Marrakech Dwellings – Riad Jardin Secret
There was something so melancholy and inspiring about this place from the moment I arrived. As with all Riads in Marrakech, they look unassuming hidden away in a discrete passageway, but a true haven once you step inside. I was Riad-hopping every other day, against my better judgment, because it was my first time in Marrakech and the need to experience ‘more’ won out over wanting to nest at one place for several days, and I am so happy that I did.
I stumbled upon Riad Jardin Secret when I was researching Marrakech and looking for Dars or Riads that would serve as a retreat for a slow-traveler like myself. A Riad is traditionally a house with a garden or courtyard, and Dars are typical Moroccan homes. Think of a 6-8 en-suite traditional home offered up as a Bed-&-Breakfast, only, they are spaces curated with a lot of thought about light and ambiance.
The duo behind Riad Jardin Secret, Cyrielle and Julian, are ex-Parisians who offer up their home to travelers looking for a retreat within the Medina. Think of the Medina as the center of all commercial activity in Marrakech. It can get pretty hectic when you are out all day navigating and perusing the Souks, Bazaars and spice markets, and these Riads are the perfect place to come home to.
Some places have the incantory power to make you feel a certain way, something about the way the light bends and fuses into little corners invokes long-lasting sentiments, which is rare. Sounds maudlin, but I fell in love with how Riad Jardin Secret made me feel; like I was truly in a secret garden hidden away in a corner of the world. The interiors are meticulously curated, every detail is planned with a thought behind it, seeming effortless and timeless all at once.
You can’t find or book this place on any travel aggregator or hotel booking website. The Rigot-Tang duo wants you to experience the place via their website and exclusively book using their reservation system. This is their home and they don’t subscribe to the mentality of mass-marketing or outsourced tourism. It’s a singular experience, and they take it personally. How novel!
Riad Jardin Secret employs a concierge in your service, who takes care of you during your stay and stealthily blends into the background along with the rest of the staff until you need anything. The space is laid out around a central courtyard with rooms on the first and second floor. The courtyard is filled with large Date Palms, Banana trees and lots of flora and fauna. There are colorful birds’ homes and a tiny village that houses two turtles. The rooftop is stunning and offers a sweeping view of the Medina with a memorable sunset every evening. The Riad is maintained with sustainable practices (you will not find air-condition here!) and offer up organic, vegetarian meals prepared on a made-to-order basis by Mohamed, their in-house chef. Chef Mohamed is a rugged, sexy looking resident Moroccan who has had a lot of experience working for gastronomic restaurants. He puts a lot of thought into the menu and experience of the meal itself. All my vegan and gluten-free peeps will be well-cared for here!
I spent a lot of time reading and writing here. Later in the day, I enjoyed a sumptuous dinner of eggplant caviar Chachouka, 7-vegetable Tagine followed by a banana-kiwi sorbet. The morning after, I had a traditional Moroccan breakfast on the pink rooftop with 2 tiny pups sitting by my feet wagging their tails for tiny pieces of Berber pancake. I left Riad Jardin Secret with the subtle scent of mint and Shiba (herbal Artemesia) on my palette and a full heart grateful for the experience and slow staycation. If I was hard-pressed to change anything, I did feel like the guests are left waiting too long after they finish a course or a meal. I personally walked downstairs to the kitchen to let them know I was done after I waited an hour post finishing my meal, but then I was in my jammies and reading a book, so no harm no foul.
If you’re looking for a peaceful abode amidst the madness of the Marrakech Medina, give Riad Jardin Secret a chance. Try not to cram too much into your day and just enjoy the tranquility and peace they serve up on a platter, get to know the staff, and listen to the bluesy tunes queued up on the speakers in the courtyard. I hope you love it as much as I did, it eased something in me.