Go with the flow at this tran­quil beach­side oa­sis

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - Emma Day

Hil­ton Tang­ier Al Houara Re­sort & Spa, Morocco

The wel­come

Warm, in both weather and sen­ti­ment. The sheer breadth of the re­sort is ap­par­ent from the out­set, as you turn off the road from Tang­ier into what ap­pears to be, at first glance, a well-man­i­cured for­est. Then you spot the flood­lights amid the pol­ished greens. The ho­tel it­self is not even vis­i­ble un­til you wind past the re­sort’s golf course (not yet open), to­wards the sea, nes­tled as it is among 24 hectares of ocean­front and green­ery. Once we pull up out­side the stun­ning en­trance, all open-air struc­tures and Arabesque ar­chi­tec­ture, bags and pass­ports are whisked away for check-in, and our hands are left grasp­ing a re­fresh­ing in­fused wa­ter. The process is swift and amiable, and we are soon es­corted to our se­cond-floor abode by a concierge, who points out the ho­tel’s restau­rants and ameni­ties en route, as well as the room’s fea­tures.

The neigh­bour­hood

While the coun­try’s cities can oft be found teem­ing with lo­cals and tourists alike, Al Houara is a tran­quil oa­sis lo­cated a 20-minute drive from Tang­ier’s city cen­tre, and 10 kilo­me­tres from Tang­ier Ibn Bat­touta Air­port. While you’ll need to hire a car or rely on taxis to ex­plore the city’s souks, kas­bah and other his­toric at­trac­tions, the re­sort it­self of­fers a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties to keep you en­ter­tained. Mind you, with three pools, a wealth of se­cluded out­door seat­ing, five kilo­me­tres of beach­front and the lap­ping of the waves as a theme tune, you could eas­ily while away sev­eral days with just a good book for com­pany. I’d rec­om­mend set­ting at least one day aside to ven­ture fur­ther afield – ex­plore the labyrinthi­ne pas­sage­ways of Tang­ier’s an­cient medina or the famed blue-hued build­ings of Che­fchaouen, a two-hour drive away.

The room

Much like the re­sort’s peace­ful am­bi­ence, my king deluxe room is im­bued with a sense of seren­ity, thanks to its calm­ing cream walls, rich blue ac­cents that com­ple­ment the sea view from the gen­er­ously sized bal­cony, and sheer drapes that waft in a breeze sweep­ing in from the open door. Arabesque de­tails nod to those in Tang­ier’s his­toric medina and kas­bah, but are used spar­ingly; the room is any­thing but busy. Stor­age is pleas­ingly am­ple, with a wardrobe, large chest of draw­ers and bed­side ta­bles, as well as a well-ap­pointed desk and small L-shaped sofa. The bath­room, mean­while, is spa­cious with a lengthy cab­i­net, separate bath and shower with all the mod-cons. The piece de re­sis­tance is, how­ever, the view, en­com­pass­ing a near-de­serted beach, palm-tree-dot­ted lawns, and the ho­tel’s deep blue pools.

The ser­vice

I find some of the most help­ful ho­tel staff I’ve ever en­coun­tered, whether it was the concierge who sourced a few toi­letry items I’d forgotten to pack, to house­keep­ing, who would al­ways greet me with a cheery “bon­jour” in the hall­way. The staff in the spa, where I en­joyed a sooth­ing, rather than force­ful, mas­sage, were also in­cred­i­bly per­son­able, switch­ing be­tween French, Ara­bic and English with ease as guests passed through.

The scene

The re­sort was pleas­ingly quiet dur­ing our visit, though not daunt­ingly empty. Dur­ing the day, a few younger couples lined the pool while sev­eral fam­i­lies could be seen walk­ing the beach or play­ing on the grass. (Par­ents may be happy to note there is a kids’ club, open un­til mid­night). Come evening, you could hear a quiet buzz of chat­ter em­a­nat­ing from restau­rants, but the fo­cus was cer­tainly more on re­lax­ation and re­ju­ve­na­tion, rather than late nights and par­ties.

The food

The Hil­ton Tang­ier Al Houara has five places to eat on site, rang­ing from the up­mar­ket to those of the grab-a-bite-pool­side va­ri­ety. Ar­gan, named after the tree in­dige­nous to Morocco and known for its nour­ish­ing oil, is where break­fast is served – a feast of mezze, fresh pas­tries, fruit and hot dishes – along­side lunch and din­ner. Tu­cano, mean­while, serves up easy-on-the-palate tapas, with views across the pools, green­ery, and a gen­tle sound­track of the waves. The feather in the ho­tel’s cap, though, is L’Olivier, a fine-din­ing estab­lish­ment that spe­cialises in gourmet Mediter­ranean food. El­e­gantly decked out in creams and rich ch­est­nut hues, the res­tau­rant is worth vis­it­ing whether you’re stay­ing at the Hil­ton or not. The melt-in-the-mouth beef ten­der­loin is a must-try, as are the va­ri­ety of tape­nades, with L’Olivier in­cor­po­rat­ing plenty of its name­sake fruit into its dishes.

Loved

The sprawl­ing lo­ca­tion, which al­lowed quiet solo walks along the beach be­fore din­ner, an hour’s read­ing foun­tain-side after break­fast, a quick postlunch dip, or a leisurely stroll through lush gar­dens to help the night’s three-course meal go down.

Hated

At the risk of sound­ing in­cred­i­bly vain, the lack of plug sock­ets near a mir­ror was a tri­fle an­noy­ing when it came to blow-dry­ing my hair, so in­stead I had to tame the mane blind. Con­sid­er­ing the out­side-of-town lo­ca­tion, a small on-site shop to stock up on a few essen­tial items wouldn’t go amiss, ei­ther.

The ver­dict

Mar­rakesh might be most trav­ellers’ des­ti­na­tion of choice, but Tang­ier’s fu­sion of both an­tiq­uity and tran­quil­ity, par­tic­u­larly when based at the Hil­ton, which feels a world away from the city, make it a must-visit for those seek­ing a rest­ful es­cape, rather than a jam-packed mini-break.

The bot­tom line

Rooms at Hil­ton Tang­ier Al Houara start from 1,050 Moroc­can dirhams (Dh400) a night, in­clud­ing Wi-Fi.

Tra­di­tional Moroc­can tea and pas­tries Hil­ton Tang­ier Al Houara

The sprawl­ing out­door space is tran­quil and of­fers sea views

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