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Hot spots: Royal Mansour, Marrakesh

Divia Harilela

 

What's so royal about it? Well, first off, it's fit for a king - literally. The hotel was the pet project of Morocco's King Mohammed VI, who wanted a home away from home for his VIP guests that showcased the best of the country's decorative arts and craftsmanship. No expense was spared, with more than 1,500 of Morocco's most skilled craftsmen taking more than four years to complete the property, which now attracts diplomats, millionaires and even heads of state.

But what about us regular folk? Anyone who can afford to do so can stay at the hotel, and they can expect to be treated like a king. The moment they land at Marrakesh airport, Royal Mansour guests are ushered into a VIP lounge while the hotel's ambassadors collect their luggage and handle immigration procedures.

A promising start. Then what? Guests are whisked to the hotel, which is tucked away behind the walls of the ancient city, or medina. Inside is a maze of alleyways lined with olive groves and palm trees that must be navigated to find any one of the 53 three-storey riads (traditional villas). Ranging in size from one bedroom to four, each riad is built around a courtyard and comes with a living room, a bar, a dining room and a roof-top terrace (pictured top), on which you'll find a sun deck, an outdoor fireplace and a plunge pool. Some riads have a lift and courtyards are covered automatically when the first drop of rain lands on the roof sensors. Discretion is key here; you'll rarely see members of staff because they use an elaborate system of underground tunnels that allows them to go about the property unnoticed.

How does a king unwind? The 3.5 hectare estate has a pool (pictured top), a gym, a library, a cigar lounge and a piano room. The spa is a visual delight thanks to its birdcage-like design, which consists of a glass box covered in white lattice metal work. What really takes your breath away, however, is the workmanship on display. A walk through the lobby (right) is a feast for the eyes thanks to its sunken fountains, chandeliers, intricate metal work, stained glass, carved cedar panels, Moorish archways and zelig (geometric) and mother-of-pearl mosaics.

And eat? If you don't fancy the goat's brains sold in nearby Jemaa el-Fna square, you could instead head to one of the hotel's two restaurants. Under the supervision of Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno, La Grande Table Marocaine serves local cuisine while La Grande Table Française has been called "the best French restaurant in Africa". The "casual" dining option is La Table (pictured top), the outdoor terrace of which overlooks the pool and gardens.

What's the damage? If you are one of those aforementioned regular folk, you may want to look away now … single-bedroom riads start from US$1,270 a night, but that does include tax. For more information, visit www.royalmansour.com.

 

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