Even as regular visitors to Marrakech, we still find the medina exhausting with its mopeds brushing past at speed along the alleyways, and shop sellers vying for your attention. It’s a wonderfully vibrant and beautifully chaotic place that jolts the senses, but can also be utterly draining, especially if you visit in the summer months.
Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family were provided with a complimentary three night stay at Riad Africa in exchange for this honest review and social media coverage. As always, there are all our own words and opinions.
Does anyone actually visit Marrakech in the summer months when temperatures sneak up to 50°C? Well yes, that would be us, along with many other travellers as apparently this is the high season (European and Moroccan school holidays).
Our most recent visit to Marrakech came at the end of four months travelling Morocco as a family. We had spent the last month in the breezy coastal town of Essaouira where summer temperatures are a good 15°C cooler, and so the oppressive dry heat of Marrakech on arrival was quite a shock to the system.
The main advice I give to anyone visiting Marrakech with kids is that accommodation is key, especially if you want the authentic experience of staying in the medina. You need an oasis from the chaos, especially with little ones as there are very few places for them to run freely in the city. But this is even more so the case in the summer months, when a pool and aircon are absolute essentials.
However, trying to find an affordable accommodation in the medina that accepts families, can be tricky. Indeed, many riads have a policy of not accepting children under 12, which having stayed in many riads over the years, I totally understand. Riads are old Moroccan houses (and palaces) where rooms are built around a central courtyard often featuring a pool; all sounds are amplified in these spaces.
But, located in a quiet corner of the medina, mid-range Riad Africa in Marrakech is one of the few riads that is actually promoted as a family friendly riad. Plus, they have family rooms with aircon, and there’s a pool! This ticked all the boxes for us and we were excited to check it out.
Arriving to Riad Africa
We had taken a taxi to Marrakech from Essaouira, which dropped us off at Place des Ferblantiers. From here, it was an easy 5 minute walk through the medina to the entrance of Riad Africa, following Google Maps. We had been emailed walking instructions prior to our arrival, but we didn’t really need them.
Surprisingly, there was no mint tea on arrival for us. This is something that we’ve become accustomed to all over Morocco, and would have been welcomed after our short walk in the heat. But I could tell that the one member of staff on duty had his hands full with requests from lots of other guests, or it just may not be the done thing here.
The lack of mint tea didn’t matter though, as I could see our boys had their eye on the pool.
The central courtyard
Decorated with red furnishings against a white backdrop, the central courtyard is beautiful and certainly feels like the oasis you expect of an Marrakech riad. However, it’s much smaller than what is depicted on the photos from the Riad Africa website, and there isn’t much room for seating plus a walkway around the pool.
The pool is also much smaller than the fish-eye lens suggests. It’s 1m deep, which is great for younger kids, but really it’s only big enough for one group/family at a time, and certainly not a pool for kids (or parents) to dive into; there just isn’t the space or depth. Small pools are typical in riads, and really, this one is more of a plunge pool.
But the pool size didn’t really matter to our boys, and they happily played away. There aren’t many places in Marrakech for kids to play, so a pool of any size is very handy.
There’s also a smaller plunge pool just off from the central courtyard, which is heated in the winter months.
Our family room at Riad Africa
Rooms are named after places in Africa, which our long-term readers will know we appreciate after our Land Rover adventures in sub-Saharan Africa for 4 months.
We were led away from the main courtyard and up a flight of stairs to two adjoining rooms (Zanzibar and Lalibela, which I haven’t been able to find listed on the website). Being away from the main courtyard meant that we were away from the noise around the pool, but likewise, us parents didn’t have to worry too much about our boys making too much noise either. Indeed, we were nicely tucked away.
The boys took Zanzibar with one double bed, one single bed, and a very narrow bathroom with shower. Us parents took Lalibela with a large double bed and ensuite boasting a deep bathtub and overhead shower.
The large dark-wood furniture seems to swamp the rooms that I should perhaps call ‘cosy’. Plus there is little in the way of natural light (although this is very common in riads). Photos on the website suggest that we perhaps didn’t get one of the better rooms.
But the beds are extremely comfortable, the aircon is appreciated, and the deep bathtub a wonderful treat. Most importantly, the rooms are quiet (except for the intermittent dingdong of the entrance door bell below) and we all slept extremely well.
Rooms have a TV and tea/coffee making facilities, but no fridge. There were a few things that didn’t work in the rooms (the TV, a lamp, the rain shower) and the rooms did feel a little tired. We reported the lamp, but when we realised that wasn’t going to be fixed we were happy to make do. We don’t really watch TV anyway, and I hadn’t had a bath in months, so we weren’t fussed by the rain shower not working.
Breakfast at Riad Africa
A buffet breakfast is served on the rooftop, which affords fantastic views over the city. There are little nooks dotted around the rooftop to sit with a good novel afterwards, so perhaps take a book with you (I can hear some parents laughing at me here!) The rooftop is also very special at sunset with the call to prayer drifting across the rooftops.
Breakfast is the standard local breads, croissants, cereal, fruit juices, and hot drinks. Fried eggs are served with a mix of tomatoes and spices in a large tagine; absolutely delicious, if you’re quick enough to get some. Omelettes can be cooked on request. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the best breakfast we’ve had over our years visiting Morocco, and we had to frequently ask staff for plates, cutlery, and food items that had run out (not ideal with young kids).
Location of Riad Africa
The location gets 5 stars from us. It’s hidden down a series of turns along quiet alleyways on the edge of the medina, and only a five minute walk to the main square. You can be amongst the hustle and bustle just two minutes away, yet it’s a wonderful place to retreat to (no outside sound whatsoever is heard inside the riad).
Whilst many families like to switch off on their travels, as a digital nomad family, WIFI connection is very important to us. Both of us parents were working during our stay, and the boys had online lessons.
The WIFI is good for the medina, although the speed goes up and down. Video calls worked fine.
Things to do at Riad Africa
The riad serves dinner each evening, although with so many great-value restaurants dotted around the medina, we chose to eat out each night. There is also a spa and hammam on site; those who follow us on Instagram know how much I loved my hammams in Essaouira, but I with it being pricier here, I decided against it.
Riad Africa also arrange lots of activities in and around Marrakech.
But really, the best thing to do in Marrakech is just to walk and wander, and see where the day takes you. Do check out our guide to visiting Morocco with kids, as well as our Morocco road trip itinerary.
Would we recommend Riad Africa for families?
Riad Africa is a mid-range hotel. A family room is from £135 per night at the time of writing, which I personally feel is a little pricey, but there are sometime deals on booking.com.
Whilst our room felt a little tired and the breakfast didn’t quite live up to expectation, Riad Africa is one of the few riads in Marrakech that specifically promotes themselves as a family friendly riad. Plus the location is excellent, and the small pool is an added bonus (an absolute necessity if you are visiting in the summer months). But my personal favourite spot at Riad Africa is stood on the roof top at sunset, listening to the call to prayer waft with the gentle breeze; just magical.
If you are looking for a good base to explore Marrakech as a family and want a riad experience, Riad Africa is a very good option as they are so welcoming to families.