There was a time in London when it was fashionable to be in fashion. Then it was to be a DJ, then a photographer. Now – or so it seems, with the souks saturated with expats – it's all the rage to go and run a riad in Marrakech.
Covering the last two of these flights of professional fancy are Paul and Aoibheann Hopkins, owners of Maison MK – a cute-as-a-button-and-twice-as-shiny, six-bedroom bolthole in the throng of the medina that opened this spring. Their effortlessly chic fashion and portrait photography, hung throughout the building, make up but a tiny part of the distinct personality they've brought in abundance to this labour of love.
For all the high quality content of MK, there's perhaps too much style: every element seems thought out and rethought. Every light fixture is theatre: uplit, downlit, backlit. Then there are the oversized rubber ducks in the courtyard swimming pool and en suite bathrooms – tiresome shorthand for post-modern irreverence and "A Sense of Humour".
But let's not be harsh. This is a really lovely place. As you'd expect from two visual artists, it's easy on the eye, particularly the split-level roof terrace, with its inviting beds and banquettes, a bar and the dramatic curved and billowing windbreaks.
The guesthouse scale is particularly user-friendly, so you soon become familiar with the staff and unfailingly helpful managers, who know this often tricky city inside and out. All round, the service is fantastic.
The chef cooks up an international storm – duck confit, seafood-filled ravioli and boozy sorbet refreshers outshine most of the big restaurants in town. The tiny gym and spa are lovely touches, and the latter comes into its own if you hire the whole place out with friends or family for the weekend – what better way to take time out from antique-scouting than heading home for massages for all?
Even if you haven't got sole use of MK, you'll still feel never less than at home, and rarely want to wear more than your tassel-hooded bathrobe around the place.
Maison MK, 14 Derb Sebaai, Quartier Ksour, medina, Marrakech, Morocco (00 212 24 37 61 73; www.maisonmk.com). The riad is a short walk from the Bab el Ksour gate into the medina, a couple of twists and turns to the west of the souks, and less than 10 minutes' walk – if you memorise the route – from Djemaa el Fna, the main square. A taxi from the airport to the medina takes 15 minutes.
This is an authentic, unreconstructed riad, so the metre-thick walls keep the interior cool even when the medina is roasting – though you might want to turn up the punishingly effective air-con in your room. There are high ceilings and sumptuous and plush traditional Moorish furnishings in abundance. The look is modern Euro boutique hotel meets wildly ornate, let's-have-an-afternoon-nap-on-some-cushions Marrakech.
The flimsy rayon curtain between the bathroom and bedroom may slightly unnerve all but the closest or deafest of couples, but the iPod docking station and in-house music channels are reliable distractions.
Freebies: Each wet room bathroom comes with a full range of De Luxe Spa products by Ex Voto Paris.
Keeping in touch: Unlike in many hotels in Marrakech, the free Wi-Fi works splendidly; mobile phones are available on loan. The rooms don't have TVs, but there is a screening room with an 8ft screen and a DVD library.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start at €350 (£292) per night (rising to €400/£333 in 2009), including breakfast. The whole riad can be rented out for €1,500 (£1,250) per night.
I'm not paying that: Jnane Mogador, 116 Riad Zitoune Kedim (00 212 42 63 24; www.jnanemogador.com) is the most salubrious low-budget riad in the medina. It is unheated in winter. Doubles start at 380 dirhams (£27), room only.Reuse content