How to book a riad in Essaouira?

Staying in a riad is often at the top of many Morocco visitor’s “must-do” list. Typically, a riad features a set of rooms and salons arranged around a central courtyard or garden. Although, strictly speaking, a house without a garden is a “dar” and not a riad, the latter terms is used generically to describe medina houses which have been restored for living or as guest houses.

This accommodation option gives a chance to live in traditional and beautiful Moroccan architecture and to experience a more authentic experience compared to a large hotel. In cities such as Marrakech, they offer an oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic medina. Often, these buildings have been lovingly restored by their owners, who are keen to share their enthusiasm for Morocco with their guests. Although they may not offer the attractions of a large hotel (eg pools, restaurants and bars), they frequently offer a tailor-made service which may include cookery classes, excursions or beauty treatments in a hammam.

A brief internet search will reveal the large number of so-called “riad” guesthouses in Essaouira and it can be hard to choose between them. Of course, you can use review sites like TripAdvisor to give you an idea, but these are not foolproof. Here are some pointers to inform your choice:

-The Essaouira medina is not large. Therefore, any accommodation will be within easy reach of the main sites.

– Medina houses can be tall and narrow with steep stairs. Bear this in mind if you have mobility issues.

– Moroccan architecture typically faces an internal courtyard, with few externally-facing windows. Medina houses can therefore be less light than we are used to in Europe, but often feature fabulously sunny roof terraces and the internal focus keeps them cool in summer.

– You should be aware that guest-houses and holiday rentals are poorly regulated in Morocco. The Tourism Ministry is currently clamping down on non-permitted guest houses or those who don’t respect local labour laws. Some booking engines specifically request proof of permits and insurance before properties can be listed, but most don’t. If consistency of service, treatment of staff and respect for local legislation are important to you, ask when you make your enquiry, or use a booking site that supports sustainable tourism. By law, a registered “maison d’hotes” (guest house) must offer bed and breakfast.

– Booking websites are widely used, but you should know that there is a cost involved. Often, a direct booking can secure a discount of around 20% because hoteliers prefer not to pay commission to the booking sites and see this kind of direct relationship as an opportunity to offer personalised customer service.

– If you like the convenience of a booking site, use them wisely. The first page of results is often does not list the best reviewed hotels, the closest to your destination or the cheapest. Often, the first choice the consumer is offered are those hotels and guesthouses whose operators pay a higher premium to be presented to you first. Be a discerning consumer!

If you would like assistance in choosing your accommodation in Essaouira, please do not hesitate to contact Lynn at maroc-o-phile.

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