In the vibrant city of Marrakech there is no shortage of five-star hotels, but Mandarin Oriental’s debut African property is a true stand out.
This elegant and contemporary resort is just 10 minutes’ drive outside the historic medina, but feels a world away, enveloped in 20-hectares of lush, landscaped gardens filled with 100,000 roses, olive trees and tumbling bougainvillea, and with the snow-capped Atlas Mountains as a dramatic backdrop.
Combining flawless hospitality with a chic design and authentic spa culture, Mandarin Oriental Marrakech just might be the city’s ultimate bolthole. Plus, if you leave the UK first thing, you can be by the pool in Morocco mid-morning, enjoying guaranteed warmer temperatures than most European destinations at this time of year.
WHAT TO PACK
While its setting oozes romantic charm, with picture-perfect moments at every turn, interiors at Mandarin Oriental Marrakech offer a more minimalist aesthetic than some of the other heavily ornate properties in the city. The French designers Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier have leaned into a laidback Andalusian-Arabic scheme with soothing white tiles, neutral textiles and cream Berber rugs lending a feeling of relaxed and stylish luxury. Floor-to-ceiling glass in the communal areas ensures a seamless flow between the indoor and outdoor spaces to make the most of the extraordinary Moroccan light.
Rather than rooms, Mandarin Oriental invites its guests to check in to one of 54 private villas hidden behind giant wooden doors, each with their own secluded walled garden, swimming pool and hot tub, outdoor shower and fireplace, and a variety of areas for sunbathing and al fresco dining. That’s 3,100 square foot all to yourself – spacious by anyone’s standards.
Inside there is a sitting room, a bedroom that opens out directly onto the pool and a bathroom with a circular tub big enough for two, lined with Diptyque products. When the heat of the day gets too much, head back to your villa and spend the afternoon lazing or reading a good book on the shaded king-sized daybed, dipping in and out of the water to cool off. As to be expected with a Mandarin Oriental property, the staff go the extra mile – each villa offers a butler service and any requests for buggies, dinner reservations or minibar refills can be sent via WhatsApp.
The Food + Drink
World-class fare awaits at Mandarin Oriental Marrakech and there’s no better way to start the day than with a traditional breakfast of msamen (warm pancakes drizzled with honey and almond butter) on the terrace as the birds swoop in the sky to the sound of a live guitarist. The hotel champions sustainability, with an on-site organic garden that has a variety of 20 vegetables, more than 30 organic herbs, and salads that are picked daily to be used in the dishes served up to guests. At lunchtime, the place for easy cuisine under the sun is the Pool Garden, adjacent to the sun-loungers by the large main pool, where you can choose from a wide variety of Mediterranean-inspired dishes including club sandwiches and lobster rolls.
When the sun sets and the reflective pools come to life with the glow of hundreds of Moroccan lanterns, grab a seat in The Tent lounge bar for cocktails under canvas, before dinner at one of two excellent restaurants. Shirvan has a Silk Road-influenced menu from the Michelin-starred chef Akrame Benallal – think caramelised lamb tacos with honey and raita, tandoori roasted cauliflower smothered in tahini, and pistachio cake for pudding. Elsewhere, Ling Ling is the result of a partnership with the Hakkasan Group, offering a dazzling experience that blends cocktails, dining and dancing. Drawing inspiration from the Japanese izakaya concept, Ling Ling offers an innovative cocktail list, small plates of beautifully prepared Cantonese dishes that are great for sharing (don’t miss the honey-glazed black cod), and a lively soundtrack.
The Little Extras
Wellness afficionados are catered for brilliantly, thanks to the enormous spa with its cathedral-like brickwork interiors, a number of spa suites where treatments use argan oil and orange blossom, two hammams, jade-coloured pool, yoga studio and fitness centre. Here, a colour palette of terracotta and ochre yellows is inspired by the hues of the desert and Marrakech’s bustling spice bazaars and, in the relaxation room, latticed Moorish trellises allow the sunlight to stream in.
The To-Do List
While it’s undeniably hard to tear yourself away from the Mandarin Oriental cocoon, there are a couple of sights within striking distance of the hotel that are well worth a visit. First up, the iconic Jardin Majorelle, originally designed in the 1930s by the French painter Jacques Majorelle, then saved from property developers in 1980 by Yves Saint Laurent and preserved as a calming oasis in the heart of the city. The walled garden is filled with a variety of cacti species, palm trees, tall bamboo groves and an art deco studio housing a museum of Berber artefacts. Book in advance using their new online ticketing system to beat the queues. If you want to delve deeper into the legendary fashion designer’s world then pop into the adjacent YSL Museum, a treasure trove of haute couture designs. Then there are the myriad souks to explore, soaking up the vibrant atmosphere and shopping for items from leather slippers to spices, rugs, ceramics and jewellery.
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