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Reviews of Holidays and Hotels in Morocco - Ditch The Hotel For Your Own Des Res

The Times, 28 Sep 2003

[This article edited to only include the Morocco part]

Ditch the hotel for your own des res

For a city break with style, hire a hot apartment in a cool part of town, says Mark Hodson

Why pay a lot of money for a boring city-centre hotel when you could stay in a spacious house or apartment in an atmospheric neighbourhood, often for much less?

The advantages of renting your very own city pad are endless. You?re not in the tourist quarter ? you?re hanging with the locals. You?re not prepaying for a bog-standard hotel breakfast ? you?re getting your own from the cool little deli round the corner. You?re not having to tip the porter, the bell-hop, the cleaner ? you?re left in peace in your own private home from home. Okay, there?s no concierge and no 24-hour room service ? so pack your own concierge (it?s called a guidebook) and put some midnight munchies in the fridge when you arrive. No problem.

In the past, organising such a holiday has been tricky. Homeowners want renters to stay for months rather than days, and tour companies find it easier to book rooms in hotels than in private properties. But the internet has made the whole process easier and more flex-ible, and some operators are catching on, offering weekend breaks in locations close to the beating hearts of cities ? places where you will have a thrilling, authentic experience at a decent price.

A RIAD IN MARRAKESH

Marrakesh laid down the template for authentic city living when groups of artists and designers started buying up traditional riads, converting them into plush homes and renting them out. Today, many of the riads that feature in brochures are, in truth, boutique hotels, albeit very pleasant ones.

There are, however, some in the medina that retain the look and feel of an opulent private house, suitable for a group of friends or a couple of families. One of the best is Les Yeux Bleus , which has five stylish double rooms, set around a courtyard with a small pool, and an attractive rooftop terrace with views across the medina.