What is a riad?

When people inquire about tours with us we often like to propose that they try staying in a riad for a chance to experience authentic Moroccan hospitality.  Because of this one of the questions we often get asked is, “What is a riad and what is the difference between a riad and a hotel?”

A riad is typically a traditional old house located mainly within the old walled in cities of Morocco. As riads are often located within the walls of the old cities you often must walk a little bit to reach the front door of the guest house.  But, it is well worth the effort.  The word riad comes from Arabic meaning garden. Riads were often built inwardly with the windows and the doors of the rooms opening into a central courtyard that is often open to the sky. This layout offered protection for the wives and children from the eyes of prying neighbors and outsiders. The central courtyard and garden area often has a fountain in the center that helps keep the riad cool in the summer as the breeze blows over the water.  Many riads will also have flowers and citrus trees providing shade and fresh fruit within the central courtyard area.  And sometimes depending on the size of the riad even a small swimming or plunge pool.  Riads are often architectural masterpieces with much care being taken into the tile work on the floors and pillars and intricate moldings along the ceilings. Sometimes the ceilings are made with wood and painted with little flowering designs. 

Riad Zyo poolIn the past most riads were private homes enjoyed exclusively by individual families. Now however because of the cost and upkeep of a riad many have been transformed into unique bed and breakfast style hotels often keeping to the traditional Moroccan décor, but adding in modern amenities found in most 4 and 5 star hotels. 

>Because riads were often at one time old homes each room tends to be laid out differently, but each with its own in suite bathroom.  Moroccan riads are also famous for their narrow and winding staircases which lead to upper rooms and roof top terraces.

As riads are smaller establishments than hotels, usually 6 to 8 rooms total, you often receive more personalized attention by the owner and/or staff at the guest house.  Many will welcome you into the riad with a glass of mint tea and occasionally traditional cookies.  It is also not unusual to be welcomed by the owner or manager of the riad upon your arrival.  All of this makes for a more intimate and personal experience that many travelers have loved over the traditional hotel experience.

Dar Sultan Bedroom 2
Another example of a riad room.

So, if you are looking for a new experience and warm and welcoming staff we would propose you try to stay at a few riads during your visit to Morocco.

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