A colourful myriad helpfully tucked in an alley near the Koutobia Mosque, and only a five-minute walk from the crazy Jemaa el-Fnaa square, Riad Dia boasts rooms and social spaces as bold and lively as its friendly staff.
After taking our pre-arranged airport transfer to the hostel (which set us back a mere 50 DH as there were 3 of us in a taxi), we were welcomed with Moroccan mint tea and some sweet treats as we sat down finalising our payment for the taxi ride and upfront accommodation fees. As it was New Year’s Eve, we were kindly invited to a three-course meal and entertainment provided by the group ‘Rouge Hostels’, with which Riad Dia belonged to. At 250 DH, and with no idea where else to welcome 2016, my sister and I, alongside our newfound Irish friend, reluctantly agreed, and handed over our freshly printed dirham notes.
The Rouge Hostels group of Marrakech prides themselves in hosting backpackers, flashpackers and independent travellers in colourful, sociable, and unique hostels throughout the Red City. All are within a five-minute walk from the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, and breakfast, wi-fi, linen, towels and unlimited tea and coffee are provided in each hostel for free.
The hostel was conveniently located near the Koutobia Mosque (which was near the major taxi rank and a number of bus stops) and the Jemaa el-Fnaa square. Though the square is known to be full of boisterous characters in the evenings, the hostel was in a quiet yet convenient location, making numerous trips back to Riad Dia hassle-free.
Originally, we opted for a 12-room dorm. However, after a slight miscommunication, we found that there was one too many in the dorm; my sister and I agreed to move, and the staff swiftly managed the situation and found us spaces in an 8-bed dorm.
The 12-bed dorm on the first floor remained to be our favourite. Though the floor space was limited (and the 8-bed dorm was not much better), the private bathroom with 2 sinks and a large, Moroccan-style shower room, was unfamiliar yet very comforting. Towels were provided, if needed. Other amenities include fast Wi-fi (which worked fastest on the ground floor), washing facilities, kitchen facilities, in-house travel agents and warm bedding.
The social spaces around were superb. From the colourful walls of the living-slash-dining area on the ground floor, to the balcony kitted with plush pillows, comfy chairs, and a very welcoming view of downtown Marrakech, the open spaces proved to be a very friendly face in an otherwise foreign environment. The ground floor transformed from a breakfast hall in the mornings to a live music lounge and bar in the evenings. It was a fantastic place to chat with other guests over breakfast, and as a meeting place for any rendezvous (with other guests) pencilled in.
A hearty, Moroccan breakfast is served in the mornings from 7 am onwards. Moroccan coffee or mint tea is provided alongside a variety of Moroccan breads from batbouts, msemen, meloui and beghrir with apricot jam and margarine. Most were vegan-friendly! Cakes and biscuits were also served on some days. The breakfast ‘buffet’ was simple and filling; the bread items can be warmed, if you so wish.
The guests I met at Riad Dia were very inviting and warm. Spending New Year’s Eve with a dozen or so strangers was a little anxiety-inducing, but it proved to be a brilliant way to learn about other people’s cultures – over tagines and cous-cous, of course! We met a very funny Russian guy solo-travelling Morocco for two weeks; two American friends which explored Morocco’s wild side (and lived to tell the tales); and a feisty mother-daughter duo from Netherlands, who made us a little jealous of their natural sass and intimacy.
Of course, the staff would not go unmentioned. Mourad and Karim were wonderful hosts. They were ever so hospitable and friendly. My sister and I travelled together, and the two (along with the rest of the staff!) made sure we were well cared-for at all times. Mourad even taught us to make Moroccan mint tea ‘properly’. I filmed it using my compact digital camera, much to his delight, but the footage was far too dark to be of any use.
When we came back for a night’s stay before our flight home, after a couple of days of indefinitely leaving Riad Dia, we were welcomed back with open arms; they made us feel treasured. Though not as off-track as we’d like, their tips and recommendations proved very useful. What’s more, their stories of Morocco, and their lives respectively, gave us a quick glimpse of what it was like working in Marrakech’s tourist industry. I was also very impressed by their multi-lingual abilities.
My sister and I were not looking forward to the RyanAir flight home. As we ran around the early hours of the morning looking for a printer for our boarding passes, we were constantly reminded how hospitable and generous Moroccans were. In a country where two girls travelling may seem like a no-go, Marrakech, despite its madness, surprisingly, made us feel totally at home.
So if you’re ever around the Red City, pop in to Riad Dia, discover its colourful walls and characters, and prepare to be charmed.
Some further notes on Riad Dia:
- Unlimited Moroccan mint tea is provided – upon request. “Sans sucre”, if you prefer it without sugar.
- If you require breakfast earlier than 7 am, the items are usually on the worktops/fridges, and you are able to help yourself to some – especially when starting the day early on one of the many excursions they provide.
- Washing can easily be done for you – I believe 1 bag was 15 DH. This was available for collection the day after.
- They offer many excursions. We only took part in the cooking class, but many guests seem to have enjoyed their respective trips. It’s also a fantastic way to meet other travellers staying in a different hostel in the “Rouge Hostels” group.
- Toilet paper may be lacking at times – prepare for this and pack a few packs of Kleenex.
- There are kitchen facilities but people hardly cook. My sister and I prepared a very simple, three-ingredient roasted red pepper spaghetti, but it took a while. The oven and hobs were very basic.
- There is no printer in the hostel. We used a nearby 5-star hotel reception, which charged us 10 DH, to print our boarding passes.
I was not compensated for my stay at Riad Dia – I just wanted to share this little gem of a hostel in Marrakech. All opinions stated are my own.