If you are looking for a real-life luxury get – away visit the Riad Mena and discover the wonders of the buzzing city of Marrakech, only a 3 1/2-hour flight away from Europe. We had a chat with globetrotter Philomena Schurer Merckoll, who’s family bought this Riad as their holiday home and then Philomena decided to convert it to a six-suite hotel in a garden of palm, citrus and banana trees. You will find a kind of luxury that is defined by the selection of Philomena’s private library, the warmth of the staff and the honesty of the guest helping themselves to snacks and the private bar whenever they want. A collection of contemporary art, Tai Chi lessons, Yoga and a detox menu, as well as Japanese callisthenics are only a few things to make this place like your wishful home. And if you feel like shopping the staff will direct you to unique cafes and places worth being discovered, like the Riad’s own shop, “The Pink Door” which recently opened and has all the things a girl dreams of when in Marrakech.
IRMA: Tell me about the Riad Mena, how did it all come together?
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: My family bought Riad Mena back in 2005 with the idea that it would be a family vacation home. I spent seven years renovating it with local designer Romain Michel Meniere. I moved back to Europe from New York in 2014 and decided to open it as a hotel. It all happened in a very organic way and we soon grew a really fantastic client “family” who have supported us from the beginning and continue to return, which has made the project very fun.
IRMA: Why Marrakesh, what makes this place so interesting when working creatively?
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: Marrakech is simply the most inspiring city for a creative person. It is a full sensory immersion. And there are artisans everywhere, so it is possible to have one’s creative fantasies crafted and realised!
IRMA: How do you find your artistic direction for your different kind of work?
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: In many ways. I travel to immerse myself in different environments. Long walks in nature help ideas come to the surface. I meet inspiring people at Riad Mena. I have a large library full of art and design books. All these inputs meld together resulting in an intuitive approach to each creative challenge I take on.
IRMA: To create a hotel must be a very fascinating project. Tell us about the nice and the difficult things to bring everything together.
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: The most rewarding part of creating a hotel is that you are in the business of making people happy. If you are doing your job well, people take away memories for life and that is hugely rewarding to me! The hardest part has probably been managing my work life balance with a small child, especially in an industry that consumes a lot of your time and you are always on. I will let you know how I go with finding that balance 🙂
IRMA: Can the Riad Mena be also booked privately?
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: It can, and I think it is the nicest way to experience it. Riad Mena was built as a family home and really comes alive when one group takes over.
IRMA: What can your guests expect to find what they will not find at any other Riad?
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: The personal touch! From our staff who have been with us since the beginning and feel like family, to our selection or art and books and letting our guests know our truly favourite places in Marrakech. It is a very specific point of view, of living in and experiencing Marrakech.
IRMA: What makes life in Marrakesh beautiful?
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: Marrakech is simply a magical kingdom. There is nowhere else that is only three hours from Europe that feels so other. It allows you to totally disconnect and submerse yourself in the wonder!
IRMA: What are you working on right now.
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: We are building a second smaller Riad down the road, it will be quite a different style to Riad Mena, more 70s Marrakech maximalist.
IRMA: One MUST DO tip for your guest when they only have a day at the Riad in the Medina.
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: Wake up to the sounds of birdsong coming from the courtyard and walk through the Souk to the newly opened Bacha Cafe in the Musee des Confluences. A stunning museum and very special cafe with a theatrical feel.