History and Style of Moroccan Riads

Posted on Jun 26 2014 - 11:44am by Mike James

A riad is a traditional Moroccan house that has an interior garden or courtyard space, usually with an open roof. The architecture of this kind of property stretches back to the Idrisid Dynasty, which is where most people believe the style originated from. It is believed that the style of housing and lack of an open, outdoor garden space was down to the Islamic beliefs on privacy for women whilst in residential gardens. The architecture has also been linked to weather conditions in Morocco and having sufficient protection from the glaring sunlight. In modern times, riads have adopted new interior design features and new styles of architecture.


A traditional riad would usually incorporate various unique features that wouldn’t usually be associated with a standard property in Morocco. Due to historic connections with the Idrisid Dynasty, many of the outer walls were inscribed with quotes from the Quran. They often had fountains or water features below the open roof in the courtyard area, along with four orange or lemon trees which were traditionally grown in the central courtyard as well. Depending on the size of the riad, you can potentially experience some truly luxurious accommodation.

The Moroccan city of Marrakech is widely known for its riads and its use of some of the older builds, which are now often used as locations for tourist gatherings, communal areas, hotels and restaurants. The renovation procedure is dependent on their specific use but the majority of riads remain in their original architectural style even after complete renovation. For example, riads often have cooling water features in the centre which are maintained to provide decoration in restaurants and hotels. There are also many riads in Marrakech that have not been renovated and these are often explored by tourists.

Interestingly, there has been a surge in popularity of riads in recent years. This has lead to many more being restored to their original condition so that they are fit for either domestic or commercial purposes. The majority of riads are quite expensive, having been abandoned by rich Moroccan family’s centuries ago. Another reason for their popularity is their location, with the vast majority of riads situated in the older, more historic parts of Morocco. Local investors see riads as excellent opportunities for tourist hotels and restaurants.

If you decide to stay in a riad when visiting Morocco, you can expect quite a unique living experience. Should you hire out a room in a riad, you will be welcomed by the owner and provided with a guided tour of the property in most cases. Riads are unlike any other hotel you will stay in, with plenty of features that you might find difficult to get used to. The intimate space means there is not much room to explore, although there are often roof terraces available where you can sit and eat daily meals.

Mike James
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Mike James is interested in Middle Eastern culture and gastronomy. He regularly travels to Morocco and will always stay at the Riad El Zohar when in Marrakech.