Stay the night: Royal Mansour, Marrakech
Mohammed VI issued an edict for a sumptuous hotel, and lo! It came to pass. Adrian Mourby reports
Sunday 26 September 2010
Expectations were sky high when the Royal Mansour opened in June. This was King Mohammed VI's pet project; not just the flagship hotel in his attempt to double the number of Morocco's tourist beds, but a showcase for national decorative arts.
For four years, more than 1,000 craftsmen toiled within a newly built pink-walled medina to create this luxury city-within-a-city where guests have their own riads rather than rooms, and servants come and go unseen – an elaborate system of underground tunnels and back staircases mean that staff appear when summoned as if from nowhere.
The service is superb, but it's the design that takes the breath away. The same skills that built all those Almoravid palaces and mosques have created vista after vista of winding paths, delicate fountains, marble pavements and Moorish arches. Inside, the riads are decorated with intricate zellige tilework, carved cedarwood and silk-smooth tadelakt plaster.
No budget was ever fixed for all this, just a royal edict that the Royal Mansour should take as much time and money as necessary. The massive bronze entry gate is a case in point. It weighs four tons and yet glides open electronically. However, King Mohammed didn't like the first one. "Too small!" he announced when he saw it in situ.
There are 53 individually designed riads, each on three floors around a traditional open-air courtyard. A canopy closes automatically should the sensors detect rain. Each has its own roof terrace with plunge pool and living room with open fire. Beds are by Simons, linen by Porto and Philips provide the ubiquitous flat-screen TVs. Bathroom products are by marocMaroc.
The food and drink
There are two gastronomic restaurants supervised by Yannick Alléno, who brought three Michelin stars to Le Meurice in Paris. La Grande Table Marocaine serves local cuisine while La Grande Table Française is probably already the best French restaurant in Africa. There is also a lobby dining area, La Table, open all day for hotel guests. There is a salon de thé in the Spa, a cocktail lounge, Le Bar, and a Piano Bar overlooking the gardens.
The huge spa has all the usual treatment rooms, two swimming pools and a hammam with hot, mild and cold rooms created with combinations of light, steam and water. There are also the usual beauty, fitness and gym facilities. The best extra is the welcome: immaculately dressed staff welcome you off the plane, serve drinks while passport formalities are completed, then whisk you into a hotel Mercedes for the 15-minute drive to Royal Mansour, free of charge.
Children welcome. Small pets by prior arrangement. All public areas and eight of the riads are equipped for people with disabilities.
A one-bed riad costs from around €1,500 (£1,245) per night, room only.
Royal Mansour, Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti, 40 000 Marrakech, Morocco (00 212 529 80 80 80; royalmansour.com).
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