Moroccan magic: how to make memories in Marrakech

By Judy Cogan | 25 May 2022 | Culture, Travel

Marrakech has become the ultimate glamourous escape for high society. We discover how to enjoy the most decadent delights this North African haven has to offer in this ‘blow the budget’ guide

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What do we really know about this intoxicating and fabled Morrocan city, with labyrinthine souks and ancient rose-red walls? Marrakech has attracted a glittering artsy crowd who sip mint tea beneath canopies of fragrant bougainvillaea and relax poolside in fine white cotton since Yves Saint Laurent and Mick Jagger visited in the 1970s.

It is home to grand palace hotels, decadently secretive riads and a slew of Michelin-starred restaurants that sit not far from snake charmers and roaming donkeys. You can buy handwoven Moroccan rugs or a Dior bag against a backdrop of the snow-topped Atlas Mountains.

The enduring magic of this North African city is as captivating as ever – and all within a three- hour flight from London...

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WHERE TO GO

Beldi Country Club

For the perfect reset, secure a day-pass at Beldi Country Club. Described by Tatler as “part Alice in Wonderland, part bohemian fantasy”; it’s both wild and tranquil. Relax by a picturesque pool, stroll among rose bushes or make clay pots in the pottery yard. There’s also a gorgeous spa, an array of hyper-chic boutiques and a private cinema for hire.

beldicountryclub.com

Maison de la Photographie

Founded by Patrick Menac’h and Hamid Mergani, the Maison de la Photographie houses more than 10,000 photographs of Moroccan life and architecture, taken from the late 19th-century onwards. It’s a quiet spot in the madness of the medina to browse old images of the Atlas mountains.

maisondelaphotographie.ma

Musée Yves Saint Laurent

Opened in 2017, Musée Yves Saint Laurent (pictured) is home to more than 3,500 of the designer’s most exquisite creations from his 50-year career. The first thing you’ll see is a huge gold YSL logo at the entrance courtyard. Afterwards stroll down the renamed Rue Yves Saint Laurent to discover the beautiful Jardin Majorelle.

museeyslmarrakech.com

Sensational Spas

When it comes to spas Marrakech will leave you spoilt for choice. The Mandarin Oriental spa offers cathedral-like brickwork interiors, male and female hammams, six spa suites, a jade-coloured pool, yoga studio and fitness centre; while the spa at hotel Amanjena is home to two incredibly opulent hammams.

mandarinoriental.com; aman.com

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WHERE TO EAT

Dar Yacout

If you only step out of your hotel once make sure it’s for dinner at Dar Yacout, an enchanting candle-lit Moroccan restaurant set in a former medieval home in the north of the Medina. For the last 20 years it has served a delicious five- course gastronomic Moroccan diffa ( feast) for a set price. Take aperitifs are taken on the rooftop with panoramic views of the Koutoubia Mosque.

daryacout.com

Le Trou au Mur

Le Trou au Mur is a new addition to the Marrakech dining scene and part of the nine- suite five-star riad Le Farnatchi with a menu that draws on grandma’s cookbook. Dishes include ‘tagine of the day’, a traditional offal medley and tride (shredded pancakes with lentils, chicken and saffron) as well as Berber shepherd’s pie. The cocktails are excellent.

letrouaumur.com

Al Fassia

One of the few Moroccan restaurants that draws a local crowd, which tells you something about the quality of the food at Al Fassia. Run entirely by women, the menu offers traditional cuisine from Fez served in an elegant cushion-heavy dining room. The traditional tagine is the thing to order. Al Fassia now has a London outpost.

alfassia.com

Azar

Not ready to go to call it a night? Try Azar, a gilded club serving up fancy drinks fused with date jam, cinnamon and sumac and dance music downstairs.

azarmarrakech.com

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WHERE TO SHOP

Shkoon

Book an appointment with Mario at Shkoon. His showroom in Sidi Ghanem is piled with vintage and new Mrirt rugs woven in the traditional way using vertical looms by female artisans in Khenifra, in the Atlas Mountains. The rugs are 100 percent wool.

shkoonshop.com

Mustapha Blaoui

The well-stocked and elegant one stop shop for all things traditionally Moroccan has to be Mustapha Blaoui. This grand emporium is chock-full with throws, pots and cushions all concealed behind an unassuming wooden door with no sign. Half the fun is finding it.

33 Rue Marjoelle

The city’s first concept store, 33 Rue Marjoelle sells well-edited pieces by Morocco’s up-and- coming designers across the spectrum of textiles, clothing and homeware.

33ruemajorelle.com

Maison Artc

For a striking occasion outfit head to Maison Artc, an exclusive fashion house by local avant- garde designer Artsi Ifrah.

maisonartc.com

Bacha Coffee

Make a pit-stop at the super-fancy neighbourhood spot Bacha Coffee with its chinoiserie wallpaper, giant potted palms and 200 varieties of single-origin coffee. The dainty Parisian patisserie comes courtesy of the former pastry chef at La Mamounia.

bachacoffee.com

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WHERE TO STAY

El Fenn

When Vanessa Branson (sister of Virgin founder Sir Richard) founded El Fenn, now Marrakech’s most stylish bolthole, in 2004 she did so on the belief that luxury can also be relaxed and authentic. Expect deep baths, handmade beds, luxury linen and delicious, simple food. A two- year refurbishment in 2011 added a rooftop pool, a spa, yoga lawn, ground floor bar and private dining room and upped the room count to 31 and across 12 interconnected riads and 2,700sqm of dialled-down opulence. A gorgeous shop sells in-house products as well as all the best work by young, local designers who use age- old artisanal techniques.

el-fenn.com

La Mamounia Hotel

This out-of-this-world opulent palace hotel celebrates its 100th birthday in 2023 and hasn’t put a foot wrong in a century. Former VIP guests include Charlie Chaplin and Sir Winston Churchill – who adopted the hotel as his winter home and hailed it “the most lovely spot in the whole world”. And hit Netflix show Inventing Anna filmed in its 17 acres of tranquil gardens and luxurious private riads. It sits in a prime spot in the Hivernage neighbourhood and offers 135 rooms and 71 suites, five bars, four restaurants, an underground spa, hairdressers, the mini designer shopping mall as well as two pools (indoor and outdoor). But make sure you seek out the more intimate nooks, such as the secret ice-cream parlour and old Italian bar.

mamounia.com

The Royal Mansour

Everyone inside this luxurious Moroccan palace is made to feel like royalty. Designed by King Mohammed VI and open since 2010 it was conceived as a “mini medina”, with 53 private ochre-hued riads set within five hectares of fragrant Moorish gardens and decorated in marble, silk carpets and dazzling chandeliers by Baccarat. Each of the riads have 24/7 butler service, but the property also has a network of hidden tunnels and elevators, so staff respond to guest requests with magical discretion. French three-starred chef Yannick Alléno is the culinary mastermind behind the hotel’s restaurants and the spa has a new wellness concept (2021) offering a 360 degree, holistic experience combining Moroccan rituals with innovative tech. Try the rejuvenating green caviar facial or a Chi Nei Tsang treatment to relieve tension. 

royalmansour.com