WORDS BY PAULO MEIXEDO
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I love Marrakech so much that I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited this amazing place. I feel like I lived here in another life. I feel that smells and colours are part of me as I am part of them. An enchanted city surrounded by orange and olive trees and clay terraces that shine under the sun. A melody that falls into the voices of many at sunset. Whenever I come here I belong here. Even if it’s just for a little while. This time I came to discover another jewel of Marrakech, a true oasis that rises from the warm sands of Africa. It is not a vision but a refuge among 20 hectares of landscaped, fragrant gardens with the snow-capped Atlas Mountains providing a stunning backdrop. It’s called Mandarin Oriental and it’s the place I’m going to discover in the next few days. We arrived on a late flight to Marrakech and took even longer at the border control. But as soon as I got off the plane and smelled the warm scent of cold desert nights, I felt at home. And there I was, once again, happy to be back.
The drive from the airport to the hotel took about twenty minutes, and even at night the trip was scenic. Lights were sheathed between paths and roofs, some dim and yellow and others white and glowing. The sky is starry and the city is sleeping. I feel like it’s just us and Morocco dancing to a silent tune towards the hotel. As we approach the entrance to the Mandarin Oriental, and even though it is night and the visibility is poor, I can see the majestic gate that opens for our arrival and a corridor flanked by shy and intimate lights indicating the way to the oasis. And here we are, finally, and for the first time we don’t intend to leave the hotel for the next few days. After a quick check-in we are taken to our private villa along paths intensely scented with roses. It’s dark and it’s impossible to have a perception of the grandeur and beauty of this place, only tomorrow, when the sun rises and the melody that spreads through the clay terraces wake me up.
It is not a vision but a refuge among 20 hectares of landscaped, fragrant gardens with the snow-capped Atlas Mountains providing a stunning backdrop.
We stayed at Madarin Pool Villa, where the traditional meets the contemporary. This villa is breathtaking. As soon as we open the door a huge private pool surrounded by candles in the center of the courtyard. Almost 300 square meters of pure privacy in a villa that develops around the swimming pool with an outdoor kitchen and an outdoor terrace with a fireplace for cold desert nights. Beige, white, brown and yellow tones decorate this magical place with imposing and modern architecture inspired by Morocco. The villa has a large sitting area with a sofa facing the pool and separated by a glass wall. All areas of the villa are generous with marble and walls carved with traditional elements. Fresh roses in a vase shyly perfume the room. In the center of the villa is the bedroom that opens onto the swimming pool with two huge glass doors. We can literally get out of bed and walk into the pool. A villa made for maximum comfort but also to surprise scenically with all the details. The bathroom is possibly one of the most iconic and largest bathrooms I’ve ever been to. This is a dream bathroom. A true private Hammam. Gigantic and unique. Opens onto the outdoor terrace and in the center of the bathroom there is a very inviting round bathtub and the washbasins are carved in black marble facing the pool. These villas offer maximum privacy surrounded by bougainvilleas, roses and jasmine. Whether at night or day, the scent of nature is present and we appreciate it. It’s quite late and I should be sleeping but my body and mind are excited to be back in Marrakech and to discover this incredible hotel. Before going to sleep, I notice that I still have a welcome letter from GM Marcel with a candle that smells delicious, so good that I still keep it with me even though it has already burned. He certainly knew I was addicted to candles. Don’t ask me how, but it’s these little details that make the difference. It’s bedtime, tomorrow there’s a whole resort to discover, and especially my favourite part: breakfast. The next morning we woke up to the song of sparrows in the infinite gardens of the property. The sun entered from every corner of the villa and created contrasts of light and shadow in the architectural details merging with the nature that surrounded the villa. Everything is transformed and revealed. When we left the villa to have breakfast, our eyes fell in love with the grandeur of these rose bushes, olive trees, lemon trees and orange trees. The silence is only broken by the little wind that passes through the branches or the chirping of stubborn birds. Even the birds are happy to be here.
Breakfast is located in the main building with an unbelievable view of the white Atlas Mountains and a lake that seems to have been painted by an impressionist artist who fell in love with Morocco long time ago.
I can hear the sound of hot tea falling and dancing in the cups and I can smell the delicacies and pastries while a zither Moroccan guitar is played in the background. A very complete breakfast, with a wide variety of fresh fruits, freshly squeezed juices and typical Moroccan pastries. But nothing replaces a good coffee with some delicious dates in the morning, and here is the ideal place to do it.
With our soul fed by good food we decided to spend the day at the villa relaxing and then having a late Alfresco lunch in a relaxed, poolside setting. Easy and tasty Mediterranean food in the shade of bougainvillea and simple, elegant and sober decor. The perfect place for a late snack and a conversation around a lobster sandwich and a glass of very fresh white wine. I could stay here all day but I have yet to discover the hotel’s spa, I’ve heard wonders but I need to see it for myself.
I like to say that The Mandarin Oriental is full of magical corridors and doors and one of them takes us directly to what in my opinion is the most magical place of all on this property: the spa. An arched wooden door opens from the outside to an idyllic world. A wellness centre, male and female hammam and a beauty salon are tucked away in stunning architecture made of red brick arched corridors.
The ultimate holistic oasis. The atmosphere is so relaxing that you can almost hear the footsteps of a cat passing by.
At the end of these surreal corridors there is an indoor swimming pool, large but scenic and intimate. The spa is developed around a minimalist and relaxing interior courtyard with water mirrors. Now I can certainly say that this spa is a real gem of the hotel and also of Marrakech. It’s late and the sun begins to spread its rays of red, pink and orange colours across the skies of Morocco in a painting worth seeing. Meanwhile, candles are lit all the way through this labyrinth of roses. In addition to the pool bar, MO Marrakech also offers Cantonese cuisine at Ling Ling By Hakkasan and international cuisine at Shirvan. Our favourite was certainly Ling Ling where the food and cocktails were exceptional and the staff was extremely dedicated throughout the service. Not to mention the incredible view of the gardens and the festive atmosphere of the restaurant.
Mandarin Oriental Marrakech is undoubtedly a place of inspiration born from the ‘one thousand and one nights’ of modern times.