Marrakech teems with opulent hotels appealing to the international jet set. They journey to this romantic Moroccan city to sample its fine dining, shopping and Arabian Nights atmosphere. These luxurious hideaways compete by offering everything from special appearances by Michelin-starred chefs to presentation ceremonies for literary awards.
There is one resort, however, that outshines all others: the Royal Mansour. A stone’s throw from Marrakech’s 12th-century rose-pink ramparts, the Royal Mansour is on a private road, hidden behind an imposing, sculpted gate weighing several tonnes. It is, above all else, utterly exclusive and impeccably situated.
Famously commissioned by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, the Royal Mansour is much more than a hotel. It is an inspired sanctuary, with a hushed, calm and magical ambience. The hotel was built as a showcase of the country’s finest decorative arts. Nothing can prepare you for the lavishness and craftsmanship that lie within.
Throughout the estate, no stone has been left unturned in the search for excellence. More than 1,500 Moroccan artisans worked to craft the arches, the geometric mosaic tiling, the lattice screens and the special plaster walls. It is a work of art, fit to compete with any of Marrakech’s historical attractions.
As the hotel regularly plays host to royalty and celebrities, privacy is treasured here. You never see any staff scurrying across the grounds. The staff travel underground, on golf buggies that whisk them around an elaborate network of tunnels. The tunnels lead to hidden portals in the 53 three-storey houses, called riads, where guests are accommodated. There is an exceptional quiescence reigning above ground thanks to the hidden delivery of service.
The grandeur of the public areas is an appetiser for the magnificence of the Grand Riad, a hotel within a hotel. Spread over 1,800 square metres, with elegant flowering gardens and fountains lapping at its margins, the ground level is primarily for entertaining, with its library, chic Moroccan lounge area and a sitting room overlooking a private swimming pool. An ornate wrought-iron lift levitates you to the floor above, with its three bedrooms, each with a boudoir, and their private marble bathrooms, dressing rooms and beds.
The fare for private dining is prepared in the Grand Riad’s own state-of-the-art kitchen, which operates much like the kitchen of a full-size hotel. Private staff are in attendance, including butlers and a watchman stationed on the ground floor. But the ultimate show-stopper is the Grand Riad’s split-level roof terrace. The terrace has a home cinema, dining area, hammam and panoramic views over the Medina, all the way to the Atlas Mountains. It is a sublime place to relax.
While the Grand Riad has almost everything a traveller might need, a visit to the Royal Mansour’s celebrated spa is essential. Stepping into the spa has the feeling of the fantastical. The much-photographed interior, with its all-white finish and finely crafted screens, must be the closest thing to existing inside a giant snowflake. It is other-worldly.
Expert therapists are ready to advise on everything from hydrotherapy to shiatsu to cutting-edge facials. The products on offer bear familiar names – Chanel, Sisley and Dr Hauschka – but also include the MarocMaroc range, made in Europe but based on Moroccan traditional ingredients such as argan oil, orange flower and rose water. Hammam means “spreader of warmth” and the treatment here is outstanding.
The Royal Mansour is a jewel in Marrakech’s crown, a fitting complement to a city that trades on its history, artistry and craftsmanship. As Jean Pierre Chaumard, general manager of the Royal Mansour, once said: “Between mountain and sea, before the imperial cities, is Marrakech the sublime”.