8 March 2012

Check-in with Tom: Riad Farnatchi, Morocco

With so many wonderful places to stay in the world, it’s hard to suss out which one will ensure your hard-earned escape is worth dropping everything for. This is where we come in. We’ve enlisted travel expert, Tom Marchant, co-founder of award-winning bespoke travel company Black Tomato and founder of PINCH Magazine to give us the insider info on some of his favourite hotels across the globe. Tom’s stayed in a fair few hotels in his time and so if it gets the Marchant stamp of approval, it must be good. This week, for a high-end home from home, steeped in history and style, Tom’s pick is Riad Farnatchi in Marrakech, Morocco.


Words By Tom Marchant co-founder, Black Tomato


The essence of time-lost luxury; I was bowled over by this beautiful boutique hotel that oozes both traditional Moroccan charm and sophisticated, ultra-modern style. Starting out life as three smaller riads, it was merged into one as a private home for entertaining, before being transformed into its generously proportioned present form by award-winning British hotelier, Jonathan Wix. The amalgamation of these separate properties has resulted in an unusual, almost eccentric feel to the place with its intriguing maze of weaving passageways, split-levelled rooms, and hidden spaces; dotted with all of modernity’s mod cons. Farnatchi provides you with the perfect amount of seclusion, well-thought out personal touches and an enduringly intimate atmosphere; resulting in a rarely found sense of high-end homeliness, perfectly balanced with 5 star service and style.


Riad Farnatchi is tucked behind a simple wooden doorway in the heart of Marrakech’s bustling medina, on Derb el Farnatchi, Qua’at Ben Ahid.


Hidden amongst a rabbit warren of twisting passageways that make up Marrakech’s dusty medina, you would never suspect that tranquil Riad Farnatchi lies so close to all the action. It’s in a pretty much perfect position, with a mere stroll to the city’s bustling souks and famous Djemma al Fna square, yet the din and clatter of the outside world fades to quiet calm once back within Farnatchi’s walls. Guests also have use of a peaceful garden and pool outside of the medina, should you wish to venture a little further to explore the city’s outskirts and desert beyond.


For me, it’s the secrecy and stylish seclusion of Riad Farnatchi, amidst a buzzing sea of energy, that gives it its truly captivating aura. Barely noticeable from the road, you get a wonderland-esque feeling of crawling through a rabbit hole into an entirely different world, in an entirely different time. Yet, it is a world in which you feel perfectly at home. The attention to detail in all aspects of the riad, from the authenticity of its design to the finely tuned attentiveness of the staff, is hard to rival. All guests are even given complimentary Moroccan robes (djelaba) and slippers (bobouches) to keep and wear around the riad, making your stay even more comfortable.


Each of the nine suites are uniquely designed, dressed with clean white walls and accented with earthy tones of olive, ochre and burnt woody browns. The hand-crafted opulence of each room is something that will instantly strike you as you walk in, with elaborately carved furniture (all hand-made specifically for the hotel), set against clean geometric shapes and pared-back design. I found olive-toned Suite 3 hard to beat with its sunken granite bath, but close contenders were Suites 5 and 7 for their intimate romanticism, and Suite 9 for its sheer, expansive glamour.


The riad’s emerald-tiled pool is something of a showpiece, set in a central courtyard and surrounded by discreet lounge areas hollowed into the walls and high, intricately carved stone archways. It’s a welcome source of refreshment from the day’s heat, or the perfect pre-dinner spot when lit up at night. Also make sure you don’t miss out on some time well spent in the riad’s traditional white-marble Hammam, which is open to guests throughout the day to let you utterly unwind with a massage or one of the various beauty treatments on offer.


Dining at Riad Farnatchi is a wonderfully intimate affair whether in their boudoir-esque, candle-lit dining room or the tranquil, courtyard-side B’hou. The prelude to dinner consists of delicious canapés, followed by some truly superb traditional Moroccan dishes cooked by the hotel’s resident skilful Berber chef; trying one of the meat tagines is an absolute must, and for the braver foodies, an adventurous dish from the ‘Not for the faint hearted’ section of the menu. But it’s not all about dinner here. Farnatchi’s breakfasts are something to behold with platters of traditional pancakes (Msmen), blini-style crepes, eggs any way you like, fresh fruit, and local, freshly baked breads to nibble on.


The smell of mint tea and spices mingling in the air as I sat on my balcony at dusk, looking out over the courtyard and rooftops beyond. Bliss.




Black Tomato has teamed up with fashion site, Farfetch.com to launch a fashion inspired pop-up travel boutique Globetrotter and to celebrate, we have a seven-day trip to stylish Morocco up for grabs including a stay at Riad Farnatchi. To enter, visit http://www.facebook.com/blacktomato

For Moroccan experiences and adventures, contact Black Tomato to start planning your trip.


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