As mentioned in our main post about Marrakech we would recommend a stay in a riad to everyone who does not want to splash out on a 5-star hotel accommodation. Riads are a very common form of accommodation in Morocco. They are large former traditional medieval town houses in the medina (old town) of the respective city they’re located in, that have been converted into small boutique hotels or bed & breakfasts. Depending on your budget and preferences, everything is available up to and including 4-star level (which in countries outside Europe usually – as is the case here – equates to a good 3-star level, the architecture, decorations, furniture etc. often easily reaching 4-star level, but plumbing and service sometimes not quite being up to the same level).
Like most riads (unless they’re located next to the border of old town), cars won’t be able to make it all the way to the front entrance, and you’ll have to walk the last few metres through narrow alleyways, in our case probably about 300m distance. We didn’t mind and we always felt safe, even though it is wise late at night to walk in groups of at least two and be cautious.
The outside of a riad is always nearly completely featureless, basically a two- or three-storey wall without windows and with just one door and a small sign and buzzer next to it. Once you enter, the opposite is true: you’re in the middle of a Moroccan fairy-tale with lavish decorations in stone, wood, and textile fabrics, often a small water fountain in the middle (as was the case with Viva), it’s beautiful. Many riads, like the one we stayed at in Rabat, use the interior court as a dining and lounge area. Quite to our liking Viva just had a few chairs and small coffee tables and most of the court was empty. (In Rabat, we had had a room on the ground floor with very thin walls and windows that didn’t shut perfectly well, so it felt awkward hearing every word of the people in the court having their dinner and hanging out.)
Most of the staff were very helpful. One evening we felt like a glass of wine and asked for a bottle at the reception, but they had run out. So the receptionist hopped on his moped and checked at two other affiliated riads if they had any left (they hadn’t, another healthy night of clean living for us, all the better). We were also impressed with the efficiency and knowledge of one of the receptionists who advised us on which tour to book to the Atlas mountains. Her recommendation not to bother about an organised tour, simply to book a private driver with a car, and to tell the driver what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go, turned out to be just right for us. The breakfast was nothing exceptional, but tasty and plenty and they’re happy to make you an omelette on request. Don’t expect to dash in and out within twenty minutes though, things do take their time (which was fine with us).
It was on our first night at riad Viva that we finally managed to get in touch with Ali, the owner of Camel Safaries, who had dropped us a quick email to invite us on his two-day tour to the Sahara desert, and we managed to arrange for pick-up on the day after our tour to the Atlas mountains.