“Parisian chic meets Maroc at this colourful, light-filled riad, with a pool, gardens and helpful staff, providing an oasis in the heart of the Medina”
Norma’s bedrooms are named after Monique’s favourite operas: there are 2 Royal Suites, Tosca and Norma; 3 Junior Suites, Aïda, Manon and Lucía and a duplex double room, Carmen. All of the rooms are high-ceilinged and give onto the central patio. The bedrooms have same decorative cocktail as the ground floor lounge and dining room, marrying Moroccan base elements – zellig and beijmat tiles, intricate stucco carving, high inlaid cedarwood doors – with northern European ones, most notably a double layer of floor-to-ceiling satiny voile curtains which impart a distinct whiff of Parisian boudoir. But if the wrought iron beds, stripey fabrics and Italian chandeliers feel slightly out of riad synch, framed prints of Arab calligraphy – these are present throughout the riad – strike a more authentically North African note. The 2 Royal Suites are enormous and one, Norma, has a dressing room as well as a lounge. The bathrooms – most have low, beamed ceilings which impart a really cosy feel - also have beijmat floors, zellig lined sinks and baths, and shining tadlakt walls. And you’re treated to snowy white bath robes, a hairdryer, a stack of towels and an interesting selection of soaps, shampoos and oils.
It’s at breakfast and dinner that Riad Norma comes into its own. The setting alone gets your meal off to a great start: you eat in the columned patio to the sound of the trickling fountain, beneath the citrus trees out in the garden or, in cooler weather, in front of the ornately carved fireplace in the high-ceilinged dining room. Music will always will be present, as you might expect given the riad’s operatic touchstone. Monique tends to play classical composers in the morning - perhaps Schumann or Chopin - moves on in the afternoon to North African music and then to Jazz and Baroque later in the evening. Monique’s chief-of-staff Abdelkader, who speaks excellent English, often officiates at breakfast. This is billed as a Franco-Marocain event and includes freshly squeezed orange juice, a fruit salad that changes daily, Moroccan bread, melaoui and mil trous pancakes, jams and honey and, of course, a choice of black or mint tea, or coffee. You’ll be asked at breakfast what you’d like to eat for supper. Monique will have her own ideas, according to which vegetables are in season, but is happy to tailor meals to your requirements. Starters tend to be a salad variant - fennel, aubergine or tomato - whilst the main course will probably be a beef, lamb or chicken tagine, lovingly prepared by Hadija, Norma’s in-house cuisiniere. Dinners end on a more European note with, perhaps, clafoutis, crème caramèle or even an apple crumble. There’s a variety of alcoholic drinks available.