La Maison Arabe
Derb Assehbé | Bab Doukkala | Marrakech Médina
Marrakech’s first ever Riad Hotel, La Maison Arabe, provides its visitors with the ultimate combination of luxury, style, and attention to detail.
In 1946, French mother-daughter combination Suzy and Hélène Sébillon-Larochette opened La Maison Arabe as the first restaurant in Marrakech’s Medina, the local term for the city’s walled, maze-like center. This move was very ahead of its time, as these female French restaurateurs were about to challenge the confined role that women had historically played in Moroccan society.
With the help of Morocco’s Pasha (who sent one of the best cooks from his palace to teach and help the two French women), La Maison Arabe’s popularity rapidly grew and it quickly became the most popular restaurant in town. Serving authentic Moroccan food and providing a distinct ambiance, notable international figures such as Winston Churchill, Jackie Kennedy and the Queen of Denmark quickly became regulars. Given the popularity, the restaurant operated via reservation only, and your meal had to be ordered a day in advance!
Handmade Moroccan designs‘are found across the hotel
La Maison Arabe History
While the Sébillon-Larochette sisters were busy serving up tagines to world leaders, Italian aristocrat Fabrizio Ruspoli was 350 miles to the north in Tangier, Morocco. He was spending his early years with his Grandmother Marthe de Chambrun Ruspoli in the hilltop Marshan neighborhood of Tangier. While spending time in the Villa Iris where his grandmother had lived since 1974, and likely unbeknownst to him at the time, the heart and soul of Moroccan culture were being planted deep within Fabrizio.
La Maison Arabe continued to grow in fame and was beginning to be recognized by publications and global food critics as one of the best restaurants in the world. However, the restaurant’s popularity would ultimately dwindle. Decades passed and the restaurant’s operations had slowed down significantly.
In 1994, Fabrizio then came to Marrakech with a vision and inspiration to reconnect with his early Moroccan experiences. He ultimately found himself at La Maison Arabe and decided to buy and awaken it. Fabrizio would go on to transform it into a hotel, making it the first boutique hotel inside the Marrakech Medina.
Morocco tourism would be changed forever. Tourists could now come to Marrakech and truly discover the local culture. The hotel’s central location allows you to experience the beauty of the Moroccan history and people. It would be the first of more than 500 Riad hotels.
Hotel Design, Decor & Amenities
This 5-star hotel is the real deal. A quick Google search describes La Maison Arabe as:
“[A] plush boutique hotel in an elegant riad is a 14-minute walk from the Jemaa el-Fnaa medina and 2 km from the Majorelle Garden”
While accurate, this description leaves out many important details. The hotel offers 26 rooms and carries more than 100 people on its staff, quite the hotel-to-guest ratio. The layout and decor is immaculate. From unique Moroccan doors to handcrafted light fixtures, at times you will confuse this hotel for a beautiful museum.
In addition, you will find two restaurants, a beautiful bar and a pool for the hotel’s guests.
Hotel Restaurants & Tasting Menu
While Marrakech has many dinner options in and out of the Medina, it is recommended to dine in the hotel as well:
La Maison Arabe Cooking Classes
In 2000, La Maison Arabe established the first cooking workshop in Morocco. They have set the standard for Moroccan cooking classes in the country.
Moroccan Food Influences
During the cooking class, you will learn that Moroccan cuisine has been influenced by many cultures. The Berbers introduced tagine and couscous. The Romans invaded and brought salt and pepper. The Arabs came in 7th Century A.D., and introduced spices such as cumin, turmeric, and paprika. And the Jewish population that was historically spread across Morocco brought the flavoring of preserved lemon as well as new techniques for food preservation. Finally, the Moorish people from southern Spain have influenced the Moroccan cuisine as well. It is a beautiful combination of many diverse and authentic cultures.
La Maison Arabe gives you the opportunity to experience local Moroccan cuisine. Bread, for example, is a staple in Moroccan food. It is their “fork and knife,” and is served in a round shape. Couscous is also a popular Moroccan staple, symbolic of sharing and harmony. Eaten with family, friends, and children, today couscous has become very important. Couscous serves as a way to bring people together around the table to socialize and enjoy the dish together. Couscous can be prepared in many different ways, for example with vegetables, raisins, spices and other ways.
La Maison Arabe allows you to truly experience all of these local staples and more, both in its two restaurants and in the cooking classes it offers. Note: you do not need to be a hotel guest to take one of its cooking classes.
Make sure to stay or at least visit this beautiful hotel during your time in Marrakech!