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Letter from Africa

My wife and I return to Marrakech every year as we love its timelessly exotic yet cosmopolitan appeal. And though the city has undergone transformations since my first visit, when it comes to its mystique, plus ça change, plus la même chose.

Over the years we have stayed at many resorts and riads in Marrakech. Our favorite experiences remain the Four Seasons, where the service is always amazing, and La Maison Arabe for its location in the Medina, local cuisine and warm wonderful people. Both properties represent excellent value relative to their exceptional quality.

The spectacular Royal Mansour, owned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco, is well worth visiting. Lunch on the Terrasse and dinner at Michelin darling Yannick Alleno’s restaurants here are pricey but amazing. The spa is also quite impressive. The suites are all very luxurious riads (but take the steep stairs into consideration if you stay at one!).

We’re not big fans of buffets, but love the impressive breakfast spread by the pool at La Mamounia. Take a walk in the gardens (l’Orangeraie) while visiting this exquisite property. Comptoir Darna for a romantic dinner with local cuisine and dancers is another favorite: a clubby atmosphere and authentic Moroccan experience, very popular without being too touristy.

Every visitor to Marrakech must experience the marvelous Medina, but beware of the pricing here, even if you hire a guide. Away from all the tourist-trap Medina shops, be sure to visit Atika, the best shoe store we have ever visited, where the locals shop for high-end footwear. Selections are unique – you may find the same pair of great-looking shoes in ten different colors, which I have not found anywhere else during my travels. Don’t practice the fine art of haggling here! You don’t negotiate prices (contrary to other stores in Marrakech), but the prices are reasonable: another great quality-value relationship!

If you enjoy cigars as I do, bring your own as they are only sold at a few five-star hotels (La Mamounia and Royal Mansour) but extremely expensive

For sunset and dinner in the desert, La Pause is the destination: Camel ride in the dunes followed by dinner outside by the fire. There’s no electricity: Hundreds of candles light this oasis in a remote location. They only accept cash; be sure keep cash for the driver on the way back.

An hour south of Marrakech, Kasbah Tamadot – Sir Richard Branson’s estate in the Atlas Mountains – remains one of our favorites. We got married here in 2014, so it always holds a special place for us. Book one of the Berber tents. The Hamman at the spa was a great experience as a couple, as is a candlelit dinner on the roof of the resort accompanied by local musicians.

The best hotels will drive you back to the airport and assist with check-in and immigration. But at that point you may already be planning your next return.

 

 




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