Luxury Marrakech: Moor the merrier

Marrakech has been an A-list destination for centuries but now a new generation of luxury hotel is transforming the city. Andy Round tries to keep up. [30 images in total, text continues below]

  • Yves Saint Laurent's Moroccan villa

So, I’m floating in the cool of my infinity pool looking across the valley to the peaks of the Atlas Mountains. From my right on the panoramic terrace there is a hint of spiced dinnertime tajine in the air as waiters shake out white linen, scatter rose petals and arrange silk cushions in the majlis. To my left, wearing something designer and kaftan, someone quiet and courteous is bringing me something iced and liquid. The scene is infused with the DNA of Morocco, but this hotel is so contemporary cutting edge, so über fashionably chic, that I feel like an undercover reporter for Architectural Digest.

I look down from the marbled edge of my pool to the valley floor and watch donkeys plod up mountain paths while sundown shadows cloak boxy palm-fringed clay houses and laughing Berber children splash around in the river. Behind me, inside the hotel, are rooms stuffed to their designer-mosaic rafters with giant throne chairs, medieval chandeliers, fairytale mirrors, spas, gym and ethical shops. You can even use a giant brass telescope to get closer to those snowy peaks without leaving the comfort of the library. If you can be bothered…

But I’m floating at a crossroads of Moroccan culture and it feels fine.

No wonder really. I’m being pampered to within an inch of my life. My hotel belongs to Sir Richard Branson who discovered it while ballooning over Morocco (as you do). When his mother Eve saw the place, she fell in love with it and asked first-born to buy it. So it came to pass. Kasbah Tamadot was transformed into a luxury hotel and joined Branson’s other Limited Edition portfolio of properties such as Necker Island in the Caribbean.

Kasbah Tamadot epitomises the new face of Moroccan hospitality. But in less than two years you won’t be able to move in Marrakech without shimmying across a luxury hotel lobby somewhere. Everyone is at it, from Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Jumeirah, The Address and W Hotels to boutique companies with big reputations like Baglioni. By any standards an extraordinary level of luxury development is transforming the city.

The appeal is obvious. Hospitable Marrakech has always extended a warm welcome to fashionable visitors from Matisse and Jack Kerouac to Winston Churchill and George Orwell. Even when A-list celebrities of the 1960s overran the country and everyone was tripping over Rolling Stones, Beatles, Robert Plant, John Paul Getty Jr and Jimi Hendrix, Moroccans continued to patiently play host, politely refilling everyone’s water pipes.

They still do. But today it’s for the likes of P Diddy and Colin Farrell. Because what attracts the jet set travellers to the city continues to apply: the easy atmosphere of the country, its bright skies, its linguistic mix of hip French and laconic Arabic and a historic fusion of cultures that energises your bones.

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