Hotel Highlights

  • Picture-perfect courtyard and stunning heated pool
  • Five-star service, 21st-century sensibilities
  • Romantic residents-only restaurant

Overview

RUNNER-UP: ABOVE AND BEYOND – SMITH HOTEL AWARDS 2013

Hidden behind an unmarked wood door in Marrakech, Riad Farnatchi hotel is a carved, inlaid, art-decorated take on a traditional Moroccan home designed by Jonathan Wix entirely for his guests' comfort. Ring the almost-invisible bell and step through the ornate door into a world accessed only by those in the know. The riad is one of the city’s most refined options, complete with a marble hammam, heated swimming pool and market-fresh cuisine.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Riad Farnatchi with us:

Exclusive CD-ROM of original photography on Morocco: Life Outside the Riad

Facilities

View Gallery

Need To Know

Rooms

Eight suites.

Check–out

11am, but flexible depending on subsequent guests. Shower room for late flights, luggage storage.

Rates

Double rooms from $426.87 (€309), excluding tax at 10 per cent.

More details

Rates include breakfast, airport transfers, Moroccan slippers and djellabas.

At the hotel

Heated swimming pool, underfloor heating in all rooms. iPod speakers, Molton Brown toiletries, hammam, deep-tissue, Thai and relaxing massage, reflexology, manicure, pedicure, essential-oil body wraps.

Our favourite rooms

Suite 1 used to be where the man of the house received his wives. It has a marble sunken bath and walk-in power shower. Suite 3 has a sunken bath in black granite; the Red Suite is extremely romantic.

Children

Not a child-friendly property, owing to its open pool. One cot and baby bed available; confirm when booking.

Food & Drink

View Gallery

Hotel Restaurant

Just place your order for dinner (Moroccan cuisine) on any given day by 3pm: all produce is fresh from the market.

Hotel Bar

Drinks can be brought to you wherever you like, round the clock.

Room service

24 hours for drinks and breakfast. Kitchen closed 11pm–7am.

Smith Insider

Dress code

As you please.

Top table

The dining room by candlelight.

Local Guide

View Gallery
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Local restaurants

For a guide to Marrakech and insider tips on what to get up to while you're away in Morocco, click here.

+ Enlarge
Medina with mod-cons

Riad Farnatchi

2 Derb el Farnatchi, Qa’at Benahid, Marrakech, Marrakech

Planes

From the UK and elsewhere in Europe, British Airways (www.ba.com), Royal Air Maroc (www.royalairmaroc.com), EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) fly into Marrakech’s Menara Airport. The 20-minute transfer from the airport to the hotel is included in the room rate.

Trains

The Moroccan state railway, ONCF (www.oncf.ma), runs inexpensive – although limited – services to Marrakech from Casablanca, Fez and Tangier. Look for TCR (Train Climatisé Rapide) trains to guarantee air-conditioning in summer. You’ll find plenty of taxis waiting at the city’s charming, if slightly dilapidated, station on Avenue Hassan II.

Automobiles

Driving in Marrakech can be horn-filled and hectic, but if you insist, hire a car from the Avis (www.avis.com) desk at the airport. To reach the hotel, follow Avenue de la Menara to the city centre.

Reviews

View Gallery

Anonymous review

by Scott Manson , Rock-star writer

Dr Who would feel right at home in Marrakech. Not because of his little-known penchant for pigeon pie or because he was an expert haggler. No, the reason the timelord would settle in comfortably is because of the city’s riads. These traditional medina houses are delightfully confusing, their Tardis-like layouts proving particularly beguiling to the first-time visitor.

Take ...

Read more

Riad Farnatchi

Anonymous review by Scott Manson, Rock-star writer

Dr Who would feel right at home in Marrakech. Not because of his little-known penchant for pigeon pie or because he was an expert haggler. No, the reason the timelord would settle in comfortably is because of the city’s riads. These traditional medina houses are delightfully confusing, their Tardis-like layouts proving particularly beguiling to the first-time visitor.

Take the unobtrusive wooden door of Riad Farnatchi, for example. After negotiating the rabbit warren of noisy, dusty alleys that lead you there, there is nothing to suggest that anything of note lies behind it, a small workshop perhaps, where men hammer decorative metal plates for sale in the souks, or maybe a bakery, now shut for the day, after the morning rush of local women carrying dough laden trays to be fired in the wood-fuelled ovens. The last thing you’d expect to find is a roomy, chic retreat with film star looks and a five star welcome.

Such is the wonder of the riad’s dimensions that Mrs Smith and I have to stifle a gasp on entering. This place is big. Impossibly so. It’s like some weird wormhole has opened in the space-time continuum to allow such an enormous area to exist behind one small wooden door. Originally created from three smaller riads as a holiday home for a well-heeled Brit, its incarnation as a high-end hotel has seen a flurry of bookings from the off.

One step inside the first of the two courtyards and it’s clear why so many people have fallen for Farnatchi’s considerable charms. Comfy cushioned seating areas surround an intricately tiled pool’ its quiet bubbling and cool embrace a welcome respite after the heat and noise of the outside streets. The second courtyard is equally tranquil, lit by Moroccan lanterns and decked out with quirky designer touches, such as an imposing dining table and chairs carved from solid rock. The white walls that surround this space are offset with wooden arches that are a masterpiece in painstaking whittling.

Morocco’s Islamic culture, explains the general manager, forbids the representation of living beings. This ultimately stems from the belief that the creation of living forms is unique to God. Islamic art and design instead focuses on lavishly decorative stone and wood carvings and tile patterns. This heavily geometric style informs much of the woodwork around Farnatchi with local artisans drafted in to replace, where necessary, original decoration with scrupulously harmonious reproductions. It’s testament to their skill that you literally cannot see the joins.

This attention to detail is everywhere. Our room, one of five suites, each with their own private lounge area, combined the best of traditional Moroccan handiwork with technological touches to make even the most avid Stuff reader happy. While Mrs Smith busied herself with checking out the various Molton Brown potions in the bathroom (three different types of shower gel, no less), I was admiring the digital movies-on-demand set-up. A tiny box sitting next to the room’s TV contained hundreds of good films and, best of all, it was a completely free service. Considering that even the classiest hotel chains expect their guests to cough up extra for this, it’s generous little touches like these which make Farnatchi feel more like a posh private home than a room for the night.

Guests also receive complimentary Moroccan robes (djelaba) and slippers (bobouches). We wasted no time in getting into our outfits and they remained the garments of choice when we were flitting around the hotel of an afternoon. Occasionally we’d spot another guest wearing the same, like we were all members of some bizarre cult – a benign cult, obviously; one with sybaritic leanings, whose worship extended to the drinking of mint tea while flicking through a magazine.

The beds are handmade, huge and covered in the softest Egyptian cotton sheets. Opulent deep red curtains keep out the bright morning light and cleverly set-up dimmer switches ensure that a smoochy couple can set up the perfect room for romance. The generously proportioned bathrooms continue the luxury theme – it’s all marble this and sunken that – while thick, fluffy white towels that you could lose a badger in complete the picture of ablution excess.

We dined that evening in the downstairs courtyard. With the flickering shadows of ornate lanterns as a backdrop, and only the occasional spine-tingling cry of the local mosque’s call to prayer as our soundtrack, it was clear that we were falling under Farnatchi’s spell. We were in good company, it seems. Hollywood hot-shots such as Scarlett Johannson, Russell Crowe and Angelina Jolie have all spent time within these 400 year-old walls and enjoyed the traditional cuisine served up by the riad’s skilled Berber cook. Preserves, pickles and pastries preceded a main course of the most melt-in-the-mouth tagines you could ever wish for. The meat version, in particular, was a masterpiece in slow cooking. Great, savoury chunks of well-hung beef had been softened and reduced until they fell off the bone. This proved to be, without a doubt, the best meal we ate during the whole trip.

The general manager was the perfect host, materialising when we had a question but never being too intrusive. When we had to change a flight, this gracious lady spent the best part of an hour on the phone to the airline sorting our booking so that we might enjoy more sunbathing time by the pool. It was also the GM who directed us towards the evening’s entertainment – drinks and dancing at the world-famous Pacha nightclub.

Further proof, if it were needed, of Marrakech’s status as a glamorous getaway is this newly opened danceteria on the outskirts of the city. The latest outpost of the famous Ibiza club is its most impressive to date, with a swimming pool, two fabulous restaurants and a well-designed dance floor featuring some of the world’s top DJs. For a taste of international hedonism at its best, this place is hard to beat. After giggling our way through a slightly dodgy covers band in the bar, we hit the dance floor where the sight of two slightly jerky 30-somethings fuelled on Mojitos caused not a ripple of surprise among the accepting and stylish Marrakechi crowd.

The return to our hotel-cum-Tardis was like time travel itself, leaving the modern world of house music and strobe lights to be led back to our hotel by a friendly local. Left, right, left, right, down ever smaller alleyways deep in the ancient medina until we came to that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it door. Marrakech’s appeal is that you could be in any century or any time in the last 500 years. Riad Farnatchi’s appeal is that the time you spend there you will treasure forever.
 

The Guestbook

Reviews of Riad Farnatchi from Smith members

Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…

No Smith members have posted their reviews of Riad Farnatchi yet. You could be the first!