As I stepped foot off the plane I noticed an immaculately dressed woman awaiting my arrival. Dressed from head to toe in letterbox red, the Moroccan woman’s silky brown hair laid neatly tucked behind her ears and her red lipstick laid faultless against her bronzed skin. “Welcome to Morocco, Ms. Smith” she said softly, smiling at me.
I followed eagerly behind her; excited about what lay ahead. And I had every right to be.
Within moments of the wheels touching the tarmac, I was sitting in the back seat of a state-of-the-art Range Rover being driven to the luxury that awaited me at Royal Mansour. The grand driveway felt as though it were never going to end until we finally arrived at a set of towering brown gates. A traditionally dressed Moroccan man swayed the gates open and nodded his head as we drove through. As the car swung round and quickly came to a halt, my car door was opened and a hand reached out for me to take. As my hand met his, the gentleman said “Welcome to Royal Mansour, Ms. Smith”.
I hopped out of the car and stood at the bottom of the steps that led into the hotel. I sighed deeply, and then made my way inside.
I walked beneath the chiselled bronze archway into the grand lobby to find that white marble flooded the entire space, while grand columns supported the high ceilings where they opened up into a traditional Moroccan-style courtyard. Only the sound of bird song could be heard as they flew over the open-air space and the calming trickle of water from the fountains.
After I had checked in, my very own butler escorted me to my room, walking me down the winding paths and passageways of Royal Mansour’s private medina and through the leafy courtyards and gardens of the three-and-a-half-hectare estate. More like a palace than a medina, Royal Mansour Marrakech had already stolen my heart.
Little did I know that my butler was not escorting me to my room at all and was instead escorting me to my own riad.
I swiped the key across the front door and heard the lock inside turn. As I pushed the huge heavy handcrafted door open; I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The traditional tiled courtyard that was the entrance to my home for the next few nights was stunning; a water fountain tinkled in the corner, while the blue skies of the capital lied above me. As I continued inside, I discovered an entire Moroccan-style salon with a fully-stocked bar and an impressive fireplace, but I couldn’t help but stop thinking about the marble staircase that led upstairs. What more could possibly lie ahead?
I hurried up the stairs, admiring the ornate antique ceiling lights that guided the way. I reached a set of double doors and rather than swinging them open I paused for a moment. The intricately carved doors were a work of art and stopped me in my tracks. Placing my hand gently on the grandest of bedroom doors, I pushed them open to find le chambre of dreams.
Furnished with silks and brocades, antiques and handcrafted furniture, the bedroom was drenched in tasteful Moroccan detail and style. The en-suite onyx and marble bathroom with an impressive tub-for-two was hard to turn away from, but I absolutely had to know what laid waiting for me on the third floor.
I made my way up the final set of stairs, and pushed open another set of doors to discover my very own private rooftop terrace. Complete with views over the medina and the snow-capped Atlas Mountains beyond, the rooftop was a little slice of heaven. It is where I spent my mornings sipping coffee by the crackling outdoor fireplace, my afternoons bathing in the plunge pool and my evenings gazing up at the stars in the inky blue midnight sky.
Impatient to know what more lay ahead, I unpacked my things in a hurry and then meandered my way through the medina until I stumbled upon Le Jardin, Royal Mansour’s unparalleled al fresco restaurant. Surrounded by hundreds of trees abundant with olives, pomegranates and oranges, the garden restaurant was a place of calm and quiet in the centre of Morocco’s capital city. You’d never believe that the bustling souks and squares of Marrakech lie only minutes away.
I took a seat in the dappled shade and ordered a glass of Moroccan white wine to sip on whilst I let my skin soak up the sun and my mind unravel. I couldn’t help but dwell on the disbelief of how quiet it was. If a pin had dropped; I am convinced I would have heard it.
The day had run away with me, and before I knew it I was wandering through the candle-lit medina to dinner. As I arrived at La Grande Table Marocaine, a young Moroccan man in traditional dress welcomed me to one of Africa’s finest restaurants. I was escorted to my table, which was laid with only the finest silverware and crystal glass, and seated in an old-fashioned dark wood chair.
I’d never seen such a glossy marble floor, to which the dark wood tables and chairs were the perfect contrast. Quaint Moroccan lamps stood beside each table casting a shadowy glow in each corner of the dimly lit restaurant. The high ceilings were graced with floor to ceiling doors and windows which were draped in swathes of traditional Moroccan fabrics.
Tradition is at the heart of La Grande Table Marocaine, as it is throughout the entire hotel, and I got a real taste of it at one of Africa’s most prestigious restaurants.
There was no such thing as a menu for my evening at La Grande Table Marocaine. Instead, I sampled a selection of the chef’s most traditional and authentic Moroccan dishes and I was not disappointed. I tried everything from sh’hiwates to a shoulder of lamb, and of course it wouldn’t have been a traditional Moroccan meal without a tagine, or two, and some cous cous.
After I’d washed it all down with a sugary sweet traditional mint tea; I was more than ready to stroll back to my three-storey riad for a restful night’s sleep.
I woke in the morning in disbelief of the bed that I was lying in. I rolled over and picked up the phone from the ornate side table and rang my butler to place my order for breakfast. A short while later, I made my way up to the private rooftop terrace where my breakfast laid waiting for me on the table over by the roaring fire. The morning air was fresh and clean and only made me more excited for the day ahead: a trip to Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
Not only was I venturing up to the Atlas Mountains, but I was doing so in an old-fashioned sidecar. As I walked through the medina in the early morning, I followed the roaring sound of the bikes waiting for us at the hotel entrance. After putting my helmet on and hopping into the sidecar, I was ready and rearing to go.
We travelled an hour or so out of the city chasing the snow-capped mountains of Morocco and stopping for coffee at an incredible viewpoint along the way. As we began the ascent up into the Atlas Mountains I swapped the sidecar for the back of the bike, and what an experience it was. Twisting and turning up the mountains until we reached 1900 metres above sea level was something that no words can do justice.
As I took in deep breaths I could feel my body adjusting to the altitude and the difference in the quality of the air. It felt as though as I was breathing for the very first time all over again.
We stopped by at a souk in a traditional Berber village, and believe me when I say it’s very different to any of the local souks you’ll find in the main squares of Marrakech. Forget antiques, ornaments and fine jewellery, and think fresh fruit and vegetables, dates, and live poultry.
Afterwards, we continued our sidecar experience further up into the mountains to a local Berber village. Children ran out into the dusty roads to welcome us into the place they call home and invited us in for a traditional Moroccan lunch. Chicken tagine with cous cous was the order of the day, followed by a large plate of the freshest and sweetest fruits I’d ever tasted. Picked straight from the trees outside, I’d truly never tasted fruit like it.
The onward journey home was just as beautiful as our ascent into the mountains. The winding roads led us down back toward the capital city so the outlook was rather different, but just as beautiful.
No words can do the Atlas Mountain sidecar experience enough justice. An excursion organised for Royal Mansour guests, and completely customisable dependent on their wishes, the experience is truly one of a kind and once in a lifetime.
Once we’d arrived back at the hotel, I retired back to my riad fit for royalty where I enjoyed dinner on the rooftop. I whiled away the hours looking up at the stars and listening to the sound of nothing but the crackle of the fire and the occasional call to prayer in the distance.
The following morning, I strolled through a part of the medina that I had not yet discovered. Surrounded by palm trees wavering wearily in the gentle wind, and trees plentiful with oranges and olives, the spa is a secluded sanctuary inviting you to experience sheer relaxation.
I chose to experience the traditional Hammam which involved lying on a hot marble tile and submitting to the expert hands of a Moroccan woman who cleansed my skin and scrubbed my body with Moroccan black soap and a loofah, before caressing my body in a rich cream and putting a masque through my hair. Feeling refreshed and invigorated, I was glad to have chosen a treatment that gave me a small insight into the cultural traditions of the Moroccan people.
It is without a doubt that a stay at Royal Mansour Marrakech is simply unbeatable. There’s very few places in the world that can live up to the expectations and standards that Royal Mansour set.
Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti، 40000, Morocco