Q: What is it? A: A quite traditional but well-managed riad, only an olive’s throw from the royal palace and its nesting storks. And in case you wondered; ‘Cigogne’ is the French name for these big birds.
Now, listen class: Cigogne is French. It translates to stork.
Location: The rooftop of Dar Les Cigognes. There are quite a few white storks (Ciconia ciconia) nesting on the walls of the royal palace, which is across the street. Big birds they are, with a wingspan of 200 cm (79 in.). If air-traffic control gives them an OK for a final approach from northeast, you hear them swoop in, their necks stretched in flight. When I bring my camera upstairs no swooping is taking place. I return from the rooftop with a pic of one taking a stroll on top of his nest. Poor show!
This is a riad that comes with a few advantages.
It’s possible to get to its doorstep by car. This may sound like one of the lesser advantages for a better hotel, but now you’re in the Medina which dates back to the year 1071 – more or less the antidote of modern urban planning. At other riads, elderly men have pulled hand-drawn carts with my baggage to a waiting car through this maze of alleys and walkways.
More importantly, the Dar Les Cigognes itself is a very well-managed riad with a very helpful staff. Miss Hayat, who is in charge during my visit, is a real gem, making you feel extremely well taken care of. Under her supervision, restaurants get booked, cars are ordered and everything, including the time for meals, feels tailored to suit your needs. She’s like a Swiss watch with a warm heart.
It looks quite good! Somebody must have called in an architect.
Even though it consists of two houses connected with a walkway over a narrow alleyway, the Dar Les Cigognes has only 11 rooms. This means you won’t have a problem finding yourself private spaces for meals, work or contemplation. The tadelakt plaster walls also makes it feel quite stylish. A tadelakt mixture typically includes pulverized marble, which is then polished by hand, making the surface is smooth as Teflon. Charles Boccara, a French Tunisian-born architect, have added his quite classical touch of style to the riad, which means that it is not suffering from minimalistic design.
You may put your trust in the restaurant as well…
Dinner at the hotel means that you’ll be served a pre-ordered menu of four different courses. This is common practice for most riads. Served on the rooftop, everything tastes great; the chicken tagine in particular. Just have realistic expectations on the wine list, which is quite short. It should be mentioned that despite being a Muslim country, wines of quite decent quality have been produced in Morocco since the mid-90s, (and they’re getting better every year).
The Dar Les Cigognes has one foot in the medieval Marrakech and the other in the tourist industry of the 21st century. In this reviewer’s opinion, it’s a very well working combination. Recommended. Four stars. Oh, yes.
Dar Les Cigognes
108 rue de Berima
Marrakech 40 000