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Mixing the old with the new in Marrakech

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Words: Emma Shaw

Arriving in Morocco I was instantly hit with the heat, which was well and truly welcome following a month of British rain washed down with hot mugs of Lemsip. I’d not visited Marrakech before and had imagined a bustling, busy and slightly stressful experience. But those assumptions were almost immediately thwarted.

Following a 40 minute drive from the airport, we turned down a meandering driveway and reached the grand Beachcomber Hotel. Nestled only a short distance from the heart of the city, I was warmly welcomed into a hub of tranquillity and settled down to utter luxury.

Marrakesh Royal palm

The Beachcomber Hotel

Walking into the lobby of the Beachcomber Hotel, we were greeted by spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows displaying one of the most beautiful views: a vast golf course, icy blue swimming pools, and the faint outlines of the Atlas mountain range. Our bags were quickly whisked away to our rooms and so, to kick off the trip in true holiday style we headed straight to the outdoor bar to soak up the sun and enjoy the first cocktail of the long weekend.

One of the things that struck me most about the hotel was how immaculate the grounds were. The smell of lavender was constantly in the air and the hotel was surrounded by multiple olive trees which produced the argon oils served in the hotel restaurant - a lovely little personal touch for the dinner table. 

My room was impressive. With a lounge area, a generously sized bedroom and a bathroom the size of my small London flat, I could have happily moved in. I enjoyed a number of Carrie Bradshaw-style moments too, parading around my huge walk-in wardrobe, which lit up every time I entered. One mojito down, I was already so relaxed and happy to be in Marrakech. 

Marrakesh royal palm

Out and about

The following morning we tucked in to a laid-back breakfast (making the most of the multiple pastries on offer) before heading to the Moroccan souks. Instantly, my senses were bombarded with colour, spices and smoking food stands. I’d anticipated a lot more in-your-face pressure to purchase and had been advised to cover my shoulders and legs. There was a lot of haggling involved (never buy anything at full price) but I did enjoy putting on my best Del Boy impression and seeing what deals I could wangle.

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We stumbled upon the leather markets – where we were warmly welcomed by a shop owner who showed us how he transformed camel and cow leathers into beautiful bags (admittedly, it’s not the most visually appealing process). We were each given mint leaves to smell as the scent of the leathers being treated circled the markets and back alleys ferociously.

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On the third day of our stay, we made good use of the spa, seeping further into ultimate relaxation. I plumped for the traditional Hamman experience, which was certainly an experience. Entering the steam room in the tiniest cotton underwear, I was encouraged to lay down and relax on a marble slab. The room smelled beautiful and combined with the sound of flowing water it didn’t take long before I properly relaxed and began drifting off. The Hamman is designed to make your entire body feel smooth and pampered – and yes, they will massage your entire body. This is not a massage for the prudish.

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Once I’d gotten over my British reserve I relaxed a little more and enjoyed being scrubbed and doused in warm water. I was then asked to stand under a cold shower to close the pores before lotion, a final touch that made my skin shine with health. If you're not keen on the traditional Hammam you can opt, instead, for a traditional Clarins spa treatment.

Al Ain Marrakesh

Wining and dining 

Another unmissable experience was dinner at the hotel restaurant, Al Ain, a beautifully decorated dining room lined with candles and huge Moroccan lamps. The menu, created by Chef Meryam Diane and her all-woman team showcased spices that are essential in Moroccan cuisine (read: delicious). I enjoyed a trio of tagines with a glass (or two) of traditional Moroccan wine. As our evening came to a close, we were serenaded by a two-man band, which resulted in the whole restaurant upping sticks and dancing with wild abandon (aided by the Moroccan wine).

We also dined at Le Palace in the New Town. The restaurant felt like stepping into Woody Allen’s Cafe Society-style luxury. Chandeliers lit the cosy dining room and champagne flowed. Apparently a visit by the Made in Chelsea crew has upped the club’s popularity. I'd certainly add my recommendation, too. It makes for quite the contrast from the old town and the souks in the city and was a great place to relax after a day spent haggling. 

The total luxury of the hotel mixed with the excitement and experience of the market made for a perfectly balanced trip. Visit the old town and the new to experience the best Marrakech has to offer. 

A three night stay at Royal Palm Beachcomber Luxury Marrakech starts from £499 per person with Destinology, based on two people sharing on a room only basis and including return low cost flights from London Gatwick, baggage charges and transfers. For further information or to book visit Destinology.co.uk or call 01204 824619.


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