Visiting Marrakech? Why not experience what it's like to live like a royal, in true luxury away from the hubub
Perhaps you saw episode four of the BBC behind-the-scenes programme, Amazing Hotels: Beyond the Lobby. It focused on the resplendent hotel in Marrakech. I hadn't seen it when my editor asked me to go and review the hotel for House & Garden, although some of my colleagues had. Their expressed envy and poorly-supressed resentment made me giddy with anticipation. I decided to take my mother, who was visiting from Vancouver.
First, a bit of background. The Royal Mansour was commissioned and is owned by Morocco's King Mohammed VI, who, it is said, wanted to create somewhere guests could experience the same splendour his majesty experiences every day. It certainly delivers. Made up of 53 private riads and set on four hectares of beautiful gardens within the walls of the Marrakech medina, it is widely regarded as the top hotel in the city, and has also topped African-wide hotel lists.
It is designed like a mini-medina, with riads lining paths that twist and turn on their way to the gardens, pools and restaurants. But unlike the souk itself, there is no call of the trader or bustle of crowds. In fact it is a study in serenity, thanks in part to a series of hidden passages that snake behind and beneath the riads. This is how the hotel staff crosses the property and conducts housekeeping duties. One thing you will not find at the Royal Mansour is a chambermaid wheeling along a trolly of towels and MarocMaroc refills.
This is luxury in its truest sense, and it's fair to say the rack rate reflects this. The riad that my mother and I shared had a private courtyard and large sitting room on the ground floor, a large and beautifully decorated twin bedroom with ensuite on the first, and the roof top terrace had a, fireplace and heated plunge pool. This costs £782 per night, and prices go up from there.
In terms of design and architecture, expect Moorish-Andalusian style at its finest. The interiors remain true to the symmetry of classical Moorish architecture, and it took some 1,200 craftsmen worked over three years to complete the project. Surfaces are adorned with zellige tiles, beaten bronze, exquisite inlaid marquetry and tadlakt plasterwork. There is wrought iron, carved wood, velvet, silk and crystal, while a 550-strong collection of paintings, some by contemporary Moroccan artists, add a final flourish.
It is the most beautiful hotel I have ever stepped foot in. And the aesthetic quality is easily matched by the warm welcome and service of the locals who work there. This last bit is perhaps one of the best things about the Royal Mansour. Anyone who has been to Marrakech knows that it is a loud and lively city which can be overwhelming if you don't have somewhere to escape to. But at the end of a long day touring the souk or visiting the nearby Atlas mountains, it was the perfect oasis of calm to return to. I hope I get a chance to one day.