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New in Marrakesh

Although it's just steps from Marrakesh's teeming souks, Riad Maji—one of the many new guesthouses deep within the ancient walled medina—is the epitome of tranquillity. Breakfast is served on the tented roof, an enchanting aerie with a view of the Atlas Mountains. As I slather homemade fig preserves on a freshly baked croissant, Abdourrazak, the majordomo who makes Maji feel like a home away from home, stops by to see whether I'll need help arranging sightseeing, shopping, or lunch—and even offers to take me around the city himself. Such is the advantage of staying at a riad and experiencing the Marrakesh medina firsthand. (Adding to the allure: local authorities have made it illegal for the famously bothersome street hawkers to hassle foreign visitors.) Meanwhile, there's more happening in the palmy outskirts, where a handful of stylish hotels have recently opened, promising the peace and privacy of a rural setting. With options like these, Marrakesh has never been more welcoming, more seductive.

The Medina

RIAD EL CADI Carved out of five interconnected mansions, El Cadi is a labyrinth of patios and pools, secret alcoves and terraces. Many of the 12 rooms have fireplaces, for cool desert nights. Boosting the charm of the place is its collection of Islamic and Berber art, amassed by owner Herwig Bartels, a former German ambassador to Morocco. 87 Derb Moulay Abdelkadel, Dabache; 212-44/378-655, fax 212-44/378-478; www.riadelcadi.com; doubles from $120, including breakfast.

RIAD ENIJA The eight guest rooms in this 280-year-old former caid's palace retain their tiled floors and sculpted ceilings but are appointed with all sorts of bizarre Art Nouveau—style furnishings: iron beds, outsized pedestal tables, pink and purple Berber carpets in Modernist patterns. It's not everyone's cup of mint tea, but if you're looking for fantasy, this place delivers. 9 Derb Mesfioui, Rahba Lakdima; 212-44/440-926, fax 212-44/442-700; www.riadenija.com; doubles from $280, including breakfast.

RIAD KAISS Two mansions have been joined to create a hip eight-room retreat where cool North African house music fills the enormous tiled courtyard, thick with tropical trees. The grand salon—with 20-foot carved niches at either end, a baronial fireplace, and enough North African antiques to fill a small museum—is one of the city's most spectacular interiors. At night, candles and lanterns light every beguiling passageway. 65 Derb Jdid, Riad Zitoun Kedim; phone and fax 212-44/440-141; www.riadkaiss.com; doubles from $120, including breakfast.

RIAD MABROUKA Owners Catherine and Pierre-Jean Néri have pushed typically opulent Moroccan décor in a bold minimalist direction. The roof terrace (a tailored banquette here, a wicker chaise there, white umbrellas and cacti in earthenware pots everywhere) has a Delano—meets—Santa Fe feel. Instead of colorful tile and mosaics, floors and walls are tadelakt (polished plaster); in place of doors, thick canvas curtains shut off closets and entryways. 56 Derb el Bahia, Riad Zitoun Jdid; phone and fax 212-44/377-579; www.riad-mabrouka.com; doubles from $125, including breakfast.


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