On arrival I’m whisked to my villa on a golf cart and can hardly contain my excitement when the huge wooden doors open to reveal my home for the next few days. The spacious villas are modelled on traditional riads; each has a private courtyard, heated pool, jacuzzi and outdoor kitchen where the restaurant team can cook just for you. Inside, the master bedroom takes centre stage with a living area to one side and a bathroom on the other, including your own hammam and a bathtub almost as big as the jacuzzi.
At the hotel’s Mes’Lalla restaurant I eat my way through chef Meryem Cherkaoui’s tasting menu — a modern twist on Morrocan classics such as barley berkoukech with cracked Mes’Lalla olives and squid cannelloni stuffed with smoked aubergine and all washed down with local wines. I’m introduced to vin gris (grey wine), whose pale colour falls between white and rosé. It’s delicious. The golf cart helps get me home and, when I arrive, a roaring fire and lanterns around the pool help light my way.
The next morning, after a late breakfast, I visit the spa for a traditional hamman. I’m washed, scrubbed, swaddled like a baby then led to the seating area for refreshments and to recover, I’m so relaxed I can’t move!
The hotel is a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the medina and its maze of souks. When the sun goes down Jemaa el-Fna square comes alive with snake charmers, magicians and storytellers.
When it’s time to leave I say goodbye to Zitouna, the Mandarin Oriental’s donkey, and overhear at reception that a famous footballer has been turned away from the hotel, which is fully booked thanks to the arrival of a very large royal family. I can’t say I’m surprised — this hotel really is fit for a king.
Rates for Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech from €650 per night B&B (approx. GBP £510). For more information or to book visit www.mandarinoriental.com/marrakech or call direct on +212 5 24 29 88 88.
For more information on Morocco see www.visitmorocco.com