26 Apr 2017

There’s a comfort in watching and rewatching a much loved movie till you know every twist and turn by heart. The predictability is as restorative as a gigantic glass of wine or donning the rattiest – and therefore softest – sweater that you’ve had since you were in braces. You know the one I’m talking about – it’s full of holes and makes you look homeless (or cheap) but you refuse to throw it away because it’s so damn cozy.

This post about the other jewel of a spot I stayed at in Marrakech, Riad Jardin Secret, is an ode to two movies that I’ve watched an embarrassing number of times over the years: The Secret Garden and 10 Things I Hate About You.

If you’re familiar with French, then the nod to The Secret Garden should be evident. But what also reminded me of the movie was when I entered through the heavy, wooden doors from the bustling streets into the overwhelmingly lush jungle of foliage of the inner courtyard of the riad. It felt reminiscent of the scene where the spoiled protagonist turns the key in the door, overgrown with thick vines, to reveal a hidden garden sanctuary.

The reference to 10 Things I Hate About You is more obscure but what can I say, my brain works in a predictably arbitrary ways. The title of the movie references when Julia Stiles’ character pretty much professes her love for Health Ledger in a poem that lists what she “hates” about him but really the sum all those seeming imperfections add up to a person she adores.

I was so completely smitten with Riad Jardin Secret from the moment I walked in that I can’t play it cool. My trained designer eyes were so overwhelmed by the visual feast of the place that I couldn’t even pretend there was anything about the place that I didn’t LOVE hence the name of this blog post 10 Things I Love About Riad Jardin Secret. Was that a stretch? It was a stretch. Whatever. We’re here now.

Riads are guesthouses that were converted from stately city homes of wealthy Moroccan citizens, characterized by inner courtyards. The one at Riad Jardin Secret is a dense forest of greenery with a zellige fountain and has two gigantic plants reaching from the ground floor all the way up to the roof. I loved getting lost amid the leafy greenery, occasionally encountering the resident, hyper kitten and an adventurous tortoise.

Once you get a little more accustomed to how gorgeous this riad is as a whole, take your time drinking in all of the little artisan details that are original to the home like the colourful zellige tiles, hand-painted mosaics on the ceilings and the intricately carved walls and doors.

Everything about this riad is dreamy and romantic, including of how it came to be owned by two Parisian lovers, Julien and Cyrielle. They were the perfect hosts – gracious and helpful, imparting advice for which hammams were the best and welcoming us with a handwritten note in our room.

Both Cyrielle and Julien have a background in fashion and their effortless style was infused into every inch of the place, from the black and white prints adorning the walls – taken by Cyrielle – to the vintage market finds that were chosen with care and a discerning eye. Every room was full of treasures and deliberately arranged to craft an elegant scene, accenting the rich history of the riad.

I adored the grand feeling to the suites with the high ceilings and the smooth tadelakt surface bathrooms. While those are characteristic of Moroccan architecture, what gives the rooms that local flavour are the furnishings that are a nod to local craftsmanship with patterned kilim pillows, woven rugs, and antique tray tables.

Reflected in the architecture is the Islamic concept of privacy and inward focus, much like hijabs for women. Set along the walls between the rooms on the second storey were secluded little nooks where you could relax with a glass of mint tea and a book, undisturbed.

Returning from the souks with a hard-earned wedding blanket, I was searching for a bag to stash it in and wandered into a back room by the kitchens. Open to the sky with healthy hanging plants reaching the floor, there was a work table covered with bowls of fruit and photography equipment and a motorcycle casually standing nearby. I loved how even their private areas were curated to perfection!

As stylishly decorated as the rest of the establishment, the roof is the perfect combination of red terracotta and plethora of cactus varietals lining the walls. Opt to have your breakfast at one of the many beautifully furnished niches, plush with pillows and low trays. If a fear of heights isn’t a deterrent, climb a bit higher to the raised platform to enjoy some sunshine and a view of turquoise rooftops.

You can’t leave this riad without a round on the sweet little swing! It adds whimsy to the Parisian sophistication of the decor, framed by a grand archway and hanging amid flourishing Birds of Paradise plants.

Included in a night’s stay, breakfast at Riad Jardin Secret is not only delicious and freshly made by an in-house chef but almost too pretty to eat. From a selection of little jars of jam to indulgent pastries to artfully arranged fruit served on emerald green platters with bright glasses of orange juice to wash it all down.


Riad Jardin Secret
43 - 46 Arset Aouzal | Bab Taghzout,
Marrakech 40000, Morocco
+212 5 24 37 66 06

You can arrange a taxi through the riad (150 MAD) or get one straight from the airport. I recommend the former option as it’s easier. You’ll most likely get dropped off on the street side as the other way is through an alley where vehicles can’t fit. Call ahead so they’ll know to let you in through a garage area.

Cost: €110 - 220 / 2 Adults / night
Number of Rooms: 2 rooms and 2 suites
Room Capacity: 11 people
Wifi? Yes
Breakfast is included

To Do: Spice Souk, Bahia Palace, El Badi Palace, Saadian Tombs
To Eat: La Maison Arabe I recommend the mushroom saffron risotto and the chocolate creme brûlée.
Marrakech Henna Art Cafe Really cool women’s collective where you can enjoy authentic Moroccan food while getting intricate henna done! Proceeds go to the education of women.

- They also have an in-house chef if you want a quiet meal at the riad but let them know ahead of time. Vegetarian meals available.
- There are two entrances: one through a narrow alleyway and one through a garage from the streets. You can go to La Maison Arabe from the street side and ask them to call the riad so someone can come open the door for you.

ETC is the overflow of thoughts in the mind of Teri Yeung. It’s a place full of stories of travel adventures, imparted lessons learned from life’s achievements and failures, behind-the-scenes of projects and experiments, and anything else that inspires excitement and joy.

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