The Escape | Magical Marrakech

Palais Namaskar
An exterior view of Palais Namaskar. Linear Moorish archways gracefully accent the floating waterways that frame the property.
An ancient metropolis landscaped by terracotta architecture and awash with blush rose-red cityscapes at sunset, framed by the snowy Atlas Mountains, Marrakech has long been muse to some of the world’s most creative minds. Aisha Zaman discovers some of the most decadent hotels in the atmospheric North African city

PALAIS NAMASKAR

La Table resturant overlooks the pool and creates a gourmet garden oasis.

A palace by name and stature, Palais Namaskar promises the luxury of serenity, seclusion and space. The property stretches across 12 acres of grounds that house endlessly winding lakes and majestic walkways thereby creating glorious panoramas. Evoking elated feelings of being in a Arabian Nights setting, the hotel is positioned in the midst of a Mediterranean garden, encircled by fragrant bougainvillea, lined by orange and palm trees and surrounded by olive groves. Nestled between the Atlas Mountains and the Djebilet Hills in the peaceful Palmeraie oasis, 20 minutes by car from the Marrakech medina, Palais Namaskar offers tranquility from the bustling city center; yet it is close enough to offer the vibrancy and experience for those who wish to access it.

The buildings are classified as Moorish in design with traditional domes, arches and extravagant materials. Designed by Imaad Rahmouni, a renowned French-Algerian designer (a former associate of Philippe Starck), the indulgent hotel merges exquisite Oriental architecture with contemporary Feng Shui principles of spatial design, subtly enhanced by Moorish and Andalusian influences. The result is an impressive harmony between the lavish abodes and surrounding verdant greenery.

The bedrooms, suites and villas spread over the park are placed suitably far away from each other so that guests can indulge in complete privacy and enjoy their opulent living rooms offering panoramic vistas. Each room is furnished by a private pool or Jacuzzi and an impressive open fireplace. Despite the grand, historic architecture, the interiors are refreshingly modern with many indulgent design features such as stunning Murano glass chandeliers. The communal areas are equally generous; offering an impressive gym with morning yoga classes, an aromatherapy spa and vibrant restaurants with diverse cuisine options, in which majority of products are sourced from the home grown gardens. Palais Namaskar is a world-class destination, its tranquil Moroccan surroundings with serene lakes and green vistas, is a place that truly touches your spirit.

Villas start from Dhs4,680, palaisnamaskar.com

LA MAMOUNIA

A pillared courtyard at La Mamounia is characterised by high vaulted ceilings, crisp white horseshoe arches, masharabiyah wood screens and artisanal mosaic tile work, while oversized metal lanterns tie in seamlessly with the marble water fountain. 

“During the season, La Mamounia is just a little harder to get into than heaven,” says a character in Paul Bowles’ 1952 novel Let It Come Down. Marrakech has long possessed a secular palace, La Mamounia, a legendary hotel that boasts a long list of celebrity fans. Ever since Winston Churchill provided his nod of approval by bringing along Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940s, the hotel has had an enviable guest list comparable to an Oscar ceremony, including the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Princess Carolina of Monaco, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Adrien Brody and Elton John.

In almost a century of existence, the luxury hotel remains a favourite in the Red City. Design luminary, Jacques Garcia, who magnificently blends its Art Deco heritage with opulent Moroccan accents, renovated this splendidly sublime hotel, in 2009. Fountains bursting with rose petals offer a serene setting to its fabulous and abundant courtyards, while the walls are embellished with elaborate Moorish hand sculpted plaster and jewel colored geometric mosaic tiling, that outlines Marrakech’s most iconic sites, such as the gorgeous 16th-century Madrassa Ben Youssef or the incredible Saadian Tombs. Almost, wherever you turn this fascinating hotel is lined with beautiful reflecting pools, calming sounds of trickling fountains and birdsongs.

The decadent rooms mirror a miniature Arabian palace, with possibly the most exquisite washrooms ever, concealed behind ornate wooden doors, beautiful zellij tiling and a startling amount of lighting options.

Inspired by an invigorating blend of Moroccan and Eastern culture, the 27,000 square foot Spa La Mamounia beautifully fuses the traditional with the modern. 

ROYAL MANSOUR

Tucked away in the ancient walls of the Old City of Marrakech, within walking distance of the historical Djemaa el Fna Square, is King Mohammed VI’s magnificently regal hotel, The Royal Mansour. Stemmed from a vision to create a masterpiece abode surpassing the demands of today’s discerning traveller while depicting the true essence of Moroccan tradition, the Royal Mansour offers guests an experience that combines Moroccan hospitality, art and design with contemporary flair.

Passing through the ornately carved arch you will discover a peaceful interior courtyard set within the exclusive Premier Riad, bordered by a traditional Moroccan lounge. 

Laid out in the classic form of the traditional medina, the ceremonious entrance was inspired by the legendary gates to Morocco’s imperial cities. Guests are ushered through the main reception to Royal Mansour’s inner medina, an area championing exclusivity and privacy through its inaccessibility to non-residents. Exquisite and mysterious, it is disclosed only to its privileged guests who are directed through the labyrinth marble-lined paths and cascading courtyards, encased by olive groves and impressive palms to their own private space in the form of a traditional riad. The extensive property covers nine acres and comprises 53 individual riads. Centered around a courtyard, the extravagant riads (ranging in size from 1,400 – 21,500 square feet) are laid out over three stories, with each comprising bedrooms, a library, a dining room, a kitchen, a plunge pool, an elevator, a patio and a roof terrace along with a butler service, aimed to fulfill every whim.

At the Royal Mansour privacy is premium. The hotel has a secret system of underground tunnels. A city in itself, it consists of vast kitchens, laundries, warehouses and quarters for its staff, used to shields guests from intrusion and offer seamless yet unseen service. The unsurpassable opulence is evident in every little design detail; the riads showcase Moroccan splendor at its best; featuring Umayyad dynastic architecture adorned with exquisite zellij tiling (geometric mosaics) by the finest craftsmen from Fez. The interiors are decorated with handcrafted wood and antique furniture, carved cedar wood ceilings, moulded plasterwork, stained glass accents, layered stuccowork, hammered bronze and magnificent inlaid marquetry. The furnishings are equally lavish as the rooms are sprinkled with silk carpets, fabulous Suzani embroideries, velvet brocade sofas and crystal chandeliers from Baccarat and Lalique. The result is impressive. Exquisite workmanship is also evident in the communal areas adorned by Andalusian cabinets crafted in Córdoba, mosaic and marble fountains, dazzling chandeliers and banquettes inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

The Royal Mansour also boasts three gourmet restaurants whose menus have been crafted by triple Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno (who has a list of stellar hotel restaurants, including the One&Only The Palm, Dubai). La Grande Table Française concentrates on French haute cuisine, La Grande Table Marocaine follows the same for Moroccan cuisine while lunch can be enjoyed at La Table, a more casual all day dining set in a gorgeous courtyard adjacent to the pool area. Guests also have the option to order in the plush comfort of the riad, as waiters serve the heavenly cuisine from these restaurants straight to the private dining room table for the ultimate indulgent dining experience.

A visit to Marrakech is said to be incomplete without a hammam experience. Spanning three floors and almost 27,000 square feet, the hotel’s palatial spa is framed with a heavenly light infused trellised latticework handcrafted by local artisans ‒ making it an architectural sight itself. Elegant and calming, the facilities consist of a hammam suite, hydrotherapy pool, swimming pool, a spa shop and café along with individual relaxation pods. All through the year global wellbeing specialists and therapists congregate at the spa for inspirational ‘Wellness Weeks’ where they conduct seminars and individual therapy sessions with guests.

Amongst the many striking details found within the Royal Mansour are the enchanting Arab-Andalusian style inspired gardens; illustrated by immaculate grounds of lemon trees and exotic plants and truly mesmerising sceneries. Yet, to further enhance the fantastical experience Royal Mansour is crafting a new awe- inspiring oasis, Le Jardin, which will be unveiled this November, including lush landscaped gardens, seven pavilions, a large resort-style swimming pool and a brand new alfresco restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno; that promise to make a stay at the Royal Mansour Marrakech even more magical. 

The Royal Mansour Spa is an interior gem to witness, with the central area featuring a whitewashed wrought iron atrium with alcoves that mimic an elaborated birdcage. 

Riads start at Dhs4,045, royalmansour.com 

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Palais Namaskar
An exterior view of Palais Namaskar. Linear Moorish archways gracefully accent the floating waterways that frame the property.