Due to an overaggressive cough, I could barely sleep last night, and so I decided to aimlessly spend time channel surfing. In my idle adventure, I came across an interesting show on CNN called Travelogue. This late night episode was about Europeans who have traded their comfy European homes, for the colorful but sometimes challenging lifestyles in the North African country of Morocco.
Interestingly enough, hundreds of Westerners, mostly Europeans, are buying up and often extravagantly renovating distinctive homes called riads (Arabic for garden) typically with scented oriental gardens in inner courtyards, in the old quarters of Marrakech and other historic cities like Fez and Meknes to the north. Foreigners rushed to buy riads (Arabic for garden) from the 1960s onwards, led by celebrities like French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, establishing Marrakech’s reputation as a playground for the rich and famous.
Since Moroccan architecture is more inward looking and given to isolation and intimacy rather than showing off, a riad is a private, cloistered place of escape from the busy swirl outside its thick walls. The walls have colorful tiles and the ceilings have been paintedwith grand and intricate designs by local artists. Many of the ‘Riads’ today are hotels or restaurants and can be viewed at leisure while drinking a cup of famous Moroccan “mint” tea.