Princess Jasmine in Morocco: staying in Marrakech with style

Marrakesh conjures Aladdin-like images of narrow streets, snake charmers, bizarre food stands and carpet salesmen – and in a way all this is true. The feeling of being somewhere radically different kicks in as soon as you’re dropped off by your driver on the fringes of the Unesco-listed Djemaa El-Fna – which could definitely serve as background for a live action version of the Disney movie.

Marrakech, Djemaa El-Fna, Unesco World Heritage site

Whether this is attractive to you or not probably depends on your level of comfort with difference itself. I find, however, that fear of difference is more often than not a misnomer for the fear that some of our creature comforts will be missing… or that it’ll simply be dirty.

Djemaa El-Fna Marrakech, street vendor

Granted, Morocco is not Switzerland: trains may not arrive on the minute (though a new high speed train is on its way) and the streets are not as clean (though you constantly see vendors cleaning the area in front of their store). What Morocco does have, however, are Riads – otherwise known as little hotels, or temples of luxury, where your every fancy is attended to by multilingual, attentive and friendly staff – and all at a fraction of the cost one would expect for such services in North America or Europe.

I stumbled on one such palace whilst preparing my last trip to Marrakech through airbnb – you can rent a room or the entire Riad – and was simply blown away by the beauty of the place, not to mention the level of service. Whether it was from the complimentary airport pickup, from the personalized meals or from the palatial suite, I felt like Princess Jasmine!

Marrakech Riad luxury experience

And the food… Hopefully you’ve already read my article on méchoui alley that highlights Moroccan street food at its best. This, however, is different. This is high end, served in what basically amounts to your private restaurant. You would rather have your table set up on the rooftop rather than on the main terrace? As you wish! Want to know how it’s made? No worries! They’ll organize a cooking class (which I was lucky to have all for myself!), take you to the market to buy your produce, and take you back to the kitchen where you won’t only watch but participate, learning through practice. The chef and I prepared a succulent beef, prune and almond tajine, along with desert and three types of Moroccan salad entrées that I’ll be sharing with you – and I confirm that the secret is always in the sauce!

Marrakech Riad cookery classMarrakech Riad cookery class

So you see, if your hesitation on North African travel is based on a perceived lack of comfort, you’re off the mark. As in way off the mark. As in you’ll stay in a palace at a quarter of the cost. As in you’ll have a private chef. Just saying.


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Categories: Travel


Aspiring food writer, serious traveler, media enthusiast and communications specialist from Montréal, Canada. Follow me on twitter @aalavoie

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