In Arabic, the word marhaba means welcome. And that’s exactly what I felt in Rabat at Riad Marhaba. Upon entering the riad, I felt transported to a place and time when quality and luxury reigned.
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Marie and Florent purchased Riad Marhaba four years ago as a family home and accepted guests on the second floor while they lived on the ground floor. Today, the family lives a short distance from the riad to enable more guests to experience the welcome of Riad Marhaba.
Old world luxury, new world comfort
Over the years, the family has gone to great lengths to reveal the riad’s full Arab-Andalusian architectural glory. Many hours have been spent scraping ugly green paint off most surfaces to reveal the pristine stone beneath. And artisans have been hired to redo much of the crumbling tile work, prioritizing Moroccan materials over imports. The result is magnificent.
Florent points to Marie as the one with the great eye for decor and shows us a couch from Marrakech and a straw horse from Essaouira. It’s these little touches that make the riad feel like a home away from home.
During my two weeks in Moroccco, I spent two nights in Rabat, where I stayed in the Oudayas Suite, a room fit for a princess. I slept in the canopied queen bed while Curious Claire slept on the sofa bed. In case 20 foot ceilings and 344 square feet of space is hard to fathom, the suite was so large that she didn’t hear me the first time I said good morning to her!
From the impressive tiling on the wall to the high stone arches to the golden toilet paper cover, every detail was ornate and extravagant.
Come hungry to breakfast, because Riad Marhaba is like the Moroccan mama who shows love with good food. A plate full of msemem and beghir pancakes accompanied a bowl of fresh fruit including my favorite, pomegranate. Made with almonds, I’ve heard Amlou referred to as Berber Nutella. And like Nutella, I spread that runny almond butter on everything. For a bit of sweetness on my pancakes, I tried jam made by Florent’s mother-in-law and could taste the love in that sweet, berry spread.
The chill in the air dissipated as the heater was lit and hot coffee warmed our hands and helped us start the day. The atmosphere is light as Rosa, the feline ‘boss’ of the riad, attempts to open a door to a guest room, showing us how she has mastered the art of marhaba.
Panoramic rooftop terrace
For a breath of fresh air and some time in the sunshine, pay a visit to the rooftop terrace. With 360° panoramic views, catch a glimpse of nearby Hassan Tower, Kasbah Oudayas, Mohammed V Mausoleum, St. Peter’s Cathedral, and the old medina.
In warmer months, guests are invited to begin their day with breakfast on the terrace. In the winter, we were happy to sit in the afternoon sun and relax. Rabat has an immam who is particularly musical, and I liked to sit on the terrace as the call to prayer rang out across the city.
Be sure to take a look over the side of the roof, because just over the terrace lie the ruins of a riad in disuse. The blue and white tile amidst the overgrowth is a beautiful contradiction.
Location, location, location
Although the riad is beautiful and beckons guests to stay forever, the city of Rabat needs to be explored. After visiting the colorful, chaotic city of Marrakech and the ultra-urban city of Casablanca, Rabat was an unexpected breath of fresh air. With quiet, clean streets, splashed with color and decorated with hanging plants, I immediately felt welcome in Morocco’s capital city.
Set in the heart of the old medina, Riad Marhaba is a 5-minute walk from the Oudayas Kasbah, built in the 12th century. Set aside a few hours to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site that’s home to some of Rabat’s oldest architecture and gorgeous water views. Walking the blue-hued streets may lead you to believe you’ve stumbled upon a mini version of Chefchaouen. Stay alert, though, because surprises lurk around every corner. If you’d lucky, you just might meet Momo the peacock!
If you love food (and who doesn’t?!), I highly recommend joining a Moroccan Food Tour to get a true taste of Rabat. Our tour with founder, Mohamed, was one of the highlights of more than two weeks in Morocco for me.
When it’s time to leave Rabat and Riad Marhaba, it’s hard to step through the front door after saying goodbye. Somehow, I know that I will be welcomed again one day at Riad Marhaba, and I look forward to that day.
I was hosted at Riad Marhaba, but as always, all opinions are my own and I’d never recommend anything to you that isn’t awesome!