Thursday, June 9th, 2011
MARRAKECH, Morocco – Riad Al Massarah has won the Travelife Gold Award for sustainability, making it the only Moroccan establishment of 92 worldwide to earn the distinction in 2010. The riad, a traditional Moroccan guesthouse, received the award after a Travelife audit confirmed that it met standards of excellence for both environmental and social practices.

When owners Michael Mathews and Michel Contreras redesigned Riad Al Massarah in 2004, their goal was to make it as sustainable as possible by maximizing natural sunlight, minimizing water and electricity use, and respecting the local community.

Water conservation is a priority in a country where rainfall is scarce and droughts are frequent. To preserve every possible drop, Riad Al Massarah installed dual-flush toilets and low-flow water taps. “Our taps and shower heads give the illusion of using lots of water, but in fact they don’t. They feel like power showers, but it’s nearly all air!” says Mathews.

Cleaning routines, too, were improved so as not to waste water. In Morocco, buckets of water are commonly poured across floors and stairways to wash away the day’s dust and dirt. “We used to have a weekly waterfall down the stairs to clean them, but that has stopped now,” says Mathews. Staff have responded positively to changes in routine. “They have taken some practices home with them and are hopefully making family and friends more aware of environmental issues,” says Mathews.

Solar panels –a relatively new concept in Morocco at the time they were installed - heat much of Riad Al Massarah’s water, while wood-burning stoves produce efficient heating. “A big challenge was sourcing sustainable firewood, but our supplier has assured us that it comes from old olive groves that had been grubbed up for replacement with orange trees or new olives,” says Mathews.

Realizing that bottled water creates tons of plastic waste each year, Contreras and Mathews responded by offering free filtered tap water to guests. This has reduced plastic water bottle purchases at the riad by about a third. In Morocco, only about 2% of solid waste is recycled, and 11% of all waste comes from plastic, according to the International Institute for Water and Sanitation (IEA).

Riad Al Massarah also encourages guests to support the local community by donating to its partner charity, Atfaluona Marrakech, which provides assistance to street children and orphans. “Every week, at least a couple of guests arrive with clothes to donate,” says Mathews. In the past year, Riad Al Massarah and its guests contributed more than one hundred items of clothing and £6,000 to the charity.

“We have done the easy things. Now we are coming up against available resources,” says Mathews. “Right now, glass is recycled, and plastics will be in the next month. We don’t have space to compost, but I see carts around the medina collecting vegetable waste, so it must be possible to link into that. We are also trying to source eco-friendly diversions for guests.”

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Riad Al Massarah:

Located in Marrakech, Riad Al Massarah blends Moroccan and European influences with sustainable design principles. It is located within walking distance of World Heritage site Jemma el Fna, the square that made Morocco’s red city famous. For more information, visit
Michael Mathews
P: +212 661 46 83 11


Riad Al Massarah has won the Travelife Gold Award for sustainability, making it the only Moroccan establishment of 92 worldwide to earn the distinction in 2010.



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