Tag Archives: Riad Jnan Sheherazad

Riad Jnaan Sherazad and other overpriced Casablanca Hotels

Hotel rooms in Casablanca are generally crappy and overpriced. I know this not because I’ve stayed in them all, but because when we had to go to Casablanca a few days ago, I asked all of my Moroccan and expat friends if they could recommend a good mid-range place to stay. While some of them told me where not to stay, no one actually was able to recommend a hotel. (Update: After I wrote this I was actually given a 4 star recommendation that looks quite nice – Idou Anfa Hotel Casablanca )

hotel in CasablancaSo, I turned to TripAdviser – what the reviews generally said was that no one is happy with their hotel choice in Casablanca. They are all overpriced, crappy, and generally not worth the money but since Casablanca is the business, commercial, and to some extent governmental center of Morocco (at least for – me the American Consulate is there), we are all forced to go there and pay the prices they demand.

In this case, I had a chance to do a third party review of a place that I would never have visited because just by the price, I knew it would be a bummer. However with someone else paying, I didn’t mind seeing if it might live up to the expense. We confirmed our stay for two nights at the Riad Jnane Sherazade in Casablanca and set off!

On the phone before we left, I asked the manager the best way to get there. He told me that if the taxi didn’t know the hotel, just give the street address. From that I assumed that it was a well known place. If that was the case, the taxi drivers at Casa Voyageurs were all pretending to not know. Nor did they know the street – Rue de Belgrade. We finally found a driver who knew the place who offered to take us there for 5x the price the manager had suggested (10 dirhams) and then a second driver who agreed to take us after he dropped off the lady in the front seat (who was going 10 kilometers away) and then charged us for her trip there and back so that we ended up paying 50 dirham anyway but with a longer drive. A word of warning – there is one honest taxi driver in Casablanca and he’s very old – he may not last much longer.

hotel in CasablancaAnyway, we’d looked at the hotel’s website and despite the annoying automatic pretentious music it began to play and it’s flash heavy interface – the place looked great with big rooms, a lush private garden, balconies, plus games and reading material for guests. I figured we would try their in house restaurant one night and of course enjoy breakfast in the morning. Rooms were priced at $140 to $300 per night though if you choose to stay there, the link I’ve provided above will get you cheaper rates.

Upon arrival we were met by a friendly doorman. It started to sort of fall apart from that point. The touristic tax they included on the room was double the official rate, when I inquired about dinner I was told that we could pay 300 or 400 dirham per person (an outrageous amount for what they were offering in Morocco) and that even though the rooms were in the top tier of prices for Casablanca accommodation that not only was there no complimentary breakfast, but there wasn’t even complimentary water or coffee. Breakfast (a simple one I was told) was 17 Euros per person – which is roughly triple what a great breakfast costs at the cafe down the street. Even when I told them I was doing a review for a third party, their reaction was stolid – which on one hand I admire, but on the other was just such incredibly mercenary bad business practice that I’m certain my jaw dropped. Frankly, if someone tells me they are reviewing me – I would at least offer to provide them with complimentary breakfast so they could write about it (and a complimentary dinner for that matter) but these guys – no way. Old school bleach blonde Moroccan manager sucking down cigarettes in the lobby while the portly French affected Moroccan owner told me “Children aren’t normally welcome in our hotel”. To be fair, I saw that it wasn’t listed as ‘child friendly’ but didn’t realize they meant they didn’t want kids there. In my inquiry, I had mentioned we were bringing our month old daughter but no one had said it was any sort of problem.

hotel in CasablancaWhile there was wifi in the hotel, they wouldn’t provide me with the password but did point out that I had a cable port in the room. This worked but eliminated any idea of working in the lovely garden or on the patio. The reading material in three languages consisted of old free airline magazines and French fashion magazines from the 1990’s. There were also a dusty set of French encyclopedias in the drawing room (which the owner and clerks smoked in but which, when I lit up a cigarette in, I was told to go out on the patio…).

I should really point out that despite the name – Riad Jnaan Sherazade isn’t actually a riad at all. Instead it’s a villa built in 1956 and decorated in the style of a Riad. The decoration is quite nice and so is the villa though it is in need of some thorough cleaning and a bit of renovation. While the website touted top of the line sheets and towels, I found them to actually be sort of course towels and the sheets to have a texture that I associate with a thread count of 150 or less. Most of my friends who own mid-high range guesthouses, riads, or hotels insist on a minimum of 250.

The balcony was large and looked out over a lovely garden where twenty or so businessmen were drinking and conversing in the evening. They were obviously having a private function as we seemed to be the only guests staying. While I debated whether to pay the outrageous price for dinner or breakfast, I found myself looking at TripAdviser where the majority of the reviewers mentioned the dinner as being ‘good’ but way overpriced and the breakfast as being a rip off. That was enough for me- if you are considering buying breakfast or dinner at Riad Jnaan Sherazade – I recommend you see what TripAdviser has to say first. Who knows? Maybe it will be worth it – but I wasn’t willing to chance it. We had two nights and I wanted to have enjoyable meals both times – which we did – elsewhere.

The mattress was hard. My wife and I both woke up with sore backs. The shower, tub, and dual washbasins in the bathroom were fantastic. Hot water, good pressure, and clean toilet.

The television was fairly dated and got the free local broadcast channels only – no satellite, no cable. It sat on what looked like an old wooden microwave stand. When I asked about the games they specifically mentioned on their website (Monopoly, Chess, Scrabble, and Cards) I was told that they only said they had them since most of their clientele are businessmen who don’t have time to play games. When I mentioned that they listed them on the website they told me “Yes, but we don’t have them.”

The price they list for the hammam was so beyond what the hammam next door charged that I didn’t bother to inquire why – maybe they include a happy ending for the businessmen – but I doubt it since nothing was free at this place despite the high prices. The mini bar in the room contained small bottles of water and bags of chips that sell for 5 dirhams listed at 50 dirhams (about 5 Euro or $7.50) each. A placard placed in the room said that it was against the regulations to bring in your own food or water. Since we didn’t want to drink the Casablanca tap water, we smuggled our own bottled water in like criminals. Some of the reviews on TripAdviser say that the desk actually stopped them from carrying bottled water to the room!!!

The air conditioning worked well. The plugin internet connection was fast. The room was quiet. The doorman, by the way, was great.

Overall – I would say this is a 3-star hotel (clean, quiet, no bugs, free internet) with 5 star prices (and they rate themselves as 5 star as well) and 1-star guest treatment. The main reason I say this is because of the mercenary nature of the pricing, the complete lack of value for money and the indifferent attitudes of the desk manager and owner. Even ultra budget hostels manage to provide coffee and drinking water and can tell you what is interesting in the area without having to probe like a detective.

We won’t be going back. Instead, we will be looking at the many other options among this Complete List of Casablanca Hotels

Roomorama – A Different Way to Find Your Space in Africa or the World

Casablanca HotelThose of you who have been reading Vagobond for a while are certainly aware of the many ways technology has changed travel. In many ways, I’m a big fan of just how easy it has become to find the perfect place wherever you might be going. Sites like TripAdviser and Couchsurfing have made it possible to find out what a hotel is REALLY like or to skip the hotel altogether and just make some new friends and then crash at their place.

Still, there’s a lot of space between those two realities and over the past year or so, I’ve been keen to watch companies spring up that fill that gap. First there was AirBnB which gave those who liked the idea of couchsurfing but wanted to earn something out of it a chance to do so and at about the same time came Roomorama.com which makes it easy to list and find short term rentals just about anywhere in the world.

Here is a blurb from Roomorama’s about page:

Roomorama is the discerning traveler’s one-stop shop for short-term rentals. Wherever your next trip will be, or wherever your property is, use our online marketplace to connect and transact with hosts and guests who believe in convenient, rewarding and unique travel experiences. With an ever-growing inventory of hospitable accommodations, Roomorama is working to make you feel at home wherever you are.

I was contacted by one of Roomorama’s agents back in February and asked to try the service. Even though I had a lot of travel lined up at the time, I wanted to wait and share the experience with my wife to see how it worked for a couple. By the time we were ready to take them up on the offer (and this is a sponsored post) our first daughter had been born. So not only was this a test run with a husband and wife, but also with a one month old baby!

We needed to go to Casablanca, Morocco to file the paperwork for our daughter’s passport and citizenship at the American Consulate and while we had planned on staying with friends, it occurred to me that this was a great time to give Roomorama a family field test. I contacted their rep and they agreed to cover the costs of our stay in return for an honest review of the service.

review of RoomoramaHere’s the way Roomorama works. If you have a rental space such as a hotel or guest house room or an apartment you want to use for short term rentals – you can list it and the availability on Roomorama. They use a confirmation process to make sure that you are the person renting and then you are off. Now, the guests come – people who want to see more than just hotel rooms visit Roomorama and see a wide variety of accommodation. They contact the owners about the availability. The owner confirms. Guests pay Roomorama and Roomorama gives the guest a confirmation code which when presented to the owner is redeemed for payment from Roomorama by paypal, check, or bank transfer.

Ideally, there will be a large number of properties available in the city you are heading to. For example, if you go to Marrrakech, Morocco you will find more than 120 different rooms, apartments, villas, or riads available ranging from $40 all the way up into the $1000 range. Granted, Roomorama is new to Africa and so most of the inventory is actually guest houses and riads looking to fill their vacancies (which means you can save some money). In places like New York, Paris, or Tokyo you can find regular people renting out their homes, rooms in their homes, or turning their long term rental properties into vacation rentals. For me, this is exciting as it makes the number of places I can stay, the number of neighborhoods, or even the range of prices far greater. This is a super-win for the consumer and the person renting.

When I looked at Casablanca, I saw eight different properties. After looking through them, I realized it was one property offering eight different rooms or rates. Morocco is a funny place. I told my wife about the place and she asked what the name of the owner was. When I told her she said “Everyone in Morocco knows that name and they are one of the richest families here. They don’t need money and they will treat us indifferently. This is just extra fruit from their orchard.” Granted, the place was way beyond my normal budget. I wrote to the owner and requested the room they had available for $255 per night.

Within minutes I had an email from Roomorama that told me the owner was being contacted and offered to let me look at other properties while I waited. They also said that if I didn’t hear from the owner they would help me contact him. I didn’t hear from him.

The next day Roomorama sent me another email saying that the owner hadn’t responded and they would contact him if I wanted. I was using the standard Roomorama request by the way and this wasn’t any sort of special treatment. They contacted the manager but she didn’t speak any English so the next day they called when the owner returned and had one of their agents speak to him in Arabic (but funny enough – he actually does speak English). He confirmed that he had space and said that I could bring my family. Roomorama contacted me and told me that we were confirmed.

The next part was a bit of a problem. After we were enroute (and we didn’t find this out until after we arrived) he informed Roomorama that he couldn’t accept any of their payment methods and that we would need to pay cash. We arrived expecting the confirmation number to be honored but found that instead, we had to pay cash – which I should point out – Roomorama reimbursed within 12 hours. In speaking with the host, he claimed that he didn’t know how he had become connected with Roomorama and that the prices were wrong. He also said that none of this was his fault. This, was a fairly typical reaction and when I pointed out that he was a confirmed host and that all of his information was being used, he told me that he had signed up just as a way to promote his hotel for free and listed higher prices and his guesthouse name in the hopes of using Roomorama to send direct business to himself.

If all of this sounds tricky and ugly, it is – but none of this was actually Roomorama’s fault. I spoke with the manager later and found that she had received our emails but been told not to answer. I don’t pretend to understand the Moroccan mentality at times like this – for me, it seems that he wanted free promotion and in me, had the perfect opportunity, but instead chose to treat me and my family (and Roomorama) as if we were trying to trick him. The agent with Roomorama was attentive and considerate with us all the way through and helped to make everything work. As for the property we selected…somehow I don’t think they will be listed with Roomorama for very long. Roomorama and I agreed that this particular property and owner seemed to be not only pretentious but also inconsiderate and unethical. My wife simply shook her head knowingly (after telling me I told you so more than a few times).

If you’d like to see my review of the hotel – you will find it at:
Riad Jnaan Sherazad and other overpriced Casablanca Hotels

As for Roomorama – I’m impressed. I recommend that you give them a shot – but here’s a pro-tip- if you are attempting to rent a room that looks like it’s from a commercial property – make sure you read the TripAdviser reviews before you decide.

To list or find interesting properties in the city you live in or the one you are going to – check out Roomorama.com.