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Reviews of Holidays and Hotels in Morocco - Six Of The Best

The Times, 21 Sept 2002

Six of the best...

Marrakesh riads

Riad Noga German-owned Noga is decorated throughout in saffron yellow and burnt red with a mosaic-tiled pool and plant-filled courtyard open to the sky. Each of the seven bedrooms has a different colour scheme, with rich fabrics, cushions, wrought-iron candlesticks and mirrors. Best of all is the roof terrace, all terracotta pots and lemon trees. Wall seats are crammed with cushions and there are elegant teak sun loungers. Bougainvillea, hibiscus and jacaranda trees drip pink and blue blossom on to the stairs. Breakfast is served on the first floor, and dinner can be taken on the terrace. There is also a downstairs dining room for use in winter.

Riad Kaiss Painted warm terracotta, the two courtyards are dotted with fig trees, shrubs and palms shading the wrought-iron chairs, sun loungers and a fountain in the larger of the yards. Renovated by its French architect-owner, the riad is a huddle of mosaic walkways and whitewashed seating areas lined with scarlet and orange floor cushions. Each room is different, some with four-poster beds, others with private roof terraces; all have traditional Moroccan furnishings. It?s a five-minute walk to the manic bustle of the huge marketplace that dominates Marrakesh, Djemaa el Fna.

Riyad el Cadi Home of the former German Ambassador to Morocco, it is chock-full of his personal collection of Moroccan and Islamic artefacts. Ceramics from rural Morocco decorate the bedrooms, Anatolian kilims hang from the walls and Ottoman embroidered rugs cover the stone floor. Whitewashed walls encircle a courtyard filled with orange trees and, above the cool rooms, a tented roof terrace with long white sofas and low tables is the ideal place to chill out. More minimalist than Noga and Kaiss, el Cadi is a hyper-chic hangout with the atmosphere of a private home. No bar or room service, but unobtrusive staff will try to serve up just about anything you require.

Maison Mnabha Peter, an Englishman but an old Morocco hand, showed us to our room, up the stairs past a stunning reception with painted cedar wood ceilings and mosaic tiles. The double doors to our spotless room opened on to a tiled terrace, from where steps led up to the roof. Breakfast was taken against a background of blue sky and the Atlas Mountains. Next door to a restaurant and in the Kasbah district of the Old Town, it?s the best-value riad in town.

Villa des Orangers This has two huge plus points: it is easy to approach by car, and is close to all the action in Djemaa el Fna. Floating petals in the entrance lure you into an oasis of calm, its courtyards shaded by orange trees and framed by carved plasterwork. In contrast, the bedrooms glow with earthy pinks and ochres, and colourful Moroccan rugs, all with handcarved furniture, kingsize beds and Egyptian cotton sheets; some have a private terrace. There?s a small pool on the roof from which you can see the Koutoubia Mosque and Atlas Mountains.

Riad Souika A tiny riad near the old Jewish quarter and Royal Palace, Souika is more homely and ?hands-on? than most. With just three double bedrooms, it caters for families with children or groups of friends who have the run of its small courtyard and spacious sunbathing terraces. It?s more simply decorated than most, but all the traditional painted ceilings, tiles and colour are there. Cherish Aziz, the resident houseman, will take you to the food market, teach you to cook traditional food and even babysit!