, we scored a basic room at the Hotel Cecil (also a riad), only 20 feet from the Fna. While the chairs were tiny and the reception desk laughed at us when we asked if there was heat in the riad, the location could not be beat.

Funky Fes Hostel
60, Arset Lamdelssi
Bab Jdid – Fes Medina

Dar Balthazar Riad
32 Derb El Halfaoui
Marrakesh

Hotel Cecil
Derb Sidi Bouloukate
Djemaa El Fna
Marrakesh Medina

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