The baking heat of the desert greeted me when I stepped off the plane in Morocco. Welcome to Marrakech, a city of pink buildings drowning in a sea of satellite dishes. Imagine narrow winding streets filled with drivers texting and honking as they fly past on mopeds. Snake charmers. French-style pâtisseries. Open air butcher shops. Tea shops, full to the brim even in the sweltering heat of the day. Donkey traffic. Veil culture ranging from no veils to fully-veiled, showing off slits of almond eyes. The never-ending song of aggressive hawkers echoing from every souk.
The best way to counter all this sensory overload is to retreat to the serenity of a riad, or traditional Moroccan home or palace centered around a courtyard or garden, serving as a hotel. A majority of riads are located in the city’s historic medina, or walled old town. Marrakech is riad central, with hundreds of stylish luxury riads springing up everywhere in recent years, many of them European-owned.
The best riads are decked out in traditional Moroccan furnishings with beautiful ceramic tile-work, mosaic fountains, carved wood accents and Moroccan art and crafts. In fact, for design aficionados, riads can be some of the best places in the country to sample traditional Moroccan craftsmanship, architecture, and interior design. They are also excellent places to enjoy world-class Moroccan cuisine. The following are a few must see riads in Marrakech that combine excellent design and culinary prowess with opulent luxury: La Sultana, Riad Kniza, La Maison Arabe, and the legendary La Mamounia.