While the Riad can't boast the grandeur of, say, it's five-star super-chain counterparts, it easily beats them in terms of personability. Comprised of just seven suites, each individually and eclectically made up, its size is what contributes to its intimate feel.
Room price—which, for us, came in around a very reasonable 4,000 Dirham (or $458USD) for three nights and three guests—includes airport pickup. This perk is a considerable one, as the Riad is located behind a few twisted alleyways behind the Jemaa el-Fnaa that no first-time visitor to Marrakech would find on their own.
As we mentioned, an orange blossom water-doused towel and fresh Moroccan pastries greeted us upon arrival, along with a manager who sweetly intoned that the staff and guests were "like family." The sentiment wasn't feigned; with a staff that saw to our every need, from walking us to restaurants buried deep in the Medina to making sure that candles were lit in our room after a long day of sightseeing to personally accompanying us to our final taxi transfer, we felt cared for, safe, and beyond comfortable at all times.
We stayed in the Dar Arabe suite, which included a comfortably large double bed and generous lounge area with couches, a sleek bathroom with waterfall shower feature, and walk-in closet. Touches like a constantly-filled fruit bowl, ready selection of dates and bottled water, and fresh cut roses—all free—rounded out the room's romantic, relaxing ambiance.
A daily Moroccan breakfast is included with the room price, too, including traditional pancakes, two kinds of pastries, yogurt, bread, jams and oils, and scrambled eggs if you so choose—everything fresh; none of this room temperature, partially-hydrogenated questionable buffet nonsense. Lunch wasn't free, but definitely satisfying after a long afternoon of haggling: couscous with vegetables and/or lamb, mint tea, and oranges sprinkled with cinnamon was served up on the day we decided to dine on the rooftop terrace.
And the kicker: when the staff found out it was our birthday, they made a point of greeting us on the rooftop terrace during one lunch session, whipping out a gift of a Fez and babouche slippers from the souq. Touched? Absolutely.
For anyone that's looking for the quintessential Marrakech experience, we can't recommend Riad Joya enough. Flip through the guestbook and you'll see that visitors from all over the world share the same sentiment. January is typically a quieter, yet still warm and pleasant season in Marrakech, so we suggest visiting during this calm off period.
And to the staff at Riad Joya, an honest and heartfelt thanks. It's not often we're prone to such gushing, but we'll give credit when credit's due. In this case, it's most certainly deserved.
[Photos: Heidi Atwal for Hotel Chatter]