Riad Sapphire

Marrakech, Morocco Book from

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
Tranquil riad with simple elegant design, hammam and plunge pool
Marrakech is an exotic assault on the senses: smoke and spices on the breeze, the visual feast to be found in the seemingly never ending souks, the open-air banquets in the Djemaa el Fna, and that haunting (and rather early) call to prayer.

How lovely, by contrast, to stay in this soothing space, brand new in 2014, created from two family houses over a 2 year restoration period using traditional craftsmanship and authentic materials yet deploying a contemporary Zen-chic sensibility. An anonymous door gives onto two marble courtyards with a fountain apiece and a cooling plunge pool, linked by a comfortable small salon. There's a dining area on the floor above, plus a rooftop with seating and views aloft. The restful decorative scheme of white and grey is embellished only by some carved plaster, calligraphy, occasional artworks, and etched glass. Bespoke furniture is locally made and up to date. The eight suites are spread over both storeys, and are named after jewels. The English owners, sisters Beryl and Barbara, are experienced at running riads and ably assist with reservations and recommendations. A gem.

Highs

  • A calm clean haven in deliberate contrast to the bustling Medina with restrained elegant interiors in both common areas and suites
  • Thoughtful, helpful service
  • Small solar-heated hammam and spa on the ground floor offering both Moroccan and western treatments
  • A choice of areas to relax in from the rooftop to 2 courtyards and a salon
  • Accessible room rates

Lows

  • Breakfast only, but other meals can be provided on request
  • Although named Suites and Superior Suites, some rooms are not large
  • In a quieter, more out of the way part of the Medina and can be tricky to find, you'll get a useful set of directions before you arrive to help you locate the riad
  • Don't expect much in the way of in-riad entertainment - the point is that this is a less is more environment

Best time to go

Marrakech is at its best in the spring and autumn when temperatures are not too severe. That said, Riad Sapphire would be a delightful respite from the heat, and cosy enough in the chillier winter.

Our top tips

The souks seem overwhelmingly labyrinthine when you first dive in, but they aren't as confusing as you may initially think. It helps that the goods are located together by and large e.g. there are metalwork, leather goods, dyed yarn, lighting, slippers, spices and basket-weaving areas. Bring (or buy) an empty suitcase and enjoy the haggling process!

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Eco
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Riad
  • 8
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Satellite TV in salon
Room:

Rooms

The riad's deliberately understated and calming decor is also very manifest in the 8 bedrooms, found across the ground and first floors at Riad Sapphire, divided into Suites and Superior Suites on the basis of size. Each is named for jewel colours, denoted by the coloured tassels hanging from the central pendant light, curtains and the bespoke shaded soft suede sofas.

As befits an old building, the rooms are all unique in shape, size and layout. Cinnabar Superior Suite has a fireplace, Ebony Suite has a wonderful menzeh (a traditional latticed alcove), Peridot Suite has a chaise longue, Sapphire Suite opens onto the petite courtyard on the ground floor in effect giving it a semi-private terrace, while adjacent first-floor Superior Suites Amber and Topaz are adjacent to each other (great for families). Each has four-poster beds, which cannot be made up as twins) and wraparound sofas which can be converted to single beds. We stayed in Topaz and loved its domed ceiling with inset coloured glass (Amber has a pyramid skylight).

Walls are smooth white plaster, floors are polished grey tadelakt, and cupboards have louvred doors, ample space and safe boxes. Specially commissioned queensize beds abut alcoves or sculpted plaster headboards. Some, such as Amethyst Suite, have French doors onto courtyards. Artwork is contemporary Moroccan, and there are some black and white photos; lighting is modern in design yet retains a local feel.

All have grey tadelakt tiled shower bathrooms with complimentary Natus organic toiletries (locally-produced shampoo, conditioner, shower gel). Amethyst and Peridot also have bathtubs.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is taken on the first-floor gallery or in the courtyard, or in room if you prefer, and consists of fruit salad, yoghurt, eggs cooked to order, freshly squeezed orange juice and fresh coffee or tea, and bread or Moroccan pancakes with butter and local jam. And you can eat at whatever time you choose. Gluten-free choices are available.

Other meals are available on request, (ideally one day in advance) see Rates. We had a most delicious lemon chicken tagine and creme caramel when we dined in one night. Traditional mint tea is available all day, and offered on arrival along with Moroccan pastries. There is no bar, but you can request drinks at any time from the staff.

Beryl and her team can make restaurant reservations; they recommend Dar Zellije, which serves traditional Moroccan food, has a great atmosphere and has a great roof terrace, just a minute's walk from Riad Sapphire and Spa.

Features include:

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

Activities

  • Shop as if your life depended on it in the Medina

  • Go on a day trip to the Atlas Mountains to take in some Berber culture

  • Relax at the riad in the calm courtyards, splash in the plunge pool, work on your tan on the rooftop

  • Enjoy a treatment in the spa or recline in the hammam

  • Visit the wondrous Majorelle Garden created by Yves Saint Laurent

  • Clutch a bunch of herbs to your nose while witnessing the almost medieval tanneries

  • Ride a camel in the Palmeraie

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being

Kids

Children are welcome here and there are cots and extra beds, plus babysitting can be arranged, but this isn't really the right set up for kids with no special facilities for them, unforgiving marble steps, an unfenced pool and a quiet calm ambiance for older couples.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms can take a baby cot. Three of the Suites - Sapphire, Amethyst and Ebony - can take an extra bed, and the fourth - Peridot - has a chaise longue for a child to sleep on if required. Of the Superior Suites, Topaz and Amber have sofas that can convert to single beds. Amber can take two extra children or adults, and Topaz one adult and one child. The Peridot and Amethyst Suites both have baths as well as showers.

Babysitting:

English speaking babysitters are available on request.

Kids Activities on site:

There are some games in the salon (Scrabble, Monopoly).

Families Should Know:

The marble stairs would be rather unforgiving for toddlers taking a tumble, and the plunge pool is unfenced. The rooftop is rather uneven and has steps without a balustrade.

Distances:

  • Airport: 20 minutes
  • Hospital: 15 minutes
  • Shops: 1 minute
Kid Friendly: Amber

Our guests' ratings...

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

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Rates for Riad Sapphire