A gal knows she ought to look at riads (old houses) when in Marrakech and it was Gianbaptiste Riccardi at the lovely Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel, Monaco – the Art Deco treasure which has that sensational personal trainer – who first mentioned Riad Jova.
He arranged a visit, and then I found out that Condé Nast Traveler’s top travel expert Wendy Perrin had stayed a week, as did the Financial Times’ Maria Shollenbarger (How To Spend It)..
Khalid Oulachguer, wearing amazingly bright yellow pointed slippers (babouche) came to pick me up. After the car dropped us in a square, a busy market with ‘shopkeepers’ displaying their wares on the ground, the buzz of traffic around, we walked ten minutes through immaculately-clean covered alleys that are undoubtedly centuries old.
Either side open shops displayed spices, window drape tassels, clothes for all and sundry. Turn right, right again, and you find yourself in a squash-court-sized courtyard, fountain in centre, two-floor building on all four sides painted palest ecru.
This is it, isn’t it a jewel, gushed Khalid, who runs the place. Turns out it is owned by two Italians (one is Marco Novella, whose day-job is running the gorgeous Villa San Michele in Fiesole, just outside Florence). They got Umberto Maria Branchini to decorate it; all internal walls are the local tadelekt, lime plaster like Venetian ragging.
Each of the seven rooms is unique. I loved Zanzibar, with a walk in alcove, about six by six by six feet, painted dark teal. The central, ceiling-set shower can be illuminated, oh so sexy. The suite evokes the theme of a journey through Africa, and the furniture is deliberately inspired by the colonial settings.
The main motif of this suite is the hand-braided rope that is recalled through the work of master craftsmen on the canopy and furniture. This room has a four-poster, with wood frame hung with gauze.
Similarly, Naos evokes ancient Greece (the Greeks settled on the northern coast Morocco). Here, the bed recalls the alcove of the Naos, the most secluded part of the temples where the statue of the deity was kept. All the furnishings, colours and details here are deliberately neo-classical.
Yes you have wifi throughout but forget about televisions. Forget a gym but massages can be arranged. Forget set meal times: Khalid said they serve whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want.
For those who love total seclusion, and none of the frills of a stereotype hotel, this would be good. But how would the gal manage without a gym? Answer, she would head up to this luxury riad’s flat rooftop, decorated with pots of live herbs, for a view of the surrounding soukh markets while she did yoga, pilates and a variety of exercises.