Rejuvenating in a riad

Todd and tajine in the Riad Sidi Magdoul, Essaouira | Photo by Lauren Girardin

It’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit and stunningly sunny as I wind through every little alley and souk in Essaouira’s medina. I’m getting desperate to find a new place to sleep for the next two nights so Todd can recover from the food poisoning that’s turned him to mush. The place where we stayed last night, Hotel Majestic, is dingy, unpleasant, and their bordering-on-gross bathrooms – no more than 10 feet from any room’s door – are echo chambers for every noise that happens within.

And Todd’s making a lot of noise. I’m starting to feel a little noisy myself.

Most hotels are dirtier than the Majestic, complet (full), or are more than Dh 500, which is a steep $70 US a night.

I’m in the smallest alley yet. I pass by a tiny homeless woman every ten feet. I bounce into the Riad Sidi Magdoul. I’m running out of steam.

Sitter on the Skala de la Ville, Essaouira| Photo by Lauren Girardin

I walk into a tall central atrium, surrounded by three floors of balcony. It’s a riad. Oh, god, I can’t afford a riad. Since they’re all gussied up with Moroccan details, mosaics, and plants , they’re at the top end of the price range.

Since it’s not the most expensive price I’ve been quoted, I check out the room. It’s quiet. And best of all it has a clean en suite bathroom. The only problem is it’s Dh 400. Todd and I are traveling for the next year and already our daily average would have us in the All-Star Game.

When I turn around to leave to keep looking at other options, the owner – perhaps because he was touched by my sad, sweaty, plaintive look, or maybe he just has a lot of vacancies – says the oft-heard Morrocan motto:

“How much you pay?”

I’m off my game. Instead of responding with a well-thought out counter-offer, I just stare at him. My neurons don’t fire. So, he helps me out, suggesting “How about 300?”

This I understand. 300 I can do. I say “Yes, thank you! I’ll be back in a few minutes!!” and run off to get Todd.

Once back at the riad, both Todd and I sleep and heal, in private, for the next 24 hours straight. Our hosts even offered us some of their fragrant family tajine, but unfortunately in our unstable internal state, food was a kindness we could not accept.

Thank god for riads.

Photos from Essaouira, Morocco

If you can’t see the photo slide show above, view the photo set on Flickr.