Riad Kniza

Marrakech, Morocco Book from

Reviewed by Shelley Seale
Feel utterly spoilt with unstinting personal attention in this magnificent 200-year-old mansion inside the ancient medina walls
This hotel de charme has been in Haj Mohamed Bouskri’s family for 2 centuries. Now enlarged, it has been completely restored by teams of Morocco's most highly skilled craftsmen, who have recreated this gem of Moorish architecture, where guests can capture an authentic experience from days gone by. The 11 lavish guest rooms and suites are situated around 3 open-air courtyards, and the warm, inviting common areas include a library, a drawing room, a pool and a rooftop terrace with sweeping views.

The riad is very easy to find just inside the walls of Marrakech's old medina, with an excellent location close to most of its top attractions. The way that your arrival is greeted sets the stage for your entire stay: we were ushered into an intimate salon and served mint tea and cookies, while our bags were discreetly taken to our room. The subtle, attentive service anticipates your every want, and the English-speaking staff make you feel as if you are the only guests. Rose petals and fresh flowers are everywhere, meals are served when and where you want, and there's a spa and hammam for full-on pampering. It’s a formula that has appealed to celebrities including Bill Gates and Garry Kasparov (photos of famous guests line the walls), but don’t think that this means the riad is in any way flashy or pretentious; this place is grand in all the right ways.

Highs

  • Unlike many hotels in the maze-like medina, Riad Kniza feels light and spacious; it’s also very easy to find
  • Top-notch service that is respectful yet personal. We last visited in 2014 and were made to feel like family, but not in an intrusive way
  • The opulent rooms and suites are beautifully furnished, with sumptuous fabrics and traditional materials; the Royal Suite Bahia is one of the most luxurious hotel rooms we’ve come across
  • Generous breakfasts and multi-course Moroccan feasts, served wherever you want - in your room, on the rooftop terrace, by the fire in one of the lounges
  • Excellent personal tours and shopping expeditions from owner Haj Mohamed Bouskri, a renowned antique dealer and professional guide who has worked for VIPs such Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and former US presidents (Nixon, Carter, Reagan)

Lows

  • It's more expensive than most Moroccan riads, but well worth the splurge
  • The location right off a bustling thoroughfare may be off-putting to some; however, you enter into an oasis of calm and luxury - and there are plenty of lounges where you can escape the heat
  • The set dinner menu rarely changes - it's delicious, but you'll probably only want to eat in once or twice
  • The WiFi can be a little patchy
  • No under 12s allowed - this is very much a romantic retreat

Best time to go

It is best to try and avoid the summer heat and crowds and visit Marrakech in the cooler months between September and May. The Popular Arts Festival in July, however, may make a trip at that time worth it. Here you can see musicians, dancers, snake charmers and fortune-tellers, as well as the Fantasia spectacle of charging horsemen in traditional garb.

Our top tips

There's never enough time to truly soak up the wonders of Marrakech. We could have stayed here for weeks; it is highly recommended to stay at least 3 nights, although your wallet may be the ultimate arbiter.

Great for...

City Style
Foodie
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 11
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • Children aged 12+ only
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Junior Suite Johara

Rooms

Each of the 11 rooms and suites is refined and elegant, with an open fireplace, soft lighting, antique furniture, incredible rugs, exclusive fabrics and a well-appointed marble bathroom with a tub (except Senior Suite Ambar, which has a rain shower only).

In addition each room offers its own individual elements, such as a wooden room divider, a canopy, gold ornaments, wooden chests, brass or tile works, art and other beautiful Moroccan details. Some of the suites also feature intricately carved domed ceilings or raised platform sleeping areas.

Beds are large and extremely comfortable; we didn’t want to get up in the morning. All rooms have kingsize beds (except Deluxe Room L’Orientale and Superior Deluxe Room Samar, which have queensize beds). Towels and bathrobes are thick and fluffy, and little extras like heated towel racks, double sinks and shaving mirrors are nice touches. All rooms are fitted with air-conditioning, safes, telephones, flat-screen TVs and WiFi, and there is more than ample closet and luggage space. You’ll also find a fruit basket and rose petals to welcome you.

There are 4 Deluxe and Superior Deluxe rooms, and even the smallest of these is spacious compared to most hotels' standards. The 2 Junior and 4 Senior Suites are more like small apartments, with sectional sofas, carved wooden doors or luxe curtains that can close off the rooms, and great views of the courtyard or Marrakech.

During both of our visits we were lucky enough to have the Royal Suite Bahia, which is simply breathtaking. As large as a small house, it has a living room and, up a few steps, a vast bedroom with a sitting area plus a massive bathroom with separate toilets and twin sinks. It’s perhaps the single most incredible hotel room we’ve stayed in and well worth the expense if you fancy a treat, but even the cheapest Deluxe Rooms here are exquisite.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • DVD player (on request)
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Food here not only provides sustenance, but also an experience in itself. Every meal is worth savouring and the staff will accommodate you almost any time for lunch and dinner (the latter must be booked 24 hours in advance).

Evenings often kick off with cocktails in the courtyard as traditional Gnawa music (a mix of African, Berber and Arabic songs) is played. You then make your way over to your table - perhaps in your room or under the moon on the rooftop terrace - for a lavish 4-7 course feast. The Moroccan starter is much more than the name implies: a sampler of several different dishes, all equally scrumptious. This is followed by soup (perhaps lentil and chickpea), a traditional pastilla, meat or vegetarian tagines with sides, and decadent desserts (a creamy mille-feuille when we last visited), all accompanied by fine wine.

If you fancy something lighter, opt for the Moroccan salad (in reality a 6-course spread of empanadas, olives, couscous and other little delicacies), or order a glass of wine and a late-night snack to enjoy by the fire in the library.

Breakfast is just as spoiling, with delicious homemade pastries, breads and jams, fresh juice, rich coffee, yoghurts, eggs, perhaps even pancakes. The spread changes slightly every day (a nice touch if you’re staying for a few nights), and we suggest taking it in one of the lovely rooftop tents.

Riad Kniza even offers hands-on, half-day Moroccan cooking workshops - a real treat for the gourmet traveller and highly recommended.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Breakfast
Activity:

Activities

  • Meander through the medina, always an adventure in itself. Marrakech is a feast for the senses, and there's much to see and do. Riad Kniza is positioned favourably, very close to the main square of Djemaa El Fna. Expect to get lost; it's part of the charm of Marrakech, but ask a shopkeeper or hotel for directions (many locals will ask for money and simply point you somewhere, which is just as likely the wrong way as the correct one)
  • Visit top sights in central Marrakech, such as the Saadian Tombs, Koutoubia Mosque, El Badi Palace and the ornate Ben Youssef Medersa
  • Head beyond the medina to the beautiful Majorelle Gardens, once the home of Yves St. Laurent and a short taxi ride away
  • Shop the souks with antique expert Haj Mohamed. He has shown the best of Marrakech to many VIPs, and his expertise will take you to the best shops and help you negotiate favourably
  • Play golf at one of Marrakech’s world-class courses; try Royal Golf, open since 1923, or the Amelkis course
  • Take a side trip to the Atlas Mountains to experience Moroccan life that is vastly different from Marrakech. Adventurers will love the trekking above spectacular vistas, and interaction with Berbers provides an exciting cultural immersion into a way of life unchanged for thousands of years
  • Pamper yourself without even leaving Riad Kniza. Treat yourself to a hammam, in which the attendant scrubs you down with healing muds and a loofah, get a massage in the spa, or take a refreshing dip in the pool

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being

Kids

Guests aged 12+ are welcome at Riad Kniza, although it is much more of a romantic couples' place than a family place.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Junior and Senior Suites can take an extra bed for no additional charge. If you are bringing more than one teenager, they will need another room unless you take the Royal Suite Bahia, which can comfortably sleep 4 people.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
10/
Overall

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