Published on : Thursday, February 20, 2020
Hostels in Morocco are a recent phenomenon, an institution born in early 20th century Germany and brought to Morocco in the past two decades. The establishment of hostels in Morocco is akin to the rapid development of guesthouses in the old cities.
Since the late 1990s, numerous riads — traditional homes built around a central courtyard — have been converted into tourist accommodations or second homes quite swiftly. In the Marrakech medina, there were only a handful of guesthouses in 1997, and still fewer than 50 in the year 2000. The University of Warsaw’s Maciej Kalaska estimates that by 2008, there were approximately 450 guesthouses in the medina, 70% of which were owned by foreigners of European origin.
Professor Sadik Rddad of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University said in an interview that the converted riads are “working wonderfully” for the Fes medina, which was in a state of decline before seeing foreign investment in the 1990s.
Fes is famous as Morocco’s spiritual capital with acute impact of tourists. Besides economic and cultural reshaping, the presence of tourists on hostel and guesthouse terraces has entirely disrupted the city’s rooftop culture. Rooftops are considered a conservative and female space, as well as sacred under traditional norms of privacy. As Rddad puts it, “It’s going out without going out.”
Women do not expect to see men in this space or have their privacy violated by tourists. Now, they can no longer use the roof as they did in the past. Rddad said that the government uses tourism as a vehicle for modernization and to open up society.
Cultural tourism has been evolving in Morocco for more than a century, and was further stimulated by an international tourism campaign during the French Protectorate.
The new phenomenon of converted riads is bringing tourists into residential spaces where there are no hotels.