The Moroccan Riad

The Moroccan Riad

The Moroccan riad is a traditional style of Moroccan home. At its centre is a trademark open-air courtyard or garden that keeps the building cool in the extreme African summer heat. The word ‘riad’ itself originates from the word garden, as written in Arabic. The earliest example of similar architecture can be seen in the ancient Roman city of Volubilis during its Idrisid dynasty which is believed to have served as a template for the more modern and vastly beautiful, riad.

The History
In the 11th Century, when the Almoravids conquered Spain artisans and architects from mainland Spain who were of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith, were sent to Morocco to turn their hand at uilding and designing monuments – it is believed that these individuals had a significant creative influence on the current riad designs. Of course, the styling of the riad has contorted over time, as with much Western architecture, but the basic design principles remain largely the same.
The new fashion of renovation in Moroccan cities such as Essaouira and Marrakech have influenced a recent boost in this form of housing, as the now crumbling remains of riads that are centuries old, are being revitalised and returning to their former glory.

While in the past most riads were sued as homesteads, now many are used as hotels and restaurants – nowhere is this clearer than in Marrakech where the tourism trade is a major if not the largest contributor to the city’s economy.

The Moroccan Riad

The design of the riad illustrates the desire for an inward-focused, private, family accommodation that is sheltered from all weather conditions, including sandstorms. The central garden or courtyard, elucidates the architects’ desire for this inward-looking aesthetic and further to this the large, tall walls are often absent of exterior windows - Privacy, with regards to the Islamic faith, is a hugely important notion.

These man-made spaces strongly encourage a desire for reflection as the entranceways to the riads are overtly transitional, in that they – with the other rooms of the house – all open centrally onto the courtyard itself.

Common design features include fountains and more recently, dipping pools alongside the traditional orange and lemon trees. The wall of the riad itself is usually decorated with what are known as ‘zellige’ tiles with a backing of ‘tadelakt’ plaster. On the tiles themselves, quotes from the Quran are inscribed in Arabic for decoration.

A trip to a riad (most likely in hotel form), is an absolute must when seeking a truly authentic, cultural Moroccan experience. With regular flights from Glasgow Airport, getting there couldn’t be simpler. You will be warmly welcomed by staff and served a brew of sweet, traditional, Moroccan mint tea that while hot, cools the body, just as the riad was designed to do.
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Izzy Gardener
About the Author:

This post was written by Izzy Gardener on behalf of Heathrow Airport. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Heathrow Airport.

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