The Royal Mansour sets a new gold standard for luxury, in not only Morocco, but across the world, as guests are accommodated in 53 lavish private riads set amongst almost four hectares of fragrant shady gardens planned around Moorish fountains, trickling streams and lily ponds.
Arrival at the hotel begins when stepping off the plane – a dedicated team of staff whisk guests from the gangway through a special airport arrivals terminal in to waiting Range Rovers for the fifteen minute ride to the snaking palm-clad driveway. At the end, huge green gates slide apart like cinema curtains to reveal a courtyard that balances privacy and intimacy with monumental Moorish architecture.
The glistening lobby entrance has trickling water features, singing birds, and exquisitely intricate tiled surfaces on all dimensions. Orange blossom Paths from here lead to an outdoor pool with ‘beach hut’ bungalows for waterside dining, an outdoor bar, a vast indoor pool under a church like glass atrium, gym, and the world’s only Chanel spa and hammam – the most beautiful in the country cast in vibrantly white lattice work walls.
The overriding theme of the hotel however, is privacy. The smallest of riad offerings spans three floors and has a living room with bar and dining areas, a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and a roof terrace with its own plunge pool. Larger riads offer three bedrooms, a library, a bar with its own cocktail waiter, a swimming pool, roof top Bedouin tents and relaxation rooms.
The Grand Riad has its own driveway, but even journalists aren’t allowed inside the gates to help maintain the mystery. It is rumoured to have a cinema, games room and multiple pools and is primarily used by the King of Morocco, who commissioned the hotel and uses it house his personal guests. In every Riad hidden service doors allow staff to enter unseen, whether it is to arrange breakfast on the roof terrace while you’re having a lie in or to light the fireplaces during chilly evenings. Supposedly, they zip between the riads on golf buggies across a network of miles of underground tunnels. Interiors are dark, but detailed with plaster moulding, tiling and wood carving on every facet.
Some 1,200 craftsmen worked tirelessly for three and a half years on the project after the King decreed every artisan in the city had to work flat out on the hotel until its completion. Zellij mosaics, silk carpets and Murano chandeliers from Venice fill the rooms, between personalised stationery, multiple minibars and marble bathtubs. Each of the ten staff assigned to every riad are formal and courteous while trying to remain at all times discreet – yet are always willing to go the extra mile for the absolute comfort of the guests.
If you decide to ever leave your riad, the hotel is situated on the border between the Ville Nouvelle (New Town) and the historic Medina. Its historic squares, winding markets and roof top terraces are a five minute walk that takes you past the eleventh century Koutoubia Mosque, whose prayer call echoes throughout the Royal Mansour gardens five times daily.
On site in the hotel’s own medina complex, there are four bars both indoors and out, offering a range of cocktails, fine brandies and Cuban cigars, an afternoon tea service in the flowering gardens, an ‘informal’ Mediterranean restaurant and Michelin starred Moroccan and French dining rooms presided over by French maestro Yannick Alléno, formerly of France’s most famous restraint, Le Meurice. À la carte and tasting menus are both on offer, with ingredients such as grade nine Wagyu beef and blue lobster being complimented by one of the world’s best wine cellars. Traditional dinners under the stars in the desert reachable only by camel are also on offer.
Staying at the Royal Mansour you quickly find yourself becoming all too accustomed to the lap of luxury. At first what feels alien, quickly becomes the norm until stepping outside the hotel walls transports you back to reality. The hotel can cater to guests every whim, while reaming humble in stature and comfortable in formalness. It breaks the mould for five star residences and can offer both the most publicly lavish of stays or a trip where no one but yourself knows you’re there – no wonder its so popular with celebrities, presidents and royalty.
Words by Harry Seymour
Royal Mansour, Marrakech. Private one bedroom riads start from £907 per night.