Few countries hold the exotic and romantic fascination of a Thousand and One Nights as Morocco does
and it seems everyone is planning a visit to the fabled Moroccan Red City of Marrakech, where behind every medina wall an adventure awaited awash with colour and embellished in art, architecture, and cuisine. The winding alleyways of any of the medinas in Fez or Meknes give way to bustling souks; tent after tent filled with cotton, metals, hammered brass, carpets, wood, pottery, clothing and outstanding leather choices, encircling the traveller in a wonderful sensory overload. Leaving the bustle of the souk behind, guests enter a hotel or riad’s ornate spa for a posh and personalized experience. In Marrakech, luxury hotels have created spa experiences that are becoming as legendary as the city’s markets. Indulgent hammams, both private and public, offer massages perfumed with scented oils and black olive body scrubs, radiant facials and even couples personal training sessions. Why not experience the comforts of one of these four luxurious hotels before stepping outside to soak up the Thousand and One Night atmosphere of one of the world’s most exotic cities.
Luxury at La Mamounia
Named to the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List as one of the 142 hotels that changed the way we see the world, La Mamounia symbolizes traditional Moroccan hospitality while epitomizing old world luxury. She is a classic example of the great age of grand hotels and trust me, they do luxe well. After a three-year, $176 million makeover, helmed by internationally-known interior designer Jacques Garcia, La Mamounia is reborn, more beautiful, sumptuous, and sensual than ever before. La Mamounia takes its name from the surrounding 13-acre gardens that were once called the Arset al Mamoun and named after Prince Moulay Mamoun the son of the 18th-century ruler of Marrakech, Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah.
The gardens date back some 300 years and are surrounded by and built into the Medina’s ancient red walls and whose upkeep is now the responsibility of 34 full-time gardeners. Every detail is covered: your initial check in, whisked away to a secluded seating area, a chilled Baccarat glass of almond milk and a sweet plate of dates discreetly served to you while your passports are processed. A personal suite walk through (a separate guest washroom and a leather finished dressing room!). And finally, your evening turn down which includes fresh linens at your bedside (slippers placed) and in your large beautifully appointed marble en suite. The entire facility is redolent with La Mamounia’s sexy signature scent, emanating from glowing candles and combining Atlas Mountain Cedar, sweet dates and the brightness of fresh citrus. World-renowned perfumier Olivia Giacobetti has created a luxury scent for all your senses. Linger in their lush and manicured gardens. Lounge by their pool area and private cabanas with breakfasts at the Pavilion de la Piscine. Savour award-winning gastro experiences in one of their three on-site restaurants, Le Morocain, L’Italian or Le Français. Indulge in luxurious personalized Le Spa experiences. Try your best James Bond doppelganger at Black Jack or Roulette tables in their Grand Casino. Or a romantic, moonlit drink on the patio just off the Majorelle Gallery and the Bar Italien. Simply wonderful, trust me.
Luxury at The Four Seasons Resorts Marrakech
Probably the most exclusive family resort in Morocco, The Four Seasons Resorts and Private Residences is located just minutes outside the Medina on the edge of Hivernage and overlooking the Royal Menara Gardens. The heart of the Red City opens up to reveal an Arizona-like resort oasis that brings together the best of Moroccan architecture with the classic, clean lines that the Four Seasons is famous for. Completely different from her other sister Lux properties in Marrakech, The Four Seasons Resorts indulges you with a stately, modern feel, offering a gentle nod to its Moroccan place in history. True to the Four Seasons brand, the resort offers stylish, sun-lit public spaces, bathed in beige and accented with the occasional hotshot of colour. In-house, over-the-top floral arrangements seem to be de rigour at all the lux hot-spots and The Four Seasons is no exception. Indulge your senses in the bright, crisp main rooms, given bold splashes of floral colour that dot the lobbies, bars and main spaces of the property and that have become a signature statement of the global Four Season’s Chain. The Four Seasons also offers family-oriented resort style vacations: separate pools, kids play areas, day programs and even a kid-friendly theatre make this resort a family affair, yet allowing the adults ample time to escape. Private riads flank either side of the grand allee and have their separate splash pools and can house up to six people. Light filled public spaces, modern service-oriented staff, and with 24-hour Concierge options, the Four Seasons offers a reassuring level of luxury set amid 40 acres of extravagantly landscaped Moorish gardens, a place where you can spend extended time relaxing. Close enough to the medina and the haunting sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer but just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Djemaa El-Fna.
Luxury at el-Fenn
Bohemian meets lux meets art house in this hip and colourful riad named by Mr. and Mrs. Smith as 2014 ‘Best Dressed Hotel’. Right next door to Bab El Ksour, el-Fenn offers wow-factor rooms, exceptional buffet breakfasts and a courtyard pool (one of three). One of Marrakech’s great private houses, el-Fenn is the wunderkind of Vanessa Branson and Howell James, who have made this multi-riad renovated hotel a bohemian jewel. With polished lime ‘Tadelakt’ plastered walls painted in a rainbow of colors and furnished with funky local flea market and souk-sourced retro furnishings, el-Fenn now incorporates 28 rooms and suites, a restaurant, bar, hammam, library and a separate 4-bedroom, off-site private riad. Branson and James use the soaring proportions of the riad to frame an outstanding modern art collection that covers everyone from Hassan Hajjaj to David Shrigley. The vibe is so laid-back you can easily forget there’s anyone else around at all. That’s not saying you don’t feel pampered: cheeky in-room guides provide irreverent tips on the latest hotspots (Café Clock). Some assurance (Hmm. What are those funny smells from the drains?) and finally inspiration (What? You’ve never eaten Lambs or Calves foot?). We grabbed an extended lunch on el-Fenn’s private Berber-tent inspired rooftop terrace where we lingered over some wine, kicked back on their comfy day beds and enjoyed leisurely views of the city and her beautiful Koutoubia mosque. Later we shamelessly wandered the many hidden spaces of the riad, delighting in its tiled nooks and alcoves. Bonus: just a short walk from the Medina wall and the Djemaa El Fna Square.
Luxury at Royal Mansour
Royal Mansour, built on 3.5 hectares within the walls of the old city of Marrakech, was created to authentically represent the classic forms of the traditional medina—an elegant composition of riads, restaurants and a spa, arranged around the central reception area, with its opulent lobby, dining, bar, lounges and library. Built and run by the King Mohammad IV himself and focusing on traditional Moroccan handicrafts and building styles, the property is both beautiful and deluxe at the same time. Our quick tour and courtyard cocktail (at the urging of the lovely Virginie at the Four Seasons) only gave us a small taste of the attention to detail that awaits the weary traveller.
Black suited attendants, in polished brogues and stylish heels, guide you to your own 1,2 or 3-bedroom private riad with exclusive sun-drenched terraces and turquoise splash pools. Dining selections are abundant at your choice of three distinctive ‘Tables’: The Great Moroccan Table, The Great French Table, or lunch at the more casual Table, nestled under gently swaying olive trees. Or indulge in the ultimate dining experience: dinner with friends atop your riad, the sun setting on a private terrace gently serenaded by a warm Moroccan wind, your butler discreetly topping off your wine glass while you savour local and international delicacies. Private and Pampered Lux.
When the sun goes down over North Africa, the terracotta walls of ancient Marrakech turn a vibrant, red hue. At this time of night, you can point your camera in any direction, and you’re guaranteed an enviable shot. Little wonder, then, that this photogenic city has been the inspiration for so much art, literature and music. The appeal of The Red City goes beyond these unique aesthetics; this vibrant metropolis is a melting pot of European, African and Arabic influences, which visitors can taste the food, observe the architecture and hear in the evocative call to prayer, echoing and calling you down narrow, winding cobbled streets. And enjoy a little luxury as well.
Ahhh, the luxe life! Live it well in Marrakech, my friends.
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World Traveler, Writer, and Blogger, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the followsummer.com travel blog. A former Actor, current shower-singer, and non-hipster foodie. Loves his week-end house in St Marys, Ontario. Happily married to John Mountain and Dad to Sophia and Ariel, two of the best cats in the world.