I’ve been visiting Marrakech for years and during my most recent jaunt there last month I stayed in six of the city’s best luxury hotels, riads and resorts (and toured many more). Every time I explore the Red City’s high-end inventory, I’m reminded that nothing else manages to match what’s on offer at the Royal Mansour – and it’s unlikely anything else ever will.
The property’s prestige is peerless, which makes sense when you learn about its ownership: the Royal Mansour was established by the King of Morocco to serve as a showpiece for the best the country has to offer. He enlisted some 1,500 artisans to beautify its interiors and pretty much every single decorative element on display has been integrated by hand with complete precision and hard-earned expertise. Underfoot, floors are laid with an intricate dazzle of geometric zellij tiles; towering handmade wooden cabinets punctuate the lobby; the spa is enveloped by delicately curved swirls of white metal that encase its reception area like a birdcage. Staying here is like living in a museum or a palace; the whole place is shorthand for ‘no expense spared’.
I’ve felt completely awed both times I’ve stayed at the Royal Mansour, and the property’s standout attention to detail extends beyond its aesthetic. The resort occupies a private, peaceful five-hectare plot that’s just a few minutes’ walk from always-lively, worlds-apart Jemaa el-Fnaa square; structurally, it’s modelled on a traditional Moroccan medina, with palm-shaded lanes leading to clusters of the neighbouring, standalone three-storey riads that accommodate Royal Mansour guests in place of conventional hotel rooms. The tranquillity here is remarkable, and clever – stretching to about one kilometre in total length, a network of tunnels runs beneath the grounds and is used by staff members to manage the Royal Mansour’s practical requirements without sullying the illusion of serenity. You’ll never see housekeeping staff trundle through the gardens for example, and room service trolleys don’t clatter down the walkways. Instead staff access individual properties from underground via discreet, discrete side entrances within the riad grounds.
The 53 one-, two- and three-bedroom riads are, unsurprisingly, totally lavish and intricately finished – you can see a full video tour of my riad, number 23, below. A dinky outdoor reception area gives way to a ground-floor lounge with working fireplace and WC; above, the bedroom (or bedrooms) feature beautiful stucco work, engraved cedar wood and marble bathrooms stocked with Maroc Maroc toiletries (though the miniature plastic containers feel outdated and incongruous now); up above, the roof terrace accommodates loungers, another fireplace and an intimate private plunge pool. It’s all very lovely, though the riads’ composition does cause a touch of consternation for some – a small few of the properties feature elevators for guests with mobility impairments, but you should otherwise prepare to get a lot of steps in. Given how hearty Moroccan food is, I appreciated the obligation to move a bit more…
Dining options at the hotel are overseen somewhat surprisingly by a French chef, but it is at least Yannick Alléno so guests are assured of high quality. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at recently renovated La Table restaurant. I enjoyed my sunny mornings in the courtyard here, sharing flakes of pastry with the birds that perched hopefully at the edge of my table; choosing from a brasserie-style menu that features the likes of bouillabaisse, vegetable salad with pistachio and vanilla and a Paris-style patisserie selection, my dinner here was agreeable even if the dishes were generally good, rather than consistently wonderful – which is what one quickly comes to expect as a base level from Royal Mansour.
Other dining options include romantic high-calibre Moroccan dinner restaurant La Grande Table Marocaine, Italian eatery Sesamo and open-air Restaurant Le Jardin, which serves a credible Asian and Mediterranean menu just out of sight of the outdoor pool and seconds from the resort’s sprawling gardens. You might pass profusions of fragrant orange trees as you make your way to your table.
Exclusive though these restaurants seem, they’re actually reasonably accessible. Reservations can be made by the general public so it’s still possible to experience a bit of the Mansour’s magic without spending the minimum of €1,400 it costs for a night’s bed and breakfast. Day passes to the pool cost MAD1,250 (€120) per person, which includes full-day access to the pool with an assigned lounger and a three-course meal and mocktail at le Jardin; spend MAD3,000 (€290) as a couple and you’ll get all that plus day-long use of a private pavilion, the property’s take on a posh, air-conditioned cabin. Compared to London’s best hotels, afternoon tea in a setting this spectacular feels a steal at €44 per person.
There’s more to enjoy besides, with the aforementioned gardens providing produce for the property’s restaurants and incorporating an artist’s residence that can host small-scale classes for guests of all ages (children are warmly welcomed here); there’s an impressive indoor pool and well-equipped gym alongside the expected top-notch spa facilities; and service is superb – given the calibre of guests who routinely stay here, the team have heard it all before and it truly feels like nothing is too much trouble. (Team members look the business too – they wear some of the world’s most beautiful hotel uniforms, with some designs inspired by the heritage of specific Moroccan cities.) All in all, this is one of those rare properties that really does deserve all the hype – it provides one of the most momentous and grand distillations there is to be had of Morocco’s immense cultural wealth and heritage and just consistently feels very, very special.
Rates from €1,400 a night, B&B; royalmansour.com
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