Travel Guide: Vacation Like Royalty in Marrakech, Morocco
Art, architecture, and a suite fit for royalty beckon this month in the Red City.
“Exotic” might be an accurate term to describe Morocco, but it’s actually not that far away. All it takes is a six-and-a-half-hour flight on Royal Air Maroc, which recently added direct service from Boston to Casablanca; from there, you can reach Marrakech by train or plane.
Marrakech boasts many luxury hotels, but only one built and owned by the king: the Royal Mansour. A lush oasis in the medina, or old city, each of its riads is fit for a queen, with rooftop plunge pools and fireplaces. Butler service, Bentley house cars, and passes to attractions like the YSL Museum and the Majorelle Garden turn what might be considered a splurge into a must.
Marrakech has a central plaza, the Jemaa el Fna, where snake charmers and Barbary macaques share the spotlight with musicians, street performers, and, arguably, the world’s largest concentration of orange juice vendors. Beyond it lies the souk, with a labyrinth of narrow alleyways offering everything from spices and jewelry to leather goods and rugs. But at its heart, Marrakech is a city of gardens and architecture. In addition to the Majorelle, you’ll find Le Jardin Secret, deep in the heart of the souk, and the Menara gardens, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. Among the important buildings and palaces to see are the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque, with its minaret dominating the city’s skyline, the El Badi and Bahia palaces, and the Saadian Tombs, a royal necropolis inside the casbah.
The Marrakech architecture tour isn’t over just yet. A unique attraction is Serge Lutens’s house, a 33,000-square-foot monument to Moroccan, Andalusian, and Islamic architecture that’s open only to guests of the Royal Mansour. Owned by the eccentric French art collector, perfumer, and polymath, the jaw-dropping property showcases the works of such artists as Jacques Majorelle and Edy Legrand. Back at the hotel, guests are further spoiled at Sesamo, Michelin-starred chef Massimiliano Alajmo’s ode to Italian cuisine, though equally tempting is the hammam in the hotel’s white-marble spa, followed by a room-service dinner next to a crackling fire. Anyone looking for a livelier scene might try the rooftop bar Le Salama, where the party starts with glorious sunsets over the Jemaa el Fna and ends with superb cocktails, hookahs, and belly dancers.