English couple, Mike and Lucie Wood visited Morocco for a holiday in 2002 and fell under Marrakech’s magical spell, first purchasing a holiday home and then developing five riads. After three years of restoration, Riad Spice was added to Cinnamon, Dar Habiba, Papillon and Star.
For 17 generations, until 2008, what is now the ten room Riad Spice was home to the Ahansal family. Since the early 1600s they had been farmers and men of influence in Marrakech. Before that they had been traders on the Spice Routes guiding camels through the shifting dunes of the Sahara Dessert towards Marrakech. So, it is fitting that the crowning glory of Riad Spice, the Bedouin themed paradise room, should honour the nomadic heritage of the Ahansal family.
All 10 rooms, more luxurious and spacious than those of most riads, recall the Ahansal’s journeys along the Spice Route: Anise, Cinnamon, Coriander, Ginger, Juniper, Nigella, Paprika, Paradise and Saffron. But the Ras al Hanout suite needs some explanation: it was the name of the spice merchant’s ‘top of the shop’ premium blend. All of the rooms discretely blend historic with contemporary. Two kilometres of concealed wiring deliver air-conditioning, essential mini-fridges, smart televisions and super-fast Wi-fi.
Every guest is offered transfers to and from Marrakech airport, which is a mere five miles away, as well as free use of a local mobile phone which carries the invaluable Marrakech-Riad app.
‘Paradise’ is a dream destination for a honeymoon, an anniversary, a special birthday or just a gloriously self-indulgent holiday. The Paradise rooftop room at Riad Spice in Marrakech was designed to almost float like a magical flying carpet, a vision from the Arabian Nights, giving sublime views across the Red City that, at times, are verging towards the medieval.
Paying tribute to a Bedouin tent – with Bedouin originally meaning desert dwellers – the taupe pleated drapes, hanging through hand-carved cedar coving, along with the silver wall-hangings – recall a stylish but economical tent design that could be rolled away in minutes and packed on the back of a camel for the nomad’s next journey. Some cushions pick up crimson accents from the bed cover contrasting with the opulent yellow cushions. Sturdy cedar wardrobes offer enough hanging space for a Pasha or Sultan.
Though Paradise is not just a room, not just a serene state of mind, not just 300 count Egyptian cotton bed linen and super-soft robes. Guests have exclusive use of a secluded rooftop garden, for relaxing with a silver pot of mint tea, for soaking up some of Marrakech’s 300 annual days of sunshine.
If all the talk of spices creates a desire for culinary creation, then Riad Spice’s English-speaking concierge will book you a cookery course at sister hotel, Riad Star, paying homage to Jazz Age superstar Josephine Baker who spent some years of her eventful life in that very building.
There is an aura of a light-filled mosque, with its carved white plaster circles and flowers, to the Riad Star’s kitchen. Culinary students flick through Mike and Lucie Wood’s Moroccan recipe book to decide on their menu, then there’s a trip to the souk to shop before returning to the kitchen to cook and finally eat. Also, at the Riad Star there is a roof-top Hammam and spa.
Marrakech is a place for getting lost, forgetting where you are amongst the labyrinthine derbs of the souk. When the inevitable happens, take a photo of your location and text it back to your Marrakech-Riad. They will send a concierge to guide you back to the welcome air-conditioned cool of your room and perhaps the self-indulgence of a deep bath scattered with fragrant rose petals. Marrakech is exciting, exhilarating and exhausting and there are times when you need the home comforts of Riad Spice.
In a nutshell
From the heart of Marrakech’s Medina, the luxurious Riad Spice, with the ultimate in contemporary comforts, gives guests the opportunity to experience the vibrant Red City through all of their five senses.
Prices for a room, including breakfast, start at £128
Address: 2, Derb Said Ahansal, Baroudienne Ben Yousef, Marrakech, Morocco 40001
Phone: +212 678 451893