Staying in a Riad guest house lets you experience the Marrakshi art of hospitality, and gain an understanding of Marrakesh behind those brass-studded Medina doors. But all is not always what it seems from websites with retouched glamour shots of candlelit Riads promising locations ‘5 minutes’ from the Djemaa el-Fna. Some are located in remote Medina neighborhoods far from restaurants, taxis and other traveler amenities, down winding, covered derbs (alleyways) that can seem dark and forbidding even in broad daylight. Price is also no guarantee of an idyllic Riad experience. Even some high-end Riads have only skeletal staffs of underpaid employees, who are kept so busy with cleaning and basic upkeep they have no time for the social graces that give Marrakshis such pride in their hosting tradition.
Rates at most licensed, reputable Raids are not especially cheap, since Raids can only accommodate a few guests at a time, upkeep is a non-stop undertaking, and the hard-working, mostly local staff deserve decent salaries. Breakfasts are typically included in the price, and will carbo-load you for the Souqs with Moroccan and European pastries, yogurt, fresh-squeezed orange juice, coffee or tea and sometimes fruit or eggs.
For the best choice and sweetest deals, avoid high season during major European holidays – especially Christmas–New Year, Easter/Passover, and the end of April/first week of May around the May 1 workers’ holiday. During high season you’ll need to reserve a month in advance and expect to pay almost double low-season rates for popular Raids. Low season is usually summer (mid-June to August) and winter (mid-January to mid-March). Mid-season rates cover most of spring and autumn, and are indicated in this chapter.
It pays to be flexible with Riads. In the off-season you can usually obtain better rates by contacting the Riad directly to ask if there’s anything available in your price range within a certain date range. If you’re staying a week or more you might get rates of up to 30% off; these are often posted on the Riad website. Renting out an entire Riad in exclusivity with friends or family is also an option; rates usually start around Dh5000/8000 per night in low/high season for up to six rooms and 15 people.