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At the heart of Marrakech’s famous medina, Riad Farnatchi finds the balance between ornate glamour and tranquil haven.
Among the clamour of Marrakech’s famous medina, where crowds swarm and mopeds zip by like buzzing insects, you can slip down an alleyway, step through an unmarked door and slide into a space of soothing tranquility and calm. Riad Farnatchi takes residence across a lavish set of three different properties, once privately owned mansion houses, now converted into one elegant escape. Ten suites are dotted around two central courtyards, the first a space of calm and light with a deep turquoise pool complete with trickling water feature, the second more secluded, with lush green trees and snug little nooks in which to hide from the midday sun with a pot of Moroccan mint tea.
Maze-like hallways lead between the two, and arches unfold further onto a stairway, leading first to a light-filled spa and hammam where lemongrass-scent hangs in the air, and then to a roof garden with views across the city.
Inside, soothing neutral hues are married with indulgently ornate glamour. There’s an air of Arabian palace here, all gilt and gold and marble. A stay feels stately and regal and ultimately secluded, even when all 10 suites are occupied. It’s a feeling especially true when sweeping through the candlelit courtyard before sinking into a deep marble tub with a glass of wine.
Each of the ten suites are uniquely decorated, though all in keeping with the sense of old-school luxe and resplendent charm. Beds are handcrafted and draped in soft Egyptian cotton together with artisanal blankets. Each room differs to the next, but expect a mix of black-and-white tiles, marble bathrooms and plush velvet seating in the lounge areas as well as thoughtful touches such as fresh flowers and Moroccan sweets. Some of the rooms open out onto their own sun-splattered balcony, others come with four-poster beds. Each feels deeply private.
What’s for breakfast?
Breakfast in Morocco is a generous affair and Riad Farnatchi bears no exception. Tables are laden with just-squeezed orange juice, bowls of fresh fruit, daily baked bread and traditional baghrir – Moroccan semolina flatbreads that sit halfway between a crumpet and a pancake. These are topped off with eggs prepared to your liking. Try the shakshuka for deliciously fluffy eggs spiced with ras-el-hanout and swimming in tomato sauce. Breakfast is best enjoyed from the comfort of your balcony, because who wants to see other people in the morning when you can feast like a king behind closed doors?
How about lunch and dinner?
Order room service-style from the home kitchen, where traditional Berber dishes are given a modern European twist – think: Pastilla with cinnamon and almonds. Dinner can be served on the terrace under starlight for added romance, or in one of the poolside dining rooms.
The highlight though, comes from the almost-adjoining restaurant, just across the narrow alleyway. Le Trou au Mur is newly opened, and the chefs here whip up modern Moroccan and European dishes which are vibrant and full of flavour. A lunch spent on the roof terrace, grazing on mezze and sipping zesty mint-and-lemon juice will leave you refreshed and ready to take on the souks.
Dinner in the hotel restaurant is a true joy. The murmur of the buzzing dining room is inviting, service is warm and the wine list has interesting Moroccan varieties available by the glass – best to have a taste before you order a whole bottle.
Is there a bar?
More excellent Moroccan wines, along with a selection of simple cocktails can be ordered via room service, or from one of the Riad house staff who are never far away, and delivered to the space of your choosing. Cosy up under blankets in the poolside bhou in the evening when the courtyard and pool glimmer by candlelight, sip cocktails at dusk on the roof garden, or clink glasses by the fire in the Moroccan salon.
The hotel restaurant, Le Trou au Mur, has a dangerously good martini list. Don’t miss the passion fruit-chilli martini, that slips down embarrassingly easily.
Farnatchi Spa is one of the best in the area (and gets booked up quickly, so stake your claim in advance). The tranquil space is kitted out in calming natural tones, and offers a hammam, massage, mani-pedi and facials with luxury organic Ila Spa products and oils. The plunge pool in the central courtyard makes for a chilly but refreshing dip under the hot Moroccan sun. Bathrooms are well stocked with an array of Molton Brown products.
Things you should know
Scrap your Marrakech itinerary ahead of arrival, as it’s highly likely you’ll end up cancelling everything in favour of staying in the Riad, ordering room service five times a day, and drinking wine in the outrageously deep bubble bath anyway.
If you can tear yourself away, the team can arrange a guide to either walk you to a single destination or to lead you around the medina for the weekend.
Within a short walk you’ll find
The famed Jemaa el-Fnaa square is a 10-minute stroll away, if you can navigate the labyrinthian medina streets. Getting lost may lead you to the verdant gardens of Le Jardin Secret or cocktails on the roof of Nomad.
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