When I first arrived in Marrakech with its wide boulevards stalled with traffic, chain hotels, modern buildings and palm trees, I felt disappointed. I could have been somewhere in Florida! But then I passed through the old city walls and a park where camels were sitting in a shady grove, smelled the exotic spices for sale in the medina, observed people wearing traditional jellabiyas, and heard the “call to prayer” from the minaret on a mosque. This part of the city did not feel at all like Florida.
La Maison Arabe, 1 Derb Assehbe, Bab Doukkala, is a very special “riad” (a traditional Moroccan house) designed around a central courtyard, pool or fountain, and garden. Located within the ancient medina in the old city it’s a destination in itself.
The owners of La Maison Arabe combined several adjoining houses so that there are courtyards and guest rooms, several sitting rooms, two restaurants, a jazz bar, and a spa. Their legendary restaurant serves African and French specialties and overlooks the gardens and pool, and a program of cooking classes is offered by the chef. As if that weren’t enough, there also is an offsite private casbah fifteen minutes away which I was able to access using their shuttle car. This is an oasis with gardens, a restaurant, cabanas and a pool, and a welcome option after a day of sightseeing. I stayed there for three nights and wished it could have been three weeks.
The hotelier gave me a tour. All rooms are different here; my room had Moroccan touches and overlooked the pool and inner courtyard. I stood on the balcony and looked out over rooftops of the old city and a minaret a short distance away. Down below was the pool, trees, potted plants, tables covered in white linen, pierced pendant lanterns, and lovely tile work.
Each morning at dawn, I was awakened to the “call to prayer” from the nearby mosque and went downstairs to enjoy a complimentary breakfast consisting of fruits, nuts, dates, olives, pastries, breads, eggs, cheese, meats and homemade crepes. Nearby are the fabulous Majorelle Gardens, the famous square, Djemaa el-Fna, and the souks of the medina where I could shop for Moroccan crafts.
Each afternoon I would come back to the riad to enjoy tea in the courtyard—this consisted of typically Moroccan mint tea poured from high above the table and served with an assortment of tiny cookies. After some time at the offsite pool followed by an exquisite candlelit dinner, I sat in a comfy chair with a glass of wine and listened to a talented pianist in the jazz bar. That was a typical day at La Maison Arabe and it felt like something out of “Arabian Nights”.
Written by: Elizabeth von Pier
Elizabeth von Pier is a retired banker and world traveler. She started
travelling seriously, photographing and writing articles about her
experiences after she retired. You may see her work in WAVE Journey,
GoNomad, hackwriters.com, Travel Thru History, and travelmag.co.uk.
All Photo Credits: Elizabeth von Pier