Experience Review: The Stunning Riad AnaYela (Marrakesh, Morocco)
A 300 year old palace in the heart of Marrakesh's medina isn't likely to let you down, especially not one as carefully renovated and put together as Riad AnaYela. I've stayed in many riads in Morocco, and this one is different. For those who don't know, a riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior courtyard or garden that's usually quite resplendent, often including a pool or fountain.
Work on the modern iteration of Riad AnaYela took place throughout 2007, when over 100 traditional Moroccan artisans renovated the Riad by hand. "Ana Yela" literally translates to "I Am Yela," and if you look carefully you'll see that the architecture and calligraphy around the house aim to tell a story of a girl named Yela who once lived in the house. Needless to say, a lot of thought went into this unique space.
"The AnaYela is not a hotel, it is has been designed to be a "Place of Inspiration". The AnaYela tells a story - it makes you immediately become part of the Moroccan culture and life." - Owner, Andrea Bury
As is typical with a riad, the "room" is really a very small part of the experience. Much of the joy of staying in a riad is feeling comfortable in the entirety of the building, as if the whole thing was an extension of your room. A good riad does this with an impeccable staff who do truly treat you like guests in their home, and that's precisely what we found here. Mehdi, the manager, ensured that was the case. My partner, Bri, was also with me at the Riad, and we found a particular appreciation for the roof terrace, which I felt transported us back 300 years rather effectively. Part of this was due to the fact that the building is one of the most prominent in the medina, and thus looks over much of the surrounding buildings. The third picture below shows you the aptly named "flying carpet."
"The AnaYela is a place to come home and digest the intense sensual experiences from outside. Here you have the space - no distraction - to have your thoughts and feelings turn."
At a basic, generic hotel, it can often feel that if you're at the hotel, you're missing out on what the city offers. However, with a quality riad, it should feel quite the opposite. A great riad offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, but the experience there can be just as culturally fulfilling as anything you may see when you're out exploring as a tourist. A large portion of that is also how a riad prepares their food, as if they don't have quality cuisine, then you feel compelled to leave whenever hunger strikes, and that's not ideal. I've personally stayed at riads with awful food, and it really tainted the experience, as well as riads which served up some of the finest food I'd ever tasted. Well, thankfully, and not surprisingly, Riad AnaYela was in the latter group. As far as food is concerned, The AnaYela pays careful respect to Moroccan tradition, while they politely add their own twist to it.
"As the outside in Marrakesh is so intense, we wanted to create a space that doesn't put itself in the foreground, that is rather calm and quiet."
One thing I noticed when walking around was that everything seemed to be constructed in a way that would evoke emotion. Funny enough, in speaking to the management group at a later date, this was confirmed, "we work a lot with indirect lighting and play with the shadows that create a very special atmosphere in the house." And that's pretty much what we felt. It's a place that allows you to be comfortable in your silence, and it's generally nice and quiet and calm there, considering there are only five rooms.
My readers know, I wouldn't spout off about a hotel or experience if I didn't truly believe it, but I'm serious when I mention that it was a surreal time that Bri and I had there. We spent a lot of time just taking photos, and enjoying night fall and the riad came alive with lighting.
"We want to make our guests feel like home, give the security, warmth and serenity of a home"
Riad AnaYela is a home away from home - it's just that, it's likely a fair bit nicer than the home that's actually your home. And that, right there, makes it worth spending the night.
I was received as media by AnaYela, whom I humbly thank. Have you been to Marrakesh or Morocco before? Have you stayed at a riad before? What did you think? What do you think about Riad AnaYela? Please let me know any and all of your thoughts in the comments below! Thanks!
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