Thursday, January 05, 2006

Where to Stay and Eat in Marrakech

Of course we would suggest that you spend most of your time in Morocco exploring our wonderful Medina of Fes, but if you do decide to head to Marrakech, avoid the big hotels and stay in a riad or dar. Here is a list of some of the better ones.

Dar Zouar, 14 Derb Mahrouk, is a modest riad in the north part of the medina (old quarter), near the tomb of Sidi Bel Abbes es Sebti, one of the city's seven venerated saints. It has five charmingly decorated and immaculately kept rooms, with private baths, priced for students and professors, owner Thierry Dugast said, from $58 to $70, including breakfast.

Riad al Moussika, 62 Derb Boutouil is in a handsome mid-19th-century townhouse near the Museum Dar Si Said, a 10-minute walk south of the Place Jamaa el-Fna. It has a tiled swimming pool, two handsome courtyards, a hammam (Turkish-style bath) and six chambers, including a single and three suites. Rates are $185-$410, including high-speed DSL, transfers, breakfast and lunch.

Riad Azzar, 94 Derb Moulay Abdelkader, in the central medina's Dabachi district, has been stylishly restored and decorated by Marique and Cees van den Berg, a Dutch couple, using treasures from their many trips to sub-Saharan Africa. It has a splash pool in the courtyard shaded by a banana tree, awning-covered roof terrace, and winding staircases leading to six rooms; $120-$390, including breakfast.

Riad Farnatchi, 2 Derb el Farnatchi, is an elegant hideaway owned by an English hotelier, with an especially attentive staff. Guests are given djellaba robes and babouche slippers on arrival for lounging in curtained salons that look like stage sets surrounding two paradisiacal courtyards, one with a splash pool. Its six suites feature marble baths and custom-made beds and are priced at $370-$550, including breakfast, airport transfers, use of the hammam and nonalcoholic beverages and snacks.

Riad Malika, 29 Arset Aouzal, near the Bab Doukkala Mosque, was one of the first guesthouses to open in the medina. Its funky-chic decor is part-Moroccan, part-1960s retro, with bubble lamps and Naugahyde chairs. It has two courtyards, one with a small pool and hammam, and 11 chambers, priced at $120-$175, including breakfast and lunch or dinner.

Marrakech Riads, 8 Derb Cherfa Lakbir, is a collection of five guesthouses owned by a Moroccan who specializes in restoring traditional townhouses in the medina. Doubles are $70-$110, including breakfast.

Hotels & Ryads, 20 Passage de la Bonne Graine, Paris, is a booking agency with a comprehensive Web site and English-speaking staff that handles 60 guesthouses and hotels in Marrakech, Essaouira and Fes. Rates about $50-$350 a night.

Dining in Marrakech

• Dar Moha, 81 Dar el Bacha, set in a garden around a pool, and Dar Zelli, 1 Kaasour Sidi Ben Slimane, in a fastidiously renovated 17th-century mansion with carved cedar ceilings and hand-cut mosaic tile, specialize in fine, traditional Moroccan fare. Multicourse dinners run $40-$45, and both restaurants have wine lists.

• Casa Lalla, Rue Riad Zitoune Lakdime, 16 Derb Jamaa, offers a set-price menu created by Michelin-starred British chef Richard Neat. There is one sitting at 8 p.m., and only 14 people are served each night, so the required reservations are hard to come by. The price per person is about $40, and diners may bring their own wine.

• Le Pavillon, 47 Derb Zaouia, and Le Foundouk, 55 El Moukef Souk Hal Fassi Kat Bennahid, both serve French food and wine in the heart of the medina. Dinner is about $40.

• Bo-Zin, Route de l'Ourika, is a 15-minute drive south of town, with a beautiful cactus garden for alfresco dining. The cuisine is chiefly Thai and there is a full bar. The price for a three-course dinner is $40-$50, not including drinks.

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