I am working on a post about Marrakech at the moment and it made me think: Maybe you would be interested in where I usually stay when I am in Morocco.
It’s a little riad called VILLA FILALI, in the middle of the medina. It’s a private house and chances are, you have never heard about it, but I think it is totally worth to be added to your bucket list for your next Marrakech trip!
Almost 20 years ago my friend Felicia stumbled upon a ramshackle little riad in the oldest part of the medina and immediately fell in love. She put a lot of research, energy (and money) into the renovation and the interior decor. She worked with local artisans and craftsmen using the old techniques for plastering the walls and restoring the ornamental tiling around the house.
And she added her own little twist and mixed and matched traditional moroccan elements with high quality craftsmanship from other parts of the world. You will find a Murano glass chandelier from Venice next to a crazy totally over the top four poster brass bed built in Sheffield/ England for the arabic market and a traditional Swedish stove (shipped from Sweden together with a guy to install it - that crazy girl).
The list of mid century classics in the house is long (including Mategot table and chairs (who had a factory in Morocco) - a Nanna Ditzel chair - a glass Panton chandelier in the kitchen - 70s bright yellow Saarinen Moroccan rip off chairs - the fabrics are Scalamandré and Clarence House). If you enjoy that kind of mid century modern mixed with local flea market finds your will totally be in heaven here.
For me, Felicia’s house is simply amazing! I am a minimalist when it comes to my own interior but that doesn't mean I can’t enjoy a different concept. Villa Filali is overwhelming with colors and patterns - Felicias philosophy is definitely more is more - but since every item in the house is chosen so carefully and in such high quality, it all comes together very beautifully in the end. Here is a quick tour of the house:
You enter the house through a small hallway where you take off your shoes and bags and slip into your babouches (moroccan leather slippers) to get comfortable. The master bathroom, with a big marble tub, is located here. It makes it easy to quickly hop into the shower and wash away the desert dust before entering the house.
The entrance hallway opens to the courtyard, the main feature of the house. The whole riad was build as a reception area so the tiling and carvings in the square courtyard are more opulent then in other riads that size. A water feature, usually decorated with fresh flower petals, is located right in the middle. Four lemon trees shade the sitting area and a huge daybed is build into one wall like an alcove (what Moroccans call a B’hou - traditionally used for drinking tea). On a really warm day, that would be the place to rest between city-exploring-trips, lay down for a little nap or relax with a drink in your hand.
Right and left of the courtyard are the living/dining room and the master bedroom. I never used the living room because I am usually going in spring when it is nice to be outside. But these rooms can be heated or cooled, so they are good if you come in summer when you really want to hide from the sun. Winter nights on the other hand can be quite fierce and you would totally enjoy a breakfast or dinner in front of a roaring fire.
You probably noticed: master bedroom and bathroom are not en suite - you have to cross the courtyard to get from one to the other, but the yard is beautifully lit at night, so the way to the loo is very pretty. A flashlight for power cuts next to the bed is a good idea but with our all present mobile phones having a flashlight function, there is nothing to worry about.
The little kitchen is also located off the courtyard and the lovely housekeeper, Khadija, will come it in the mornings and start puttering around to prepare breakfast. She makes you freshly squeezed orange juice, fruit salad and the best pancakes in town. Not only the Moroccan versions, she also does Swedish pancakes. So good!!!
The second floor is basically a balcony that goes around the courtyard on 3 sides. One side is a little flower garden with stretchers for reading or sunbathing. the opposite side has a pergola shaded table area. On this floor is another little room, lovingly called the "Library". The sofa can convert into a comfy bed for two. Next to it is another small bathroom with a shower.
A flight of stairs leads to the rooftop terrace on the 3rd floor. Its a great place to breakfast and catch the first warm beams of the sun on a chilly morning or enjoy a sundowner and look over the rooftops of the medina. One of the most magical moments in Marrakech is the moment when the muezzins of the surrounding mosques (and there are many) start to call for prayer. It is so soothing and touching. I think it makes everyone stop for a minute and - no matter what faith or none - take in the moment.
If you have very small children or a walking handicap you should know that the staircase to the 2nd floor is very steep and narrow and the stairs to the rooftop terrace has a low banister without a handrail. Just instruct your kids and be careful yourself. The house mainly IS the courtyard and the balconies. It is a bit like living outdoors - only for sleeping you go into a room and even then you are not sealed off completely from the environment. The milder temperatures at night in contrast to the hot days make the Marrakshis very active in the evenings. Kids play in the alleys, there is talking an laughing till late in the night. The calls for prayers also happen at all times and made me jump more then once (but I have a very light sleep and it may not bother you at all).
The house has internet, so social media is always accessible (until off course it is not working - you never know for sure - it’s Morocco). Khadija can help arrange drivers for day trips like Beldi Country Club if you are longing for a pool, or a visit of a berber town in the outskirts of the Atlas mountains.
I always feel very cared for and safe here. It is available for rent privately through word of mouth (really only to try and cover the costs for the up-keeping of a historical building). So I hope you feel inspired to check it out. Felicia even offered to give you a friends and family discount for a booking in 2019 if you mention you found her through this post (thanks honey). If you want to stay at Villa Filali please connect with Felicia on villafilali.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) or check her IG @villafilali. She speaks English, French, Swedish, Danish and German and will be able to answer all your questions :-)
Hope you enjoyed the little tour. In the works is another post on Marrakech about how to navigate outside the house. Make sure you are on the mailing list to not miss it.
The entrance doesn't really give away what to expect around the corner
The bathroom next to the courtyard with the marble bath tub
The dining / living room doors
Living room ceiling