Moroccan roll: A clutch of hens live it up in the riads of Marrakech

A riad - or guesthouse - in Marrakech's old city is the perfect place for pre-wedding pampering

On a miserable Thursday in March, a clutch of hens flew off from Luton – 10 girls in search of three days of pre-wedding hedonism in a new and exotic location.

As “best girl”, I’d had the job of organising the jolly and was slightly anxious that my well laid plans could all go awry – but Ryanair wafted us to Marrakech’s Menara airport in three-and-a-bit hours, and the plane doors opened to Africa and a wall of balmy heat.  None of us had been to Morocco before, so although we were expecting something different, we weren’t quite prepared for the extraordinariness that greeted us. 

I had had various planning conversations with Victoria, the London-based owner of Riad Timila, a restored courtyard house I’d originally found on Trip Advisor. She had arranged for us to be met at the airport by Brahim, the charming house manager, who was to be our host for the next three nights. 

Setting off in two 4x4s, we were driven through the outskirts of the city into the Medina (old town), until we could go no further – the streets just became too narrow for cars. So we put all the bags in a thoughtfully provided handcart and followed Brahim through the maze of alleys or derbs; we felt like extras in an Indiana Jones movie. Then he unlocked an unassuming little door in a wall, and Riad Timila lay before us! Candles gleaming, incense burning, fountain playing – all the boxes were ticked.

We spread ourselves amongst the six ensuite bedrooms (chic, understated and luxurious) and reconvened on the roof terrace for sundowners. The view was sensational – the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque in one direction, the Atlas Mountains in another, and the local wine wasn’t bad either! We were pleased that we’d opted for dinner at the Riad that night, as the thought of negotiating our way through the paths and byways in the dark was a bit scary. Henia, the house cook, produced a fantastic supper – a huge variety of Moroccan salads, a delicious chicken tajine with peas and artichoke hearts, and strawberries that exploded with flavour. All that sunshine is good for them I guess.

Next morning, after breakfast (fresh juice, pancakes, yoghurt, fruit salad) on the flower filled roof terrace, we set off to explore the old town. The riad is only about five minutes’ walk from the main square and the souks, and our retail therapy commenced: slippers, baskets, jewellery, candles, lanterns, textiles, tribal artefacts and of course carpets – a riot of colours, noises and smells! 

On Brahim’s recommendation we had lunch at Café Arabe, and after a few glasses of pink wine, lurched back to the peace of Timila to take advantage of the in-house spa facilities. I’d never had a hammam before, and loved it – once I got my head round the grey worms of dead skin that were being scrubbed off me. This was followed by a seriously relaxing massage with local argan oil, the whole experience leaving me squeaky clean and baby soft. 

Riad Timila's courtyard is sunny even in March  

Apparently it’s good to do this at the start of the trip as your skin is then perfectly prepared for even suntanning - which is exactly what we proceeded to do the next day, catatonic on the sunloungers with occasional forays into the freezing pool. But before our relaxing Sunday, we had Saturday night to contend with, with a celebration dinner at Timila – the table decorated with rose petals and fairy lights, more fantastic food, and belly dancing lessons for all! This was completely hilarious and gave the bride lots of ideas for passing the time on honeymoon.

After our day of chilling out in the sunshine, Brahim had booked us a table at Jad Mahal, in the new town. It’s a really glamorous, palatial building with a stunning water feature running through the middle of it, and exquisite belly dancers, who I had to admit were a bit better than we were. The food was sophisticated international, as was the clientele, and after dinner we adjourned to Silver, the basement nightclub next door – not quite ready to hang up our clubbing cred yet!

Monday saw us whizzing round the souks again for some last minute purchases, then it was off to the airport and back to cold, wet Blighty. The verdict? Marrakech is the perfect venue for free range hens, and Riad Timila the perfect roost.

Riad Timila is available to rent on an exclusive basis for £650 per night, including breakfast, or room by room from £120 per night.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game