Marrakesh is a thrill to travelers looking to access the Middle East oriental flavor, through a North African city a short plane ride from Spain. Despite the occasional terror attack and instability in the Arab world right now, Marrakesh is a relatively safe city, even for single women travelers, and babies (though they will be kissed a million times by strangers). And it is easy to get around on foot. I recommend Marrakesh highly to curious people from the west or east wanting to access Arabian culture without the fear of what traveling post-Arab Spring might do to your safety or well-being, real or imagined.
Marrakesh features marvelous markets, warm people and boutique hotels waiting to be met: I arrived to the Old City with little planning after sojourning at a conference in Rabat organized by the URI. After Rabat, first I headed south to the Atlas Mountains hoping to enjoy some Berber hospitality, which I did at the Kasbah du Toubkal, a boutique Berber-UK-run resort held in the palms of North Africa’s highest peak.
After a couple days in the mountain cool air with good people, it was onwards to Marrakesh, and the heat hit me and my baby as we descended by taxi into the throbbing city that provides absolutely no mercy in the noon day sun. It was so hot it hurt breathing in. We refused the air conditioned taxis and tried to acclimate like a local. We were happy though when the driver arrived at the riad Dar Les Cigognes just outside the Royal Palace gates. A flock of nesting swans were perched in their massive fairy tale nests above us (cigognes is swans in French), and when you walk in the door of this special riad the fairy tale simply continues.
My baby Oryan enjoyed the complimentary fruit platter on arrival to our room which included locally made soaps and shampoos
Green Prophet suggests readers to visit North African cities that are safe to help support the local people. In Morocco, choose riads over big name hotels that offer no personal touch: Riads (of which there are about 1,000 listed in the city for rent as guest houses), are traditional Moroccan homes, built around an inner courtyard and which shield the cities’ residents from noise, heat and pollution –– the inner courtyard somehow funnels up to the sky, letting the goodness in, and keeping the less desirable out.
Entering the extremely boutique riad Dar Les Cigognes, we were treated with a traditional Middle Eastern tea, poured by someone who looked like a genie, and who disappeared quickly as the cup was placed down. The riad is large, and small at the same time – it encompasses two traditional homes, located side by side, and linked by a maze of hallways, and which has a total of 11 guest rooms available for occupancy. Each one is privately situated, and a great number of spaces in the riad which could have been turned into rooms are instead made for the guests to luxuriate in, for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, or into the wee hours of the morning.
Even the swans like it here
An expansive patio on the roof, as well as an in-house massage and spa room, gives the weary traveler (you will get weary in Marrakesh in the summer when it’s really hot!), some much needed recoup time.
CLICK ON EACH IMAGE TO ENLARGE
I was staying at the riad in the middle of June, and the outside temperature in the Marrakesh markets felt like 2000 degrees C, and not even human. The riad courtyard, though, even though it was open to the elements was liveable. Had I not been with a baby that I needed to supervise, I would have definitely enjoyed the facility’s books that are stocked in the rooms and around the riad. As for other guests to meet: There was a beautiful couple staying with us at at the same time –– she looked like a model from Britain, and he someone from a Gatsby party. While there were other guests also at the riad with us, you could barely hear a whisper.
Water fountains like in traditional riads
The staff treat you like a much honored guest, remembering details about you that the sun outside might have otherwise erased from your mind, upon return. Accessible by car (most riads aren’t), the riad is minutes walking from the Jewish spice market, and about 15 minutes from the famous Marrakesh square.
The in-house chef also offers “local” cooking classes in the late afternoons.
I highly recommend Dar Les Cigognes. Staying there allows you to be part of the frenetic city without being deep inside it; the dreamy bedrooms transport you to another time in history –– real or imagined by the Swiss woman who designed them –– and the staff, and services including an in-resident chef –– will make it hard for you decide between the two: going out to the market for another adventure (maybe to find some eco-treasures like recycled tires into genie bottles), or having an adventure on your very own, in your room.
For more about Dar Les Cigognes, please visit their website. Scroll down for our gallery of great images.
Green Prophet was given a complimentary night stay at the hotel, as part of this review. If you have any questions about our stay, please email me [email protected]