A host of new hotels are helping Marrakech cement its position as North Africa's luxury hotspot, reports Joanna Booth
Ever seen Winston Churchill, Sarah Jessica Parker and Mick Jagger in the same room?
Nope, neither have we – but if you’d stayed at La Mamounia long enough, you would have. Their stays at this iconic Marrakech hotel may not have coincided, but they’re just three of the many celebrities who have patronised this property since it opened in 1923.
Marrakech has become the go-to city-break destination for short-haul luxury with an exotic twist, and it’s unsurprising that three such different clients would love it – packed to the brim as it is with culture, shopping, and adventure.
A profusion of flights means it’s easy to be flexible with dates, and the presence of British Airways alongside low-cost carriers means upgrades are possible for clients who like to turn left when they board a flight, even if it does last less than four hours.
And when it comes to somewhere to stay, a host of new luxury hotels are keeping competition stiff and standards high. Last year, no less than five deluxe newcomers joined the throng, each bringing a different flavour to the Marrakech experience.
La Mamounia is the grand dame of the Marrakech accommodation scene, though a very well preserved one, after the hotel reopened in 2009 after a three-year, €100-million restoration.
The hotel’s age doesn’t just give it beautiful historic looks – but also the combination of proximity and space. Despite its position within the walls of the medina, there’s room for more than 200 rooms, 200-year-old gardens, four restaurants and a 2,500sq metre spa. It’s a social spot – the proverbial place to see and be seen.
However, there are plenty of contenders for the crown. A neighbour to La Mamounia since 2010, the Royal Mansour deserves a majestic title, as the pet project of King Mohammed VI. More than 1,000 craftsmen worked for four years behind the pink walls and massive bronze gates to deliver a hotel of palatial quality and a showcase of Moroccan design. The 53 rooms aren’t rooms, but three-floor riads, with open-air courtyards, roof terraces and plunge pools, so it’s the best choice for those who crave privacy.
In a leafy suburb in the northeast, Mosaic Palais Aziza’s look is modern Moroccan, with a traditional spa, cuisine ranging from indigenous to Italian, and two hectares of gardens.
TRADITION WITH A TWIST
In the upmarket residential area of Hivernage, Delano Marrakech channels Morocco via Miami, with design nods to its US sister property. Restaurants include Japanese and Italian – great for those who don’t like couscous – and the rooftop Sky Lounge, with a donut-shaped pool, is perfect for posing.
On the southern outskirts, the 56-room Selman echoes Gallic and Moroccan heritage in looks and service, with a French chef in the restaurant and spa treatments from Chenot. The thoroughbred horses in the stables are pure Arab, however.
Both the Taj Palace Marrakech (pictured below) and Palais Namaskar opened in the peaceful Palmeraie, an upmarket, manicured district 15 minutes from the centre of the city, where clients trade the buzz of the city for space and tranquillity.
The opulent Taj has 161 rooms combining Ottoman, Thai and Indian design – not one for minimalists. Palais Namaskar is the Oetker Collection’s first African outpost and although externally you’ll see plenty of Arab arches and domes, inside the look is more international, all tasteful taupe and understated greige, and the spa is Guerlain, rather than hammam.
Accommodation consists of 41 units across rooms, suites, villas and palaces, and experiences are equally high end, from hot-air ballooning over the Djebilet Hills to helicopter trips into the desert.
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