Morocco’s Red City is replete with atmospheric hotels and riads that provide ethereal exoticism and eco-minded luxury. Here are eight of the best
Founded in 1923, Marrakech’s most illustrious address has recently glammed up its Churchill Bar, salon de thé, poolside pavilion and restaurants, but the glorious Atlas mountain views, fragrant gardens of olive and orange trees, and the soul-stirring heart of the hotel remain unchanged. It’s why Winston Churchill called it one of the best he’d ever stayed in.
For the full effect you’ll want to book an Agdal Deluxe room: these are full of lacy plasterwork, colourful zouac (painted wood) and zellij tiling, have balconies overlooking the grounds and pool, are ripe with the scent of peaches and Barbary figs and are bathed in the city’s painterly light.
Produce from the huge organic garden appears in dishes at all the hotel’s restaurants, but it’s the simplest of things that stirs memories: a glass of almond milk and a plate of soft sticky dates proffered when you walk in.
For more information visit mamounia.com
Beyond ancient cedar doors lies one of the medina’s best finds, Riad Jardin Secret. Brought back to life by Parisian creatives Cyrielle and Julien, the 15th-century traditional home is furnished with fleamarket finds, and each of the seven rooms is a curation of hand-painted furniture, books from the owners’ own library and warm desert colours.
In homage to authentic Marrakech living, and mindful of a light footprint, there’s no TV, air-conditioning or pool. Chef Mohamed serves soulful vegetarian food, using local, organic ingredients, on the Pink Rooftop while the riad’s Studio runs an artist residency that nurtures young and emerging talent, from photographers to tattooists.
For more information visit riadjardinsecret.com
Sheltering in a desert oasis, half an hour from the medina, the Oberoi Marrakech unfurls among citrus trees, ancient olive groves and leafy orchards. Its patio is an exquisite homage to the city’s 14th-century Ben Youssef Medersa, with zellij tiling and fretworked stucco reflected in the emerald tiles of the central pool.
Consider booking one of the Royal Suites, which have private heated pools and views of the snow-dusted Atlas range. Then try the experiences – take a tour of the medina by vintage sidecar or earn your culinary chops in the Oberoi kitchen, learning to prepare traditional salads, bread and tagines. The hotel partners with NGO Coeur & Act to support the local community, too.
For more information visit oberoihotels.com
The Four Seasons Marrakech sits just south-west of the medina in the cool Hivernage district like a desert oasis. From its main entrance, the tinkle of fountains leads you via lush gardens of glossy palm trees and a pleasing symmetry of swimming pools and reflecting basins to a palatial sand-toned pavilion, inspired by the imperial imprint of the Red City.
The property’s large footprint belies the smallish number of rooms; top pick are the Pool-View Terrace Rooms, which are scattered with lanterns and look out over the water to the mountains beyond.
During your stay, dip into Marrakechi culture: learn how to brew mint tea, how to bargain in the souk and how to master the inky cursive script of Islamic calligraphy. Good news: a plastic-free initiative was launched in 2021.
For more information visit fourseasons.com/marrakech
Sandwiched between palaces, the Jewish quarter and Marrakech’s fabled market square is Riad Africa, a 17-room eco-minded guesthouse spread across multiple centuries-old merchant homes. It’s a vibrant, richly decorated labyrinth done out in desert and jewel tones and lit with pretty lanterns and solar power.
Chef Fatim-Zahra sources local, seasonal produce for meals made at the rooftop bistro; deepen your know-how by market shopping with the chef and learning to make chicken tagine at the riad’s own cooking school. Also, through charity Alms of Africa, the riad funds and cooks more than 100 meals each week for those in need in the neighbourhood.
For more information visit riadafrica.com
It’s the home-from-home feel at Riad Tizwa – with its breakfast anytime, anywhere mantra and daily thermos of coffee placed at your door – that keeps guests returning. Kick back in the vine-draped courtyard and relax on the rooftop terrace, tucking into dishes where local, organic ingredients take pride of place.
Tizwa’s low-impact philosophy has earned it a Clef Verte award for responsible tourism (expect handmade soap and the use of dried-grass baskets for your souk shopping). It’s perfectly located too: close to the Dar El-Bacha Palace (an exquisite riad, now a museum) and a main road, so you don’t have to wriggle through the medina with your luggage.
For more information visit riadtizwa.com
The Mandarin Oriental’s luxury suites and villas offer winning views of the city’s minarets and mountains, framed by gardens of roses and olive trees. The modern styling incorporates the traditional Moroccan features of latticed wood, cutwork lanterns, soothing pools and handwoven wool rugs embroidered with Berber motifs.
Green credentials are taken seriously: no single-use plastic; plentiful drinking water fountains; donation bags left in rooms, which guests can fill with clothing and products to be donated to a partner association. The hotel also supports the education of local women and the preservation of argan trees, which are harvested for their oil, by supporting a conservation charity.
For more information visit mandarinoriental.com/marrakech
A 15-minute drive from the hawkers and hustle of Marrakech’s central Djemaa el-Fna square is Amanjena, meaning ‘peaceful paradise’. Cocooned inside pisé (rammed-earth) walls, and arranged around a huge basin of water framed by arabesque arches and date palms, the hotel’s 40 rooms are havens of pared-back luxury.
There are unique experiences on offer, including peeks into the homes of the city’s famous residents and a chance to hear master storyteller Hajj Ahmed Ezzarghani. Parent company Aman Resorts also works with the Zarkacha association, a women’s craft collective, and sources argan oil soaps and shampoos from Necatarome, an organic garden in the Atlas foothills.
For more information visit aman.com/resorts/amanjena
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