Home to the Sahara dunes and the Atlas Mountains, Morocco is considered one of the most diverse countries in north Africa. The Oukaimeden ski resort in the Atlas is one of the most extensive ski domains in Africa. I couldn’t believe it either, just like Sierra Nevada in Spain (a destination I visit often), with the Oukaimeden ski resort on offer in Morocco, you can be both by the pool and on the slopes in the same day.
Marrakech itself is one of Morocco’s four imperial cities along with Meknes, Fes and Rabat. It’s been 12 years since my last visit and one thing’s for sure, I definitely won’t be leaving it quite as long next time. The colours, the smells, the sites and the sounds, there is something quite magical about it. Alex had never visited Marrakech before and I knew he would love it.
We booked a 3 night at the Mandarin Oriental and although on this occasion we travelled without the children, the hotel is extremely family friendly. Just a 10-minute drive from the centre of the city, the Mandarin Oriental is set among 20 hectares. The space is incredible, the gardens are well tended and the Atlas Mountains provide a stunning backdrop for the 54 private villas, 7 suites and 2 Infinity Pool suites that make up the accommodation at this luxurious resort. The kids club is another level with its own farm and cookery school. It is ‘technology free’ and children can even learn how to make a traditional Berber rug.
We stayed in a Mandarin pool villa, with an outdoor kitchen, an indoor and outdoor lounge area, and a huge bathroom complete with a double shower and Hamman. Even though our villa had a private pool, we actually preferred to spend our time around the main pool. It wasn’t that far away but we still made the most of the bicycle’s that were left outside our villa each day and rode to it!
The hotel has a few options of places to dine; Mes‘Lalla – the signature restaurant, the pool bar, Le Salon Berbere Tea Lounge and our favourite Ling Ling which is the baby sister of Hakkasan London. The food is unbelievable. However, if you don’t want to leave your room, you have the option of ‘In Villa Dining’ where you can call your butler and they will arrange a private dining experience. This hotel is seriously on another level. It is no wonder Idris Elba hosted part of his recent wedding here.
The interior design throughout the hotel is out of this world. The husband and wife team Gilles & Boissier who were brought on board have created something incredible and the hotel has the perfect fusion of Oriental and Moroccan décor, with gorgeous traditional tiles, dark columns, exposed brick work, and lots of beautiful Moroccan lanterns. The indoor pool area was spectacular with a honeycomb effect-ceiling, the spa was equally as beautiful and the fitness centre offered private yoga classes. I was in my element, cycling around on the hotel bicycles taking photos that I have kept for interior design inspiration back home in England.
Since my last visit the Marrakech, the ‘old city’ behind the Medina wall is very much the same, with snake charmers and monkeys entertaining the many visitors in the bustling square of jemaa el-fna. However, the new town has most definitely seen some changes. A lot in fact. There is a really good road network and lots of upmarket shops, bars and restaurants. Bo & Zin in the new town was one of our favourites and in the old town we enjoyed Dar Essalam
We are already planning our next visit to the Mandarin Oriental next May half term but next time we will be taking the children and we can’t wait.
MUST SEE THINGS INCLUDE
A Camel Safari in the Agafay Desert
Jardin Majorelle (with the Yves St Laurent monument) is a pretty garden to visit but be sure to pre-book tickets as it can be very busy.
Explore the Riads in the Medina – behind what looks like an old and unused wooden door is an incredible oasis. Most of the Riads have roof top bars which are wonderful spots to get a good view of the city. Make sure you enjoy a mint tea (if it’s not too hot) or a cocktail as the sun sets.
Barter in the Souks. The spice markets are wonderful.
A night out at Comptoir Darna. It is a little touristy but it’s a fun evening and they have an enjoyable dance show.