What is a Moroccan Riad?

traditional Moroccan riad with inner courtyard

A riad (Arabic: رياض‎) is a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard. The word riad comes from the Arabian term for garden, “ryad”.

The riads were inward focused, which allowed for family privacy and protection from the weather in Morocco. This inward focus was expressed in the central location of most of the interior gardens and courtyards and the lack of large windows on the exterior clay or mud brick walls. This design principle found support in Islamic notions of privacy for women. Because all of the rooms open into the central atrium space, this layout also supports community within the family.  In the central garden of traditional riads there is often a fountain, which naturally circulates and cools off the air, functioning as a natural air-conditioner.

The style of these riads has changed over the years, but the basic form is still used in designs today. Recently there has been a surge in interest in this form of house in cities such as Tangier as riads have been restored to their former glory. Many riads are now used as hotels or restaurants.

source: wikipedia


looking down into the courtyard of a Moroccan riad

Moroccan riad with pool in the center.


  1. We stayed in a lovely Riad for our honeymoon. Beautiful roof terrace (perfect for lounging around in February sunshine) and wonderful tiles everywhere.

    1. Thanks for your comment. And seriously, if you ever visit Tangier and need a friend to show you around, I’m your guy. I really think Tangier is a huge overlooked secret, but won’t be for long. I give it 10 years before it’s a major tourist destination.

          1. Author

            Hi London Tours. Yes, I love the architecture of the riad. Our dream one day is to start a chain of hotels with lots of renovated riads. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Wow- there really are some amazing places in the world and these photographs are beautiful. I would love to stay in a Riad- had never even heard the term until I read this. 🙂


  3. I compare this style house, which sounds closed off from the outside, to the style of house I see in suburbs in Australia which are physically more open but which result in very little interaction with the community. Designing a house around the notion of family community is something that seems to wax and wane in the western world.

    1. Yes, I think you’re onto something there. It’s been interesting for me to compare the Moroccan culture with my western culture, and some days I think they are more family oriented and other days not. I don’t think house design has the power to change a culture; for good or bad. I think the riads are beautiful here, though. I wish I could design my family with that sort of craftsmanship!

  4. Reminds me of a museum we visited during the “safari” tour in Tunisia. It had been converted from an old house and I think they have quite a similar build style.

    Morocco is definitely on our bucket list and we would love to go back to Tunisia one day too.

    We can get to Tunisia via Malta or Cairo from Cyprus on Egyptair so it wouldn’t surprise me if there isn’t a flight from one of those places to Morocco too….

    Now that’s got me thinking 🙂

    1. I’ve visited Tunisia and Egypt a bit and there seems to be a lot of similarities in the cultures. I know I visited a riad in Tunisia, but I’m not certain they have them in Egypt – I’d assume so. They’re beautiful buildings. I’ve never been to Cyprus and don’t even know if it’s arab culture… maybe I’ll get to visit one day.

      1. We’ve never seen a riad in Egypt but that could just be because we haven’t really been to any private houses. We go to see the historical tombs and temples as a rule or a cruise along the River Nile. I would be pretty sure there are riads if you know where to look…

        We are in the Republic of Cyprus which is the southern part of the island and it doesn’t have a very Arab influence although there is some due to its’ close proximity to the Middle East.

        However, Cyprus is still a divided country and has been since 1974 after the Turkish invasion of the north of the island. So if you cross through the UN green line into the occupied areas you will see quite a different culture, which is far more Arabic.

        Coffee is the “norm” for hot beverages in the south of the island whereas in the north – its’ tea. That’s tea served without milk of course, something I quite enjoy from time to time.

        We shall be going through the Nicosia crossing in a couple of weeks at Ledra street but it will only be for a few hours and we will stay in the city of Nicosia.

        If you go further into the north and go to the coastal resorts in Kyrenia you can expect to see more of the differences between the two cultures.

  5. Reblogged this on Cyprus Life – in pictures and commented:
    Well, Morocco has been on our “bucket list” for quite a long time and after seeing some of the photographs on the here, it’s turned my thoughts right back to paying a visit at sometime in the future.

    I know we can get to Tunisia via Malta or Cairo from Cyprus as Egyptair offer the route so I wonder if they also fly into Morocco.

    A bit of food for thought for me and maybe a spot of research over the weekend.

    Not right now though. I have to take the car into the mechanics as I hit a problem on the way home from work yesterday.

  6. We’ve arranged a stay at a hotel in Marseilles, France called Le Ryad (moroccan themed) and this post just brought it full circle! I get it now 🙂

  7. I’ve just returned from Morocco and had a fabulous time. We stayed in a riad in Marrakech which was awesome as it was a great space to keep cool and escape the noise of the Djemaa El Fna. They’re perfectly designed. Thanks also for the like on my blogpost. 🙂

    1. There are some beautiful places here. We live just across the water from Spain, so the travel is really doable. Let me know if I can help you make a visit in the future.

  8. What an amazing description and pictures you have displayed for these types of homes. I never heard of a Riad type of home until reading your blog. Thank you!

    Also, thank you for stopping by Still Times and enabling me to connect to your blog.


  9. Our house in Jamaica had this but we called it an indoor courtyard. And we used it for family and for parties because it is much cooler than inside the house. Thanks for liking my post earlier on.

          1. I just google mapped it, and it looks like about 7 hours from Tangier to Essaouira if you have a car. I’ve only been as far south as Casablanca, but the autoroute is a really nice road and has some good stretches where you drive right along the beach.

          2. Another reader on my blog was asking about alternatives routes for someone with vertigo (the route I suggested in my post goes through the High Atlas, as well as camel trekking which might trigger the vertigo) – maybe a drive along the coast up to Tangier or down to Essaouira could be an option! I’m sure there’s tonnes to see too.

    1. There’s a book called “A House in Fez” that details this Australian couple moving to Morocco and renovating a traditional riad to become their new home. It’s a great read with good details into Moroccan culture, if you’re interested.

  10. Love this blog — I always wanted to travel to Morocco and one of these days I will! I love this style of home, it would be great to have a house with a riad, but maybe with skylights for the winter where I live — too cold to be open to the weather!

    1. I’ve heard that the inner courtyard is common across the Mediterranean. And supposedly the arches in Morocco originated in Roman architecture. I’d love to check it out in Pompeii!

  11. Very cool subject matter. It just kicks up my yearning to visit Morocco one day soon! Somehow in the years of living in the Middle East I haven’t made it to North Africa except for a short trip to Egypt. Now I live halfway round the world and those locations are faraway, exotic lands again!

  12. Wonderful insights here, as a lot of similarity can be seen in Emirati homes here too. The open central courtyard is also a feature in old houses in India and can be seen in some of the havelis in the north that have been converted into hotels.

  13. Interesting – the respect for women’s privacy strikes a chord with me. I have a blog http://www.architectswives.wordpress.com which relates some of the quirks and (non) perks of being married to an architect – one of which is the phenomenon of living in a light-box (modernist dwelling) with very little privacy to speak of. One friend jokes that the only place she can find to dress in privacy – in the family’s glass and steel modernist home – is behind the cupboard door.
    I have fond memories of staying with family and friends in some beautiful Riads in Maroque – in Fez, Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira. In Morocco they seem to value home and homeownership as much as we do in Australia. As it has on the Moroccan travel website:”The first thing one should own is a home; and it is the last thing one should sell; for a home is ones tomb this side of heaven” (Moroccan proverb)
    I’m interested in an unusual architectural phenomenon called Spite architecture and would appreciate it if you could let me know of any examples from Morocco.

    1. I haven’t heard or seen any spite building here in Morocco, but as I was searching online for it, I found this guy planted a big tree to cover up a building at Harvard University. There was quite a clash.

      “Vellucci later clashed with the Harvard Lampoon due to a tree that he planted on city land in front of the building in 1961 in order to block the view of the building.[7] He wished to obscure the face of the building because he found it ugly and to avenge local Italian Americans, whom he believed the Lampoon had insulted by claiming that an Irishman (rather than the Italian Christopher Columbus) discovered America”

      More about it at…

      1. Author

        Hi Marrakech-Sightseeing-Tours. I love Moroccan Riads. They’re beautiful and a great space that promotes family, relationships, and relaxation. I would love to live in a Riad one day myself!

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