Marseille's North African connection inspires this exotic boutique hotel, a run-down four-storey town house turned oriental ryad (a traditional Moroccan house with interior garden).
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Le Ryad has eleven bedrooms and suites, a restaurant and, yes, a charming walled courtyard.
The original creator, Fatiha Ouichou, a former publicist from Morocco, sourced the decor with style and care, and many items - wrought iron furnishings, terracotta and ceramic pots, richly coloured cushions and wall hangings - are available for purchase too.
The breakfast - pancakes, semolina bread - has a North African flavour, and in the afternoons you can eat oriental pastries with mint tea (Moroccan flavoured lunch and evening meals are available, booked in advance). All the rooms have air-conditioning and free wi-fi.
The downside: Location, location, location. Le Ryad is down a side-street at the top of the Canebière and, although some hotel guides claim that it is "a few steps" from the Old Port, it is, in fact, a good walk from the harbour. It's about five minutes from Saint Charles Station.
This area is no more dangerous (if you take due precautions) than, say, London's Soho or Paris's Pigalle and its mixed, inner city location is colourful and vibrant.
But it will be off-putting to some and could be noisy at night. You may feel that the room rates are rather elevated in view of the setting.
Le Ryad is an old building with no lift / elevator, so guests with restricted mobility should not book rooms on the top floors. The garden also involves a flight of steps down.
Visited November 2010
Where: 16, rue Sénac de Meilhan, 13001 Marseille. Tel :(+33) 04 91 47 74 54. Book a room at Le Ryad