Staying at Talaa 12 is a passport to feeling in the centre of the action within minutes of arriving in Marrakech. It’s not just its spot-on location – on a relatively quiet street in the heart of the medina – that gives it this quality, but also how you get there. If you’re coming from the airport, a friendly member of staff will be there to greet you, navigating you through the chaos and into a taxi. You wind through ever-smaller streets, before eventually being decanted next to a few of Marrakech’s rather put-upon horses and donkeys.
Your possessions (including young children, if you’re with little Miss or Master Smiths) are then unloaded into a hand-drawn cart, and off you go off into the whirling chaos of the medina. As a first introduction to some of the city’s celebrated souks and sights the transfer is unsurpassable, especially as you feel less of a tourist trundling about in this low-tech manner. By the time you fetch up outside Talaa 12 – a discreet sign flush with the wall the only clue you’ve arrived – your Moroccan adventure has already begun.
Inside the door is a small, dark vestibule leading to a light-filled courtyard. So far, so typically Moroccan, but Talaa 12 is a more contemplative space than the usual all-singing, all-dancing tiled riad courtyards. Rooms overlooking the courtyard are shuttered in calm pale green – very Farrow & Ball; there’s even a bamboo wind chime clunking softly in the breeze. Orange trees and palms stand guard over a small pool – a gazing-at rather than swimming-in affair. We checked in in a small sitting room to the side.
There are plenty of these intimate seating areas, so we knew that even if the hotel filled up (20 guests is the maximum, anyway) we’d always have a little private time together. After the chaos outside, the effect is of Talaa 12’s calm is striking.
Our room, overlooking the central courtyard, was simply styled, with a large bed, two white leather tub chairs, a claret-coloured rug, and a couple of the contemporary paintings that are dotted all over the riad. The bathroom was small but pretty, with a shower and plenty of towels. Knowing water to be a precious commodity in Morocco, we didn’t mind the lack of a bathtub.
When you’re in the heart of the Marrakech Medina, there’s not much time to wallow in a bath, anyway. Before venturing into the unknown, we headed up to the rooftop to get our bearings. What a view! Talaa 12 is a relatively tall riad, so its terrace has a clear view all the way to the Atlas Mountains. As these are to Marrakech what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, we were happy to dally a while, especially as a canvas sail set-up protected us from the surprisingly strong winter sun.
Invigorated with mint tea, we thought we’d hit the souk. I was nervous about getting lost – I once spent two hours walking in ever-decreasing circles trying to find my way back to a riad that noone had ever heard of. Fortunately, Talaa 12 is a rarity among Marrakech hotels: it’s almost impossible to get lost trying to find it. Just ask for the Marrakech Museum or the Ben Youssef Mosque, and you’re there. This also makes for easy sightseeing, especially with the souks and the Djemaa El Fnaa only minutes away.
Being so close to everything means you can dip in and out of Marrakech very easily – if the snake charmers, tooth-pullers and hustlers in the Djemaa El Fna get too much (or if your purchases start to weigh you down), you can nip back home for some more mint tea and a chance to regroup. In the summer, the hotel has arrangements with various private pools in the Palmeraie, about 20 minutes away, so you can cool off and chill out with a lunch thrown in for no more than €30.
That night, we drank delicious local wine on white sofas in front of a roaring fire, before a three-course Moroccan dinner in the small dining room. Lanterns flickered over tables of milk-chocolate-hued wood, and the food – a lemony chicken tajine – was flavourful and subtle. Our fellow diners were a Parisian couple, and we fell to chatting. They told us they’d been toying with the idea of buying a riad to use as a weekend retreat – a common fantasy among French professionals. Now they’d stayed at Talaa 12, they said, they probably wouldn’t bother. They felt they’d already found a home from home – and hadn’t had to do any of the hard work. Our feelings exactly. Places this tranquil are hard to create and impossible to copy. Talaa 12 will remain a complete one-off.
Anonymously reviewed by Amanda Morison (Professional mum)
Reviews of Talaa 12 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…
The romance of Marrakech is complimented beautifully by Talaa Talaa, which offers a sanctuary to refresh and relax in. Just outside, the craziness of the souk is in full whirr for the day – perfect if you want to be right in the action yet have a home away from it. Aesthetically, the riad is stunning and punctuated by interesting art pieces in warm oriental tones. However, it is the staff that make this riad exceptional: Laurent, Ibrahim, Mohammad and co went out of their way to ensure Marrakech was a magical experience. They provided quality advice and guidance through the souk, booked tables at the best restaurants and had a knack for being charmingly present yet not obtrusive. I plan to return to Talaa regularly and wish you the exact same experience. For outside the riad, Maison de la Photographie is about a two-minute walk from Talaa and has a private collection of vintage photographs from Morocco. An interesting introduction to Marrakech. You can buy prints for unique souvenirs. Majorelle Jardin was Yves Saint Laurent's house and cacti garden in Marrakech. It is stunning. Be sure not to miss Yves' love-poster gallery which is small and at the back of the garden. Each year he painted a love poster and had it made in to New Year's cards for his friends and family. This room displays an array of his designs. You can buy postcards for years which are meaningful to you. Terrace des Epices is beautiful for lunch. Le Marrakchi is the perfect spot for a cocktail and Moroccan-inspired meal overlooking the Jemaa El Fna at sunset. You can buy a day pass (500 dirham) to the grounds and spa and fitness facilities at La Mamounia (this includes the inside and outside ozone pools, Jacuzzi and sauna). It is a nice way to spend half a day to relax and refresh in luxurious surroundings. I also highly recommend having dinner with wine one night in the Berber tent on the Talaa rooftop terrace. Tres jolie. And of course, wandering and shopping in the souk and joining the circus at Jemaa El Fna after sunset are musts. Enjoy.
Carlie, SilverSmith stayed on 6 Apr 2012