A taste of the high life by royal ap­point­ment

KATIE STOREY takes a mag­i­cal mys­tery tour of Mar­rakech from her riad; a tra­di­tional Moroc­can house

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

I’VE heard Mar­rakech de­scribed as the near­est far­away place – be­cause vis­it­ing is like step­ping through the wardrobe into Nar­nia.

You can barely fin­ish watch­ing the first episode of Lord of the Rings in three hours, but in the same amount of time you could be start­ing an ad­ven­ture of your own on the coast of North Africa.

Step­ping into the sun­shine at the air­port you’re cud­dled by the 25°C de­gree heat, while sur­rounded by snow­capped moun­tains.

Mar­rakech and the sur­round­ing area have much to offer, from the bustling city to camel trekking across the desert, to hik­ing through the At­las Moun­tains.

And for my short break we were guests of King Mo­hammed VI (well kind of, we were stay­ing in his ho­tel, The Royal Man­sour).

The ho­tel com­plex was de­signed to be a me­d­ina within the me­d­ina – a se­ries of ri­ads sur­rounded by ter­ra­cotta walls and palms trees cre­at­ing a maze of shady paths.

A riad is a tra­di­tional Moroc­can house, nor­mally with at least two storeys.

Th­ese are not any or­di­nary houses, though, and offer very much a taste of the high life. Pre­vi­ous guests have in­cluded Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton.

All the ri­ads have large mint-painted wooden doors, which you half ex­pect to open to re­veal a draw­bridge.

In­side are mo­saic floors, wa­ter fea­tures, beau­ti­fully carved wooden fur­ni­ture, mar­ble bath­rooms and lux­u­ri­ous set­tees strewn with cush­ions.

The cor­ri­dors are lit by lan­terns and each riad has its own pri­vate sun ter­race and plunge pool.

This is a place where you can re­lax and catch some rays with­out hav­ing to worry about those em­bar­rass­ing strap lines.

Staff ac­cess the guest’s ri­ads through a se­ries of tun­nels be­hind the scenes – a bit like The Bor­row­ers. The ho­tel com­plex is sim­i­lar to Port­meirion, in that each pretty gar­den path is con­fused with the next and you be­gin to think you might never find the ho­tel lobby.

But with the vast amount of in­dul­gent, ex­per­i­men­tal and au­then­tic food on offer your prim­i­tive in­stinct will kick in and you’ll find the path to food.

The res­tau­rant menu is over­seen by Parisian Miche­lin-starred chef Yan­nick Al­leno, whose menus in­clude beef harira, turnip jelly and, of course, snails.

All the food was cooked to per­fec­tion, nat­u­rally.

Trav­el­ling into the town, guests can con­tinue the fairy­tale hol­i­day with a ride in a horse-drawn car­riage. Snake charm­ers and mon­keys on leashes can be seen in the square which, while slightly sur­real, can strike a nerve for an­i­mal-lovers.

In­side the souk there are mar­ket stalls sell­ing ev­ery­thing from jew­ellery and leather goods to me­tal work and spices; and vis­i­tors can wit­ness sou­venirs be­ing made from scratch in the open work­shops.

It’s cus­tom­ary to hag­gle, so pre­tend you’re Del Boy try­ing to cut a deal down Peck­ham Mar­ket and you’ll be fine.

Re­turn­ing to the ho­tel af­ter the hus­tle and bus­tle of the souk, guests can re­lax and re­cu­per­ate with a treat­ment at their award-win­ning spa. The Ham­mam in Morocco is some­thing of a rit­ual, scrub­bing away dead skin cells and restor­ing the body.

It feels a bit less than glam­orous to be ly­ing on mar­ble slabs wear­ing just a pa­per thong get­ting scrubbed with an ex­fo­li­at­ing mit and warm buck­ets of wa­ter thrown over you – es­pe­cially when your legs start get­ting pulled around like a stress doll in var­i­ous stretches.

It feels like when you were a child and your mum puts you in the bath and scrubs you be­fore school on Mon­day morn­ing. Once the scrub­bing is fin­ished, you’ll be asked to sub­merge your­self in an ice-cold pool. (I be­lieve this is to help cir­cu­la­tion).

But luck­ily, what goes on in the treat­ment room stays in the treat­ment room, so you can fin­ish off with a shower and go and get your­self a large glass of vin­tage wine. The spa also of­fers a va­ri­ety of other luxury treat­ments in­clud­ing mas­sages, man­i­cures or a Pedi­cure de Bastien by Kevin Raji, who is also a trained chi­ropodist and can give your feet a full MOT, spruce and nat­u­ral shine.

And de­spite my ini­tial awk­ward­ness the fol­low­ing morn­ing I woke up feel­ing re­ju­ve­nated – my skin was softer, shinier and smoother.

The Royal Man­sour is def­i­nitely where your favourite Premier League foot­baller and his WAG would hol­i­day.

Don’t let them have all the fun...

●● The ri­ads offer luxury and pri­vacy in a tra­di­tional style

●● The ri­ads offer luxury and pri­vacy in a tra­di­tional style

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