Six of the best: Fes riads Morocco
Fes is not short on romantic riads, but Dar Seffarine, with billowing curtains, the scent of rose water and the cool touch of marble, is the ultimate Arabian Nights-esque riad.
Waking up here, with its 700 years of history, is akin to waking in the Alhambra, and it's the best bang for your buck anywhere.
Painstakingly restored by a Norwegian interior designer and Iraqi architect - see the restoration book - the interior is chic minimalist with spectacular soaring pillars and floors of zellij (mosaic tiles). Plus, the roof terrace is Fes' best. From $115 a double a night, including breakfast. See darseffarine.com.
FOR: OVERSEAS GATHERINGS
Riad Idrissy boasts a medina rarity - a garden. The Ruined Garden is an exotic oasis, complete with banana trees, floating muslin-curtained pavilions and romantic ruins.
This space is perfect in the cramped medina for gathering the gang to celebrate milestone events. The riad is packed with African-sourced curios and run by renowned English chef Robert Johnstone, who grows his herbs on site, makes a mean gin and tonic and exudes never-ending hospitality.
His outdoor cooking school starts next year. Staying elsewhere? Catch outdoor Sunday brunch. From $160, including breakfast. See riadidrissy.com.
When it comes to satisfying taste buds, this riad, perched on a hill overlooking the medina, is the destination restaurant of Fes.
Aussie riad hostess Vanessa joined forces with her French chef partner, Vincent Bonnin (trained in Michelin-star restaurants), to run the five-room riad. The result? Dishes such as spiced roasted quail with dried fruit orzo and a leather goods shop featuring Italian label Alfred (sold more expensively in Paris and Rome).
Note: ground-floor rooms open directly to the courtyard restaurant, which is not everyone's cup of mint tea. From $150 a double a night, including breakfast. See darroumana.com.
RIAD MAISON BLEUE
FOR: WESTERN-STYLE LUXE
You'll pay top dollar for this big riad with the big reputation, but what you receive is a 16-room amalgamation of three riads complete with Andalusian-style courtyard, dining area, in-house spa/hamman, chic bar (the Blue Lounge) and pool.
Some seek those endearing quirks of antiquated riads that scream "Morocco", but if after bath tubs, four-poster beds, TVs and waiters delivering cookies while you read (unbidden), then this is the place to lay your head on a feathered pillow. From $290 a double, including breakfast. See maisonbleue.com.
DAR EL MENIA
FOR: TAPPING INTO THE CULTURE
Sometimes a person makes a place. In this case, it's Jamaal Chaaouane, riad host. Embedded in the fabric of Fes, he conjures an in-house cooking class at the drop of a hat, organises guides, and will likely invite you to watch his band play at hot spot The Clock.
The riad is alluring: a winding, dark alley off a main street leads to a simple wooden door, which opens to reveal a courtyard atrium with five rooms. Reasonably priced, with an easy location. From $97 a night for two, including breakfast. See medinafes.com.
FOR: HOUSE PARTIES
Why rent a riad room when you can rent the whole shebang? A few riads will hand over the keys, lock, stock and barrel, and throw in a cook for good measure.
Dar Sugar is the pick, with oodles of space and large rooms. It has two double bedrooms, two twin bedrooms (with en suites), and a single rooftop room (with airconditioning).
The terrace has medina views and that blessed modern convenience for any travelling caravan - Wi-Fi. From $359 a night. See moroccoholidayhome.co.uk.
Sydney Morning Herald