Well heeled travellers looking for exotic destinations and unique experiences will find that the Rose City of Marrakech ticks all the right boxes
While political instability and threats of violence continue to unease countries across the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco reassures with its immersive culture, contemporary art scene, architecture and culinary delights.
Arabian Knight’s international concierge expert Timmy Coles-Liddle* recently hopped on a plane to Marrakech, Morocco’s historic imperial city, and found that out the Rose City has much to offer especially in luxury accommodations, fine food, and wellness...
For those of you who have had the pleasure of staying at one of the thirty under-the-radar Aman Resorts across the globe, Marrakech’s Amanjena will not shatter the mystique. A short road transfer out of the city, but trillions of miles away from the bustling medina, the resort is an oasis of towering palm trees, lush herb gardens and 49 beautifully appointed pavilions and villas, generously scattered amongst the blooming rose bushes.
Each pavilion is decorated in the signature modern and masculine style that the group is so well known for and benefit from a spacious and light-filled wrap-around terrace and chill-out, perfect for romantic in-house dining.
Morocco’s people are naturally warm and General Manager Nicolas Ilickovic and his team epitomise this hospitality, warmly receiving their guests as though they are old friends In fact, many are – the hotel has a high ratio of repeat visitors – and it’s not hard to understand why.
Amanjena underwent a three-month refurbishment towards the end of last year with new villas and a reimagined spa planned for 2017. Rumour has it that seventeen new Aman Residences are planned, together with a scattering of super-luxe berber desert tents in the near future. If true, these will be the only full-on-luxury desert accommodations you need to know about. Many of the staff have been here for 16 years – since the resort’s inception. This should tell you a thing or two about the manner in which not only the guests but the many members of staff are looked after.
Guests have the choice of two main dining options. There’s The Japanese Restaurant, an upbeat haunt offering fresh sushi, sashimi and succulent cuts of meat from the robata grill.
Meanwhile, contemporary, inventive Moroccan fare with Sicilian and French influences are served in The Mediterranean Restaurant, which is housed in the beautiful, recently refurbished high-domed berber tent. Guests are invited to mingle over complimentary traditional Moroccan afternoon tea in the hotel’s new lounge. Introductions can be made to other guests, so the resort lends itself well to solo travellers.
Nicolas and his team are on hand to assist with any cultural and adventure recommendations, whilst guests tuck into local, hand-made pastries and copious amounts of fresh mint tea. If unwinding in tranquil gardens is just not your thing, why not head out to the creamy sand-coloured Agafay desert and partake in some adrenaline-raising quad biking?
Alternatively, one can spend a lazy afternoon by the heated swimming pool while devouring an octopus salad tossed with potato, almonds and zesty orange.
LA SULTANA MARRAKECH
Well-heeled tourists who have spent a dreamlike getaway at La Sultana Oualidia – West coast Morocco’s dreamy boutique retreat – will know what to expect at sister hotel La Sultana Marrakech, which lies a little off the beaten track, but does not compromise on luxury and service.
An immaculately presented ancient riad, a hotel is a 15-minute stroll from the Jemaa el-Fna and lively suqs of the medina, reimagined, housing a scattering of spacious, thoughtfully decorated suites and rooms, overlooking internal courtyards stuffed with vases of flowering roses. The rooftop offers some of the best views of the city and when the weather allows, a plentiful breakfast buffet is served. A must-have is a very traditional dinner of rich chicken tagine and minty couscous by the atmospheric candle-lit indoor pool.
Right in the centre of the suq, and with the help of many helpful locals gesturing the way, you’ll come across Nomad – an upbeat Spanish/Moroccan-owned café-restaurant serving modern local tapas and cocktails. Head straight up to the rooftop where elegantly upholstered banquettes are jam-packed with locals and visitors taking respite from the heaving medina below.
The Four Seasons is a hotel group where elegance, effortless service and simplicity reign strong. The outpost in Marrakech is set within a staggering seventeen hectares of olive trees, manicured gardens and boasts generously sized guest rooms, suites and one two-bedroom riad. A long, lazy lunch poolside at the informal and upbeat Azzera restaurant is a must. Tuck into salads, juicy prawns with pineapple, citrus, avocado and local argan oil, or zesty nicoise with fresh grilled swordfish.
Fashionable and attentive staff exude a pared-back energy which makes each guest feel at ease. All of the 141 guest rooms and suites are equipped with a private balcony offering either jaw-dropping views of the historic Menara Gardens or magical snow-capped Atlas Mountains.
BELDI COUNTRY CLUB
Not a million miles away, but altogether more simplified and rustic, family-owned Beldi Country Club is a smart move for those seeking a healthy and elegant dining experience. Enjoy home-grown produce at immaculately laid tables under the welcome shade of centuries-old olive trees. Relax by the endless pool – so deeply blue in colour and blissfully cool it deserves a dip.
Beldi’s numerous berber tents, light-filled lounges and glasshouses make it a perfect destination for birthday parties and weddings, and the luxurious spa offers everything from sea salt scrubs to traditional hammams.
A short ten-minute drive from the bustling and vibrant medina lies the newly launched Mandarin Oriental, the group’s first foray in Africa. It is evident that during the eight-year development phase, an army of architects, craftsmen and gardeners have given the project their all, and in doing so, have created a masterpiece in beauty and sophistication.
The grand, architecturally significant main quarters houses the reception, Mes’Lalla, a sleek restaurant specialising in reimagined traditional Moroccan fare curated by chef Meryam Cherkaoui, and a lounge on the ground floor, with a number of decent-sized guest rooms upstairs.
But it is the thoughtfully positioned and beautifully appointed villas that scatter the grounds, which are the piece de resistance. Each villa, south-facing and surrounded by trillions of roses which dispense perfume as you pass, offers either one or two bedrooms, a light-filled bathroom and spacious lounge. A plunge pool, external terrace and Jacuzzi complete the arrangement, within a totally private walled garden.
A visit to the in-house The Spa is a must, where attention to detail, age-old tradition and Eastern wellness influences leave you feeling energised and refreshed with a masseuse administering a therapeutic Argan oil deep tissue massage with precision and strength. The resort’s Pool Garden offers guests a chilled, beach club-style restaurant and bar, surrounding a gloriously expansive blue-green pool. Light Mediterranean inspired bites and healthy dishes focus on fresh fruit and vegetables sourced directly from the resort’s garden.
Cantonese cuisine lovers will be thrilled to hear that Ling Ling by Hakkasan, which premiered on the glamorous island of Mykonos last summer – and which was an instant hit – has just announced it will launch at the resort in September this year. It will undoubtedly bring a new buzz to an already chic destination.
Slightly more formal than its high-end counterparts, and boasting an exceptional location just a short stroll from the lively medina, Hotel Royal Mansour is an oasis of tranquillity and beauty. Once a former summer residence of the king, and still owned by the royal family, a scattering of generously proportioned one to four-bedroom riads are decorated with elegant Moroccan furniture, sleek marble bathrooms and carefully crafted wooden entertaining areas – yet are filled with the latest in technology and are cooled by discreet air coolers.
At La Table, a secret, abundantly lush oasis to the rear, one can dine on fresh crab salads, meaty blue lobster and locally sourced vegetables. A visit to the hotel’s spa, housed in a remarkable light-flooded dome-like structure, is obligatory. Here, space and serenity provide an environment so chilled that even just a wander through it will leave you feeling at peace. Choose the one-hour ceremonial massage and expect to be transported to a level of calm and tranquillity rarely visited.
* Timothy Coles-Liddle is the CEO of London-based Nine, a private club providing tailored travel and lifestyle solutions to individuals and families across the globe.
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