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Travel

City Guide: Marrakesh

Dating back to 1062, Marrakesh combines its imperial heritage with a hip vibe to appeal to tourists across  the spectrum. Welcome to the Red City

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~ Saint Augustine

The beguiling city is one of those places that you’ll want to come back to time and time again. With its fascinating architecture, particularly from the 12th century with the influence of the Almohad and the 16th century reign of the wealthy Saadian sultans, the magical metropolis showcases mighty walls built from red sandstone, gleaming mosques, luscious gardens and magnificent palaces.

It’s a rich cultural fusion of North Africa, Europe and the Middle East. By the 20th century, a vast array of tourists like Yves Saint Laurent, the Rolling Stones and Winston Churchill all fell in love with Marrakesh. Eventually, an array of breathtaking, charming, luxury hotels and restaurants have all contributed to this magical city’s alluring appeal.

Here’s our pick. 

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~ Saint Augustine

WHERE TO STAY



Mandarin Oriental Marrakesh , Route Du Golf Royal, Morocco

CONCEPT

This is a breathtaking property not just for its exterior and interior luxuries, but also for its location — a mere 10 minutes from the heart of the centre and the historic Medina, a must-visit tourist spot. It has 54 one-and two-bedroom villas inspired by Berber and Andalusian-Arabic influences, with creamy stone floors, carved walls, stately columns and marble hammams in the bathrooms. Each villa has secluded walled gardens, outdoor showers that are hugged with bamboo, swimming pools and hot tubs, extensive areas for sunbathing and shaded alfresco dining. And if that isn’t spectacular enough, there are another nine suites, seven with their own stunning rooftop plunge pool, featuring panoramic vistas of the gardens and the surrounding countryside. 

DETAILS

The spectacular hotel is set among 20 hectares of landscaped gardens. Roaming around the beautiful gardens you’ll be engulfed by the scent of 100,000 roses and the awe-inspiring backdrop of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. Wander through the striking arches and you’ll be drawn to the spa and hammam of epic proportions. There are renowned signature treatments as well as some inspired by Moroccan traditions. Relax at the spa and discover the benefits of traditional Berber beauty secrets by booking a special wellness accommodation package using Morocco’s first skincare brand, marocMaroc, which draws on the knowledge and techniques of Moroccan women passed down through the generations. There are a variety of exceptional restaurants and bars to experience too.

Rustic yet sophisticated, the design of Mandarin Oriental Marrakech was undertaken by the French duo Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier. With its Berber and Arab-Andalusian influences, the feel is of relaxed luxury for the cosmopolitan traveller. Interior and exterior spaces coexist and the focus is on essential materials, with a particular emphasis placed on light. The hotel marked the debut of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in Africa.



INFO

Web: mandarinoriental.com
Social: fb.com/MandarinOrientalMarrakech
Tel: +212 5242-98888

WHERE TO EAT



THREE TO TRY

Marrakesh’s cuisine contains a medley of French-inspired dishes fused with African influences and Arabic delights. 

SELMAN

Walk into opulence with intricate Arabian craftsmanship, stucco tracery, luxurious curvaceous chaises longues, grand chandeliers and purple and gold upholstery. The food matches the on-point design. As you sit on plump Imperial purple banquettes, enjoy dishes including lobster and fillet steak. 

selman-marrakech.com

PEPE NERO

This truly romantic hidden gem is housed in a jewel-like riad once owned by Pasha Thami el-Glaoui. What makes this so special is it’s intimacy; you can dine under fragrant orange trees in mosaic-clad courtyards where marble fountains tinkle gently. Prepared by Chef Khalid Robazza Essafa, there are two menus — Moroccan and Italian. You can even mix and match your dishes. Try carnaroli risotto with king prawns, homemade eggplant ravioli with cheese sauce or Moroccan pigeon pie and John Dory tajine.

pepenero-marrakech.com

LE RESTAURANT LA MAISON ARABE 

Every city has its iconic restaurant based on its history or famous clientele. This is one of those places. Established in 1947, La Maison Arabe set the benchmark for Marrakesh fine dining and has hosted the likes of Winston Churchill, Jackie Kennedy and the Aga Khan. It has a romantic atmosphere with local handicraft, lanterns and the dulcet tones of Arab-Andalician music. The cuisine focuses on Moroccan dishes like tanjia and a fusion of international influences. Also try their celebrated raw food menu.

lamaisonarabe.com

WHERE TO STAY



Royal Mansour, Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti, Morocco

CONCEPT 

Upon entering the grounds you’ll feel amazed by the impressive atmosphere of a palatial property surrounded by an ancient medina. It’s a massive estate of leafy courtyards and gardens and a masterpiece of Moorish-Andalusian architecture. Inside, the interior pays homage to the virtuosity of Morocco’s artisan craftsmen. Distinctive geometric zellige tiles cover walls and pillars. Sleek tadlakt plaster gleams in contrast with intricate plasterwork. Wrought iron lamps compete for finesse with the carved wood of the doors. The hotel even has 550-strong collection of paintings and champions contemporary local artists. There are private spa suites, two hammams, a relaxation area, a Watsu pool, a tea salon and a hair salon. There is also a striking swimming pool, with its orangery-style glass roof that opens onto the stunning gardens.

DETAILS

Rather than corridors, the Royal Mansour’s 53 riads are connected by pathways within a private medina; shrubs and flowers border the alleyways, and gardens bloom in inner courtyards. Guests’ riads are their own private domain, each accessed directly from one of the medina’s many walkways. On the first floor, the bedrooms and bathrooms open onto a gallery looking down into the courtyard. Then there’s your private roof terrace, with plunge pool, fireplace and a tented space for private hammam treatments. 

INFO

Web: royalmansour.com 
Social: fb.com/RoyalMansour
Tel: +212 529 80 80 80

WHERE TO DRINK



THREE TO TRY

While Marrakesh has a plethora of hip and trendy bars in modern hotels, after midnight there’s a buzzy yet understated nightlife on low-key Medina terraces and in Ville Nouvelle bars. 

LE COMPTOIR 

This Art Deco villa is filled with trendy hipsters on the first floor bar and lounge courtyard. It’s a fusion between the Orient and Occident, with a restaurant, lounge and boutique feel inspired by French, Moroccan and Asian influences. The vibrant atmosphere peaks with a belly dancing squad. Sip on signature classics and listen to the international mix of DJs merging popular tunes with Moroccan beats. 

comptoirdarna.com

CHURCHILL BAR 

Set amid idyllic gardens, La Mamounia is one of Marrakesh’s most elegant hotels. Le Churchill pays homage to a 1930s English gentlemen’s club with jazzy piano tunes, cigars and whiskey. It has a jazzy feel with Art Deco-inspired red velvet sofas, high-backed leopard-print chairs and leather-studded walls peppered with glamorous images of the jazz-age.

mamounia.com

LE BAR BEACHCOMBER 

The Royal Palm Beachcomber is a jazz-infused bar that comes alive at night. It’s a friendly and relaxed venue with a comfy reading corner, luscious rugs, black granite flooring and a piano. It even has its own cigar cellar. Warm up at the cosy fireplace, sit back and soak in the chic and elegant atmosphere. 

royalpalm-hotels.com

WHERE TO STAY


The Source: Route De L’ourika, Morocco

CONCEPT 

Set in five hidden acres off the dusty road to Orika, this sassy hotel combines elements of a serene spa with a rock-chic vibe. The Source was founded by music-loving French owner Laurent Cohen; his adoration for music is highlighted in all the quirky rooms, each with a unique design. There’s the baroque, red Rolling Stones room and the Jimi Hendrix room with a four-poster bed and a bath hidden behind a latticed wooden mashrabiya, for instance. It even boasts a recording studio. The stylish property also has two villas with private pools and an air-conditioned Berber tent with a stylish mix of handcrafted furniture.

DETAILS

The Source is an oasis in the desert, immaculately landscaped with pathways fringed by aromatic rosemary, mint, geranium and thyme that lead to the rooms, spa, pool and rooftop bar. As for food, the restaurant’s herbs and ingredients are all grown in the garden. The juices are fresh and highlights for breakfast are homemade pancakes and pastries. Their pool-house serves tasty light dishes with a modern European vibe throughout the day and the main restaurant offers a daily rotating dinner menu with contemporary remixes of Moroccan classics. Post-dinner, head for the stunning lantern-sprinkled roof terrace.

INFO

Web: thesourcemarrakech.com
Social: fb.com/thesourcemarrakech
Tel: +212 529 802 107  

WHERE TO EXPLORE


THREE TO TRY

Once you get past the tough, bustling exterior of the Red City, you’ll be charmed by its edgy, raw attractions.

visitmorocco.com

DJEMAA EL-FNA

In 2001, UNESCO declared the Djemaa el-Fna a Masterpiece of World Heritage. It’s Marrakesh’s main square where urban legends and oral history is brought to life through storytellers, acrobats and performers. A trip to Marrakesh isn’t complete without a visit here. Be sure to delve into the quiet corners to find the best trinkets and souvenirs.

ATLAS MOUNTAINS FROM THE AIR

Take in the breathtaking views and enjoy bird’s-eye views of Morocco’s deserts and the foothills of the Atlas Mountains on a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Drift through the dawn skies over the desert valleys and hillsides just as the sun casts them in gold, orange and pink. Then, land to a tasty Berber breakfast and memorable camel ride. 

JARDIN MAJORELLE

Originally the home of acclaimed landscape painter Jacques Majorelle, the striking cobalt blue exterior and delightful garden full of rare desert flora is one of Morocco’s most-visited sites. You’ll be mesmerised by the eye-catching colours, from beautiful fuchsia bougainvillea to jewelled green palm trees, pink pisé walls and burnished orange goldfish. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé saved the gardens from dereliction in the 1960s. On YSL’s death in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the rose garden.

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