Blue Days at Riad Baraka in Chefchaouen, Morocco.
Editors Note: This is the fourth review in an ongoing series that will highlight each property–hostel and hotel–we stayed at during The Hazy Shade of Autumn Tour as part of our partnership with the good folks at HostelBookers.com.
Story by Randy | Photography by Beth
(Great views of the Chefchaouen hills out of the bathroom window.)
We stood outside of the Chefchaouen bus station looking up at a steep street trying to orientate ourselves to a city that we forgot to prepare for. Luckily, we spotted a cab nearby, so we grabbed it to Plaza Uta el-Hammam, the main square, just as the rain stopped.
During the Hazy Shade of Autumn Tour, we got pretty good at preparing for our arrival into new destinations. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Chefchaouen. Halfway through the four hour bus ride from Fez to the famed blue-walled city, we realized we had forgotten to write down the name and address of our hostel, Riad Baraka, as well as how to get there. Oops.
The road to Plaza Uta el-Hammam dead ends in front of the Hotel Parador, so we paid the cab driver (11 dirham or $1.25) and immediately went into the hotel to see if we could use its internet or Wi-Fi. Bingo! They had free Wi-Fi, we were set…but then we couldn’t connect. After 20 minutes of trying to communicate with the hotel staff about the Wi-Fi issue we started to think of plan B. Next option, locate one of the cyber cafés from our guidebook.
I waited at the dead end turnaround with our bags, as Beth disappeared into the foreign plaza. Several minutes later, I saw her reappear and enter a no-name store about 100 yards from me. She went in the store to find the location of the cyber cafe and as it turned out it was the cyber cafe – luck was on our side! After a long 10 minutes (she said negotiating an Arabic keyboard was tougher than it looked), she finally emerged with the details and we were on our away.
Walking through Plaza Uta el-Hammam with luggage is like walking into a kindergarten classroom with a bag full of lollypops. Within in a few minutes, we had a guide who offered to take us to the front door.
These “guided tour” transactions happen quickly, and go something like this:
Guide: “Hello. What are you looking for?”
Me: “Riad Baraka, I say, pointing to our notebook address.”
Guide: “OK, OK, follow me,” he says, and then he’s off.
That’s it. It happens fast and if you don’t want his services speak up quickly and loudly. In my experience, there is no talk of cost, because these guys work strictly on tips.
Into the Medina’s Blue-Walled Heart
Dashing through the narrow, rain washed blue walls, Beth and I smiled at each other, fully realizing we would have had a difficult time finding the Riad for the first time without the help of our guide, because we were at the other end of the Medina. (Later, we found out that Riad Baraka is only 70 meters from the Medina’s main gate, Bab el Lain). At the door, we handed our guide a 20 dirham ($2.35) tip just as Joe opened the door and welcomed us inside from the cold November drizzle.
Walking into Riad Baraka was like visiting an old friend’s house. The guest house had a warmth and coziness, like that of a bed and breakfast, with the style and character of a high-end boutique hotel. It is run by a British family—brothers Joe and Trevor and their mother, Ann—who’ve been living in Chefchaouen for nearly a decade. They’ve transformed the 600-year-old Riad into an immaculately clean guest house that blends traditional Moroccan styles—rugs, lamps and architecture—with western comforts, including plush beds, Wi-Fi and in-house laundry.
In itself the guest house is fantastic, but what really sets it apart is the love that the family brings to the Riad and its guests. In fact, thinking about Riad Baraka always reminds me of this line from Tom Waits, “What makes a house grand / Ain’t the roof or the doors / If there’s love in a house / It’s a palace for sure.” From our first English Tea to our last, Joe and Trevor (Ann was out of town) made us feel at home. The atmosphere in the guest house was light and jovial and there were often guests siting in the common living room reading and talking about past and future travels. And even though Riad Baraka was full or nearly full each day we were there, the four-story guest house and its shared bathrooms never felt crowded.
Additionally, having Joe and Trevor’s knowledge of Chefchaouen as well as Morocco was an invaluable benefit. Not only did they know the ins and outs of the city, but they also were able to provide fantastic recommendations for dining options and tips for sightseeing around the city and nearby towns. One of the brother’s was always around to answer questions or help out in a way they could. For example, midway through our stay Beth got food poisoning and Joe and Trevor went out of their way to make her as comfortable as possible, including sending out their friend and co-worker Mohammed to get the ingredients for a traditional Moroccan tea to help her stomach.
YUM. The Riad’s breakfast was a great way to start the day.
During the Hazy Shade of Autumn Tour, Beth and I got to stay at some phenomenal properties as part our partnership with HostelBookers, and Riad Baraka was one of our favorites. A splendid breakfast— fresh fruit, yogurt, croissant and tea—coupled with impeccable service, atmosphere and location are all hallmarks of this guest house. If you are going to Chefchaouen, we couldn’t recommend this place more, private rooms (dorms only have 2 beds in the room) range from $15.83 to $23.41. (If you are a solo traveler make sure to ask about a discounted room rate.)
The two bed dorm room with handmade lamps and paintings.
Our bedroom and one of the beautifully tiled bathrooms. Note the inlaid star and moon tiles in our room – so cool!
The Living/Reading/Breakfast hang out spot:
The Nook – a great place to work, chill out and read!
Gorgeous patio with breathtaking views of Chefchaouen:
Note from Beth: I really loved this Riad. Not only was it really cute and comfy it was also the personalities of Joe and Trevor that really made it stand out. I was so violently ill and honestly there couldn’t have been a better place to be. I knew if I took a turn for the worse they would make sure that I was ok and had the medical attention I would’ve needed. Plus, they are just great, funny guys who are easy to hang out and talk with. It felt a bit like being home in a location that was very far from home. Joe also speaks four languages (English, French, Arabic & Spanish) which is very helpful. Mohammed is their very talented employee who did all the paintings in the Riad! I also wanted to note that their outdoor, multi-level patio is beautiful! With the same inlaid moon and sun tile throughout it is absolutely gorgeous and a relaxing place to hang out. They also prepare meals at Riad Baraka and host BBQ cookouts on the roof. If you’re headed to Chefchaouen please consider staying here. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy the town and relax.
*Our stay was complimentary; however, our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.
**Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!