Marrakech; an eclectic mix of modern and ancient, desert and ‘old city,’ pink walled medina with vibrant souk full of fashionable shops, trendy eateries with delectable Moroccan cuisine and fabulous nightclubs – may be the coolest place on the planet.
Now there’s even more reason to visit the country’s most popular destination. After 5 years in the making, the highly anticipated Oberoi Marrakech finally arrived this past December. And what a stunner it is! The huge ultra luxe resort owned by the esteemed Indian hotel group is styled after the palaces of ancient Morocco. Just southeast of the city, the 5-star property is set on 28 lush acres sprinkled with olive groves and citrus orchards.
Everything, from the stately ochre main building with ornate lobby Zellij mosaic columns, striking archways and lantern lit passageways, central courtyard inspired by the city’s famed historic monument, the 14th century Madersa Ben Youseff with intricately carved stucco walls – to the stunning water feature called the Grand Canal – creates an ambience of regal Moorish splendor. Not to mention those glorious views of the pink tinged Atlas Mountains.
Spread out along beautifully landscaped grounds, the 84 rooms and villas with sizeable pools and large outdoor living spaces including gardens and terraces with sun loungers – offer the utmost privacy. Spacious interiors with every amenity, done in contemporary décor with a palette of ivory and burnished gold, contain generous bathrooms with stand-alone tubs that call out for soaks. They make cozy cocoons.
I enjoyed a lunch of the freshest seafood dining outdoors on the patio near the stylish palm framed pool. Dinner is a sensory journey at their signature Restaurant, Siniman. Here guests savor flavorful tagines and other Moroccan dishes, sitting on red velvet chairs beneath the tazoukt ceiling with the warm glow of the fireplace, serranaded by the sweet sound of a musician playing an oud.
The full service spa, set around a maze garden provides an oasis of relaxation and serenity. It’s easy to get blissed out with their menu of offerings that include pampering massages, facials, body scrubs, beauty salon, yoga pavilion and personalized Moroccan and Ayurvedic treatments as well as hammam and herbal therapies. And while you may not want to leave the property; indulging at the spa, lolling by the pool and gazing at the gorgeously mystical Atlas Mountains; the resort also arranges off site options such as hot air ballooning at sunrise.
A 25-minute drive from the Oberoi takes you to the city’s most famous attractions. Lively Djemaa El Fna Square, the heart of life in the medina is well known for traditional storytellers, Gnawa musicians and performers. It comes alive at sunset when snake charmers, acrobats, magicians, dancers and potion sellers chanting cures for body aches and broken hearts, perform in the open air extravaganza, the aroma from food stalls wafting in the air.
Behind the bustling square lies the ever-colorful marketplace, the seemingly non-ending souk. Tourists and locals wander from stall to stall, buying olives, nuts, dates, freshly squeezed orange juice, incense, cosmetics, pungent spices and ingredients for spells. Following the labyrinthine alleyways and winding streets, a fantastic world unfolds of striking rugs, kaftans, lamps, antiques, jewelry, pottery, leather belts, handbags, voguish clothing and embroidered slippers called babouches. Check out designer shops ‘Tribal Chic’ and ‘Baroudi’ for the latest in Moroccan fashions.
Two new spots in the medina are not to be missed. Dar El Bacha-Musee des Confluences Museum, a former early 20th century palace built for Thami el Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakech impresses with its exquisite Moroccan craftsmanship and cultural exhibits. It also contains the very hip Bacha Coffee Room & Boutique. Opening soon and expected to be the new ‘in place’ – ZL Gallery (Zaouiat Lahdar 18). Here you’ll find rare, one of a kind treasures ranging from contemporary to age old pieces crafted by artisans – all exceptional. And for a brief respite from your retail therapy – their rooftop coffee terrace offers panoramic views of the medina.
Additionally, I loved the enchanting botanical gardens at Jardin Majorelle. This popular attraction restored by designer Yves Saint Laurent, contains exotic plants, palm trees, water fountains and colorful flowers galore. Just steps away, The Musee Yves St Laurent, dazzles with its changing couture collection of the late great fashion icon who became a part time resident and Marrakech aficionado. Afterwards, head down the street to fashionista favorite ‘33 Rue Majorelle’ where you’ll find a fantastic collection of attire, handbags and accessories by Moroccan designers.
In a city with so many eateries, I especially enjoyed the outstanding cuisine, sophisticated ambience and ultra chic crowd at both the Hotel Dar Rhizlane’s Restaurant and La Cour Des Lions in the Es Saadi Marrakech Resort – which also has an immense Spa with hydrotherapy circuit and Oriental Thermae. It’s perfect for pre-dinner rejuvenation.
A worthwhile excursion: A 45-minute drive takes you to the new luxurious White Camel Lodge and Tented Camp in the Agafay Desert. You can have a camel ride, unwind at the pool and lunch on delicious grilled lamb and tasty tagines against the backdrop of sand dunes. The desert landscape is so serene; you may want to stay the night.
How to see the best of Marrakech: Hatim Hatiman, founder of the acclaimed luxury concierge service Morocco Dream Team, offers top customized itineraries including remarkable cultural, art, shopping and culinary experiences. He and his team go way beyond the typical and curate what is truly distinct, outstanding and unique in the city.
How to Go: Royal Air Maroc offers service from US cities to Casablanca where you can connect to their 50 minute flight to Marrakech.
How To Travel Within Morocco: Air Arabia Maroc recently launched a new route linking Fes to Marrakech with a new gleaming terminal in Fes. Now this 1-hour flight makes travel between the 2 popular destinations – seamless.
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