Dar El Kebira – “This house is your home”
For our trip to Rabat, we sought a flavour of the locale. Dar El Kebira exceeded our expectations and certainly created a home away from home.
1. The Welcome Starts Before the Visit
As with many small hotels – or in this case riads – the owner and staff are welcoming you into their homes, more so than their business. This means a greeting email before arrival, ensuring our travel from the airport / train station was covered and an evening meal pre-arranged on arrival (no matter the time!).
2. Home Away From Home
The welcome begins with the mint tea before registration: introductions are made and baggage is handled. Taking that moment to absorb the contrast between outside and the interior, one can’t help but get the feeling of being in that imaginary rich relative’s house. There is nothing jarringly corporate about your surroundings – quite the converse: books on art and architecture are thoughtfully placed in each of the seating areas. Local rugs on the monochrome tiled floor, adorned with furniture that looks like it dates from French antiquity, but feels much more comfortable when you sit down with your mint tea.
3. The Decor
History, art and architectural works predominate, which gives one a feel for the fact that no mere accident was responsible for the delicacy of your surroundings. The glass roof to what was once the courtyard streams light into this space by day. The restaurant is accessed from this reception area, and is intimate and comfortable, furnished with the local style.
4. The Room
Your room is prepared with a welcome fruit-plate and large bottle of water, kept cool. We stayed in Souissi; with a grand king-size bed and French-influenced furniture, which typified much of what we saw in Rabat. The long bedroom opens through dark-wood doors, adorned with opaque stained-glass, into the bathroom. A cast-iron, roll-top bath, with a shower option. Even the basin was an artwork in itself.
We were also able to peep into some of the other rooms – all individual and unique, none disappoints. Space is at a premium and none is wasted: there is beauty to be seen everywhere in fixtures and fittings, hard and soft furnishings.
5. Breakfast on the Roof
Dar El Kebira start serving breakfast at 07:00. Depending on when you visit, you might, as we did on a February morning, catch the sun rising from behind the sandstone Hassan Tower, with the Bouregreg distantly glistening in the early rays.
Ahmed or Hamid will bring you a breakfast of freshly-prepared strawberries, apple and banana; freshly-squeezed orange juice; a pot of fresh yogurt; a tagine of warm crepes; a basket with four different breakfast breads; accompaniments of delicious olive paste, honey, apricot and strawberry-and-date conserves; eggs prepared according to your choice, with limitless coffee and mint tea. We found lunch was not a pressing necessity.
There is an air of solitude as the city gently comes to life, nothing disturbing the moment, other than the enquiry as to the desired style of eggs or whether more of anything was required. The roof terrace is very much in the style of the rest of the house with potted plants adorning every surface and antiques and curios completing a traditionally-furnished look comprising comfort with utility and continuing the top-to-toe theme.
6. Evening Meal by the Fire
Logs burn in the fireplace, occasionally fanned by traditional hand-bellows and chase away the evening chill. We suspect you will not be disappointed with any of the menu choices; harira was a personal favourite, the Moroccan salad selection is beautifully prepared; we sampled the chicken dishes, including the couscous. The only disappointment were our failed attempts to consume the extravagant serving. We also enjoyed locally-produced red and white wines from the Casablanca region.
Dinner is very reasonably priced, convenient, local and delicious. Eat in at least once – you won’t regret it.
7. The Ambience
Whether for a moment or a half hour, sit in the reception area and watch the comings and goings of the staff about their business. If it’s peace you seek, it can be found in any of the quiet areas around the riad. There is much of interest to catch the eye, indicative of the care taken by the staff to put the look and feel together. Nothing looks out of place and everything seems to confirm your feeling of finding yourself in an oasis of calm, contrasting with the bustling Medina, just a short walk away.
8. The Staff
We didn’t meet all the staff, nor did we get everyone’s name, so while one doesn’t want to single out individuals the constant attention of Hamid, Ahmed and the incomparable Younis was not intrusive, always polite and courteous; and as with all the staff, felt sincere.
Riad Dar El Kebira