Riad de Tarabel is a luxurious boutique hotel in a colonial mansion right in the heart of the old medina of Marrakech, with ten bedrooms, a roof terrace, a heated pool, open lounge and a Spa
How would you describe P’tit Habibi in a nutshell?
I think P’tit Habibi feels a bit like coming home. You get a relaxed feeling, but there’s quite a high level of service. There’s an aura of the Marrakech ‘60s — it’s a little bit eclectic, a little bit rock’n’roll. It’s not the sort of star hotel, but has a little bit of attitude to it. There’s more of a young feel to the riad, not a stuffiness.
Please tell us a bit about the architecture of P’tit Habibi.
P’tit Habibi is as much an interior job as an architectural job. In Marrakech much of the decoration is engraved in the walls, so you have to work with that. You can’t do that stuff in Europe anymore; workmanship is too expensive. But the traditional work is still available in Marrakech. So the architecture doesn’t stop with the layout of the rooms, the decoration is part of it.
The lighting, furniture and mirrors were collected throughout the years. Some were from my personal collection, others were bought specifically for the place.
Had you always planned to run P’tit Habibi as a small hotel?
No. While I was working on a huge project for a Scandinavian client, I had been looking at a couple of hundred riads over a period of two years for work. That’s when I started looking at one for myself, and I bought it sort of on impulse.
It was meant more as a holiday home for me and the family, but we ended up always needing to have people taking care of it while away, so it made sense to rent it out.
I bought the neighboring building after that and extended the riad, adding on a bigger room and inside space. There hadn’t been enough inside space before. There’s a kitchen, a separate office for the manager and a bedroom for the housekeeper. And we have a laundry and staff bathroom now.
How would you describe the atmosphere of the riad?
I like the people who work there and I think I treat them quite well. They are happy there. They treat it like it’s their own house and they take great pride in it. It’s not really a philosophy, but it’s kind of like a West meets Marrakech.
It’s got a very homey feel to it, which makes it very comfortable. I want people to be happy when they stay there.
What has been the most rewarding for you about running a small hotel?
The nicest part of the journey is that I started working there after 9/11 when the Western media was obsessed with all Arab countries being terrorist. I’ve seen the other picture and I’m attracted to this culture. It has a lot of qualities that Western culture has lost. It’s like a big family, whereas in the West everyone lives alone.