An Enchanting Retreat: Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech – Hotel Review
A lavish hideaway in the popular Moroccan city
The luxury hotel group’s very first African property, Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech is a blissfully peaceful retreat from the hectic medina, despite being a short 15 minutes from the city centre. In fact, the jaw-dropping villas, immaculate gardens and excellent restaurants make it difficult to leave at all, says Siobhan Grogan.
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Hotel Review: Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech
From the glossy monochrome entrance to the snow-capped Atlas Mountains beyond the lobby, the Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech goes all-out to impress. Every corner seems more beautiful than the last: the central avenue is shaded by towering palm trees, there’s a pool painted in gold, meandering paths lined with lanterns and pink bougainvillaea, and 20 hectares of olive groves and gardens to explore, thronged with picture-perfect orange trees, fragrant jasmine and 100,000 different coloured roses of 30 different varieties.
Designed by French architects Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier, the whole hotel is super-chic yet relaxed, so families are welcomed as warmly as the most sophisticated honeymooners. Idris Elba loves it here, so much so that he hired the whole property to host a party the night after his wedding in 2019.
It’s the rooms that will really take your breath away. There are just seven suites in the main building – all with mountain views and terrace plunge pools – with a further 54 private villas scattered across the gardens. Hidden behind huge wooden doors, each room is designed as a mini-riad and is built around its own private pool and garden, including an outdoor shower, dining area and a hot tub among the fig trees. There’s a small outdoor kitchen where a private chef can whip up candlelit dinners by the pool, oversized sun-loungers, and even a fireplace for alfresco drinks year-round.
Inside, the villas are equally stunning (and enormous), with Berber-inspired décor including handwoven rugs, mahogany screens and tadelakt plasterwork. A giant circular bath, personal steam room, chaise-longue and giant marble dressing table make the bathrooms alone far bigger than most ordinary hotel rooms. Plus, I couldn’t get enough of the heavenly Diptyque products (in large, refillable bottles) in the shower too.
If you can drag yourself away from your villa (and, trust me, it’s a struggle), the Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech’s electric cars are on hand to whisk you to the city’s bustling souk, where you can stock up on leather sandals, embroidered kaftans and skincare made with the country’s native argan oil. All lanes lead to the iconic Jemaa el-Fna square where food sellers, acrobats, snake charmers and dancers jostle for tourists’ attention.
To see more of the city, the hotel can arrange an excellent private tour of the artisan quarter, the astonishing Dar el Bacha palace and rarely-visited neighbourhoods where locals still bring dough each day to be baked in the communal oven. Keen to go even further afield? The concierge can also organise quad biking or hot air ballooning in the desert, hiking in the Atlas Mountains or a trip to Yves Saint Laurent’s renowned Jardin Majorelle.
Back at the hotel, there are bikes to borrow, a jogging trail through the gardens, exercise and cooking classes, and an artfully-curated boutique stocking only products from local artists and designers. There’s direct access to two golf courses while the Museum of African Contemporary Art is within strolling distance. The expansive, award-winning spa is also a must-visit; enjoy the indoor heated pool, marble hammams, yoga studio, and huge treatment suites with their own private gardens.
There’s no need to go far to eat well when staying at the Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech. If you fancy an intimate poolside barbeque or a candlelit Moroccan dinner for two, a chef will even come to your villa. Elsewhere, the Pool Garden offers a Mediterranean menu of pizzas, mezze and lobster sandwiches for dining between dips while, to feast on produce picked straight from the ground, private meals can be booked in the hotel’s idyllic vegetable garden.
After dark, the stylish international crowd flocks to Ling Ling By Hakkasan for its buzzing outdoor terrace, in-house DJ and contemporary Cantonese dishes including crab dumplings, salt and pepper squid, and chicken skewers with peanut and chilli sauce. However, dedicated foodies should head straight to Shirvan, just off the hotel’s lobby. Run by French chef Akrame Benallal – whose Parisian Akrame restaurant holds a Michelin star – the menu is inspired by the Silk Road, with exquisite North African, Eastern and Mediterranean flavours served with a fine-dining flourish. Don’t miss the caramelised lamb tacos with honey, the colourful seasonal salad studded with pomegranates, or the tandoor roasted cauliflower with orange blossom. This is a meal you’ll be dreaming about long after you’ve returned home.
THE FINAL WORD
Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech is just as enchanting as the Moroccan city itself, thanks to its sumptuous gardens, impeccable dining and downright spectacular rooms. It would be a mistake not to explore beyond its walls (or even your own villa) – but, really, no one could blame you if you didn’t.
Suites at Mandarin Oriental Marrakech start from €1,300 per night, and villas start from €1,500. mandarinoriental.com
To find out more about the hotel’s sustainability initiatives, click here.
Featured image: Oriental Pool Villa exterior.
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