Blending its Asian heritage with local Moroccan influences, the Mandarin Oriental makes its African debut in Marrakech displaying a rustic sophistication concept together with the chain’s well-known unparalleled service.
More than 100,000 fragrant roses and some 500-years old olive trees from the snow-capped Atlas Mountains repose beside scented jasmines and night blooming Cestrum in the Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech’s 20 hectares of landscaped gardens. Cactus and prickly pear plants also dot the area, and their fruit can be enjoyed in ice creams served at the restaurant, while their oil is incorporated into traditional spa rituals. Only minutes from the city center and the famous Medina, the historical center, a labyrinth of narrow passageways and local shops full of character, the five-star hotel boasts a design inspired by local Berber and Andalusian-Arabic influences, which masterfully and harmoniously incorporates to the Oriental heritage that the chain is famous for. The resort marks the debut of the hotel group in Africa and, going against the trend seen in countless properties recently opened in the flourishing Marrakech industry, manages to cultivate a serene, authentic and unpretentious luxury feel.
Overnight stays in the desert, two-hour camel rides, trips into the Atlas Mountains and visits to the Palmeraie, a palm oasis of several hundred thousand trees at the edge of the city, or Essaouira, the former fishing village where Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley made their pilgrimage, can all be arranged. When even the nearest surroundings offer some of the country’s most appealing activities and experiences, you know the hotel has to be good to keep you inside. And the Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech does just that. Its 54 luxurious villas, which range from 228 to 423 square meters, each feature a heated pool, jacuzzi and open-air shower set within a private walled garden, in addition to outdoor kitchens with ceramic dining tables.
Traditional tadelakt motifs, mouth-blown vases and handwoven wool rugs from Rabat adorn the accommodations with regional flare, and the elegant marble bathrooms showcase specially developed products by local paraben-free brand Nectarome. Overlooking the resort with stunning garden views, the nine expansive suites don’t lag behind, offering either a rooftop plunge pool or a private infinity pool adjacent to the spa. Also available, for up to 19 people, is the Penthouse, spread over an entire floor and featuring deep soaking baths, walk-in steam showers with integrated hammams and outside terraces with private plunge pools, sunbathing areas, and dining tables.
Named after fresh green olives found in the region of the Meknès, the Mes’Lalla restaurant celebrates traditional gastronomy with a unique twist from chef Meryem Cherkaoui, who turned to the much-appreciated recipes of local fishermen and farmers before creating his menu, resulting in a modern fusion of tastes and textures. Lamb is one of the star ingredients, appearing cooked at low temperature for seven hours and served with pear confit and ginger carrots, or in a perfect kebab topped with a Moroccan perfumed juice.
On the sweet side, highlights include hazelnut praline pastille and rose cannelloni with verbena red berry confit. Adjacent to the restaurant is the versatile Le Salon Berbère, which evolves from a breakfast venue to a pleasant afternoon tea lounge to a chic champagne bar. Menu highlights include grilled royal sea bream with herbs and niçoise salad with seared tuna.
Open-air, all-day dining is available at the Pool Garden, under the shade of gorgeous bougainvillea filled pergolas. Scheduled to open this summer at the hotel is Ling Ling, a blend of restaurant and bar with a new dining experience that draws inspiration from the izakaya concept, popular in the East, where food accompanies the drinks and not the other way around. Here, cocktails will be at the heart of the experience. Although Mandarin Oriental’s bespoke “Time Rituals” encourage guests to book time rather than specific rituals, some of the tempting choices in treatments are the Remodelling Face – where four bio-stimulating currents promise to deliver wider-looking eyes, more pronounced cheekbones, a more clearly defined facial contour and less prominent wrinkles and the Pre and After Sun Rituals, which intend to prepare the skin for the Mediterranean sun and prolong its benefits. Product lines include Mandarin Oriental Signature Products, Biologique Recherche, Linda Meredith, Nectarome and Aromatherapy Associates.
The highlight of the spa, however, is the hammam, located at the heart of Moroccan culture for centuries. Treatments incorporating its use include the Caracal, a 4h20 procedure which includes a hair washing ritual, an oxygen facial, a scalp massage, a body massage, a blow-dry, and a makeup application. Pampering at its peak. The spa area also offers a fitness center with state-of-the-art cardiovascular and weight training equipment for all levels, an indoor heated swimming pool, and a hairdresser and beauty salon, as well as a yoga studio and tai chi classes. Outdoors, leisure options include a golden swimming pool at the center of the resort, ideal for laps and leisurely dips, with over 600 square meters, a jogging track that spans throughout the property and an organic vegetable garden with more than 90 varieties of tomato.
Look out for the blue tomato, known for its exceptional antioxidant properties. The resort also lies adjacent to two premium golf courses, to which guests have direct access. One of them is The Royal Golf, a legendary 27-hole course commissioned in 1927 by the Pasha of Marrakesh, Hadj Thami el Glaoui Mezouari, which has welcomed notable guests such as Winston Churchill and former president Ike Eisenhower. Tested and approved. Although heavily influenced by the past, the Mandarin Oriental group is constantly looking towards the future, so much so that they have become a trailblazer in their industry; assume the risks and rewards of those willing to take the lead.
The company’s arrival in Marrakech was a reflection of this brazen ability to determine the trend, the Asian group anticipated the hype of mysterious giant and was surely correct. However, since life in Marrakech flows in no hurry, time is so abundant that we can bask in its beauty and culture and take our time getting to know all about Morocco and Marrakech – and if this takes forever, even better.
Photos: Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Marrakech