Riad Baraka, Chefchaouen

We stayed at the Riad Baraka for five nights. Here are a few photos and observations that we made during our stay, and at the bottom of this review is a video that’ll give you a further idea of the hotel.

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If you take any advice at all from us regarding a backpacking tour of Morocco, please make it this; if at all possible, visit the Riad Baraka in Chefchaouen and speak to the owners, Joe and Trevor, before doing anything else in the country. You can get to the Baraka easily from Spain if you’re travelling overland (ferry to Tangier, then shared taxi to Tetouen and on to Chefchaouen) and once there you’ll get sound advice from them that nobody else in the country seems to be willing or experienced enough to give. On top of that, you’ll be visiting one of the few places in Morocco that you’ll have a chance of coming away from with totally happy memories, and a town that’s every bit as scenic as the photos make it out to be.

Joe’s lived in Morocco for many years and enjoys travelling around the country himself. If you’re unsure about where you might want to visit in the country, or where’s worth your time, Joe and his brother Trevor are the guys to talk to. Joe is definitely more up to date than any guidebook you’ll find and unlike many other hoteliers he won’t try to pretend there’s no hassle coming your way from locals outside of the hotel doors. Speaking to Joe and Trevor was like reading the sort of guidebook you might’ve found 20 years ago when the writers were actually on the side of travellers and offering practical advice to deal with situations. During our five day stay at the Riad Baraka we witnessed Joe giving loads of information to many different customers and it was always very sound, based on experience and on the varying needs of the traveller.

The Baraka was also one of the warmest places we stayed at during our tour of Morocco. Joe and Trevor are from north England and as anybody who’s been to that part of the world knows the locals there are some of the most hospitable, sincere and genuinely friendly people you’re ever likely to meet. They really made us feel at home without the fake smiles that often comes with the service industry, giving the impression that they genuinely enjoy meeting new people and talking about travel, Morocco and life in general.

One thing that the Riad Baraka had in common with the very best of the world hotels was that there were no surprises. Everything we experienced there in our 5 day stay was consistent and as we expected, in a positive way. Joe wasn’t about to charge you for things you hadn’t had or lay some bill on you at the end of your stay that would be a total surprise. At some Moroccan run hotels we’ve come to expect a nasty surprise at checkout time, some sort of tax that they didn’t tell us about, bills for coffees we hadn’t drunk or basically just the management trying to get more money out of us than they could. At the Baraka though this never happened and there was never a hint that it would.

Location – Chefchaouen is a 5 hour scenic bus ride from Fez, and a 3 or 4 hour grand taxi ride from Tangier. From the bus station in Chefchaouen you can get a taxi to the old city gate, which’ll take less than 5 minutes, or you can walk it in 15 minutes. The map on the Baraka website is a little vague and we couldn’t find the Baraka on Google maps but we wandered into the old city and picked up signs leading to the hotel pretty easily. We’re not keen on asking locals for directions in most of Morocco as we can’t speak Arabic and the ones who do speak English are, in our experience, unlikely to give you a helpful answer, but in Chefchaouen we found that we didn’t have to worry about this. Sure, there are hustlers who tried to latch onto us and offer their services as a guide but once we said we were going to the Baraka they smiled, pointed the way and left us alone (we gathered from this that Joe and Trevor have a very good relationship with the locals).

Check In – We arrived from Fez mid-afternoon on a Sunday, during Ramadan. The hotel we’d just left, the Palais Amani, had laid an unexpected bill on us as we’d left and cleaned us out of cash, and since the change places were all closed we didn’t have any money to pay for anything at all. After Trevor showed us to our room Joe kindly offered to lend us as much as we wanted until we could get to a change place. No receipt, no interest, just a case of ‘Here’s the money, pay me back when you can’. Where else are you going to find a hotelier who’s going to do that!

Here are a few images taken in the reception area. The first thing that we noticed was how clean it smelt.

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Above and below are images of an alcove where there’re a lot of guidebooks lying around on the tables, together with others novels to read.

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From reception you go upstairs; the stairwells and landings are every bit as clean as the reception area and are nicely decorated with decent paintings, tiled floors and wooden furniture.

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Our Room – Rooms at the Baraka are spread over three floors. Our room was a double on the first floor. The bed was comfy with a wrought iron headboard. There were three small windows, a fan, two bright paintings to liven up the walls and rugs on the tiled floor. We also had the strongest wi-fi signal in our room that we ever got, anywhere in Morocco. We did stay at the some fancy 5 star places at times but never was the connection as good as at the Baraka. Even at the Auberge Dardara, a classy place just a few miles away from the Baraka, the wifi was awful for all of the 4 days we stayed there. So if you’re in town to make images, or just want to document your trip on Facebook, then this wifi, as good as any you’ll find at home, is something to take into consideration. Here’s how the room looked.

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Chefchaouen is more of a backpacker town than a package tour town. In fact we only saw one big group of tourists being lead by a guide in the five days we stayed here. Everyone else was exploring the town on their own. The Baraka fits into the feel of the town perfectly and we’re glad we stayed here and not at a fancier place as apart from the fact it was great to meet Joe and Trevor we also felt the Baraka reflected the character of the town really well.

The bathroom was small with just enough room for a shower toilet and a washbasin. The shower was powerful with plenty of hot water and the room was well ventilated so the bedroom didn’t get damp or steamy.

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It was also very quiet in the room, day or night.

If you happen to take a dorm room with no private bath, here are the shared bathrooms.

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The Roof Terrace – There are two terraces at the Baraka, the lower one has a table and chairs, an open fire and an honesty bar. You take the drinks and tell Joe about it at the end of your stay. I’m sure there are a couple of people who take advantage of such a system but mainly I reckon that trust breeds trust. That lower terrace look likes this.

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The uppermost roof terrace has two soft mattresses, a number of deep cushions and cracking views of the old city. It’s a great chillout spot to watch the city slip into darkness as the sun sets behind you and the mountains turn from green to gold to black. It’s also a great place to listen to the call to prayer, azaan, as the mosques come to life around you.

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Here’s a short video that we made during our stay. It’s not meant to be a glossy promo film, more an honest look at what you might experience yourself if you stayed at the hotel.

We hope we’ve convinced you that the Baraka should be a vital part of any backpackers Moroccan tour. Joe and Trevor are travellers themselves and it shows. If you’ve been on the road for a while as we have (in my case, I’ve been on it for the past 27 years) you’ll have a firm idea of what you require from your hotel, and for me the Baraka provides it all. Fast wi-fi, excellent views from the roof, hot water, a central location and safe, good value, comfortable, clean and relaxed surroundings managed by people who are honest, genuine and welcoming.

To discover more about the Riad Baraka, please visit www.riad-baraka.com

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