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The Palace at Es Saadi Marrakech Resort: re-live 60s bohemian glamour in the heart of the Moroccan capital

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Lucy Robson
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Marrakech Es Saadi villas

This majestic Moroccan resort situated in the heart of bohemian capital city Marrakech will make you feel like a 1960s film star for a long weekend.

Marrakech, known as the ‘Jewel of the south’, has long been on my travel hit list, and my first visit to Morocco did not disappoint. 

Like Mick Jagger, Josephine Baker and many a Hollywood starlet before me, Es Saadi Marrakech Resort, the original 60s hotel, provided me with a relaxing and perfectly located base for me to chase the hippie trail. 

Marrakech and the swinging 60s

For the past couple of years I’ve had a sneaking suspicion I was born in the wrong decade. The 1960s was a period of protest, social change and boundary breaking popular culture, from the rise of pop-art and feminist literature to psychedelic music and fashion - and I think I would have been right at home. 

Allow me to set the scene: the 60s was a radical decade for many reasons and not all of them good. But, for women things were finally shifting. More women were entering the workplace than ever before, seeking more from their lives, and ultimately shattering the long held male assumption that women could be fulfilled by marriage and housework alone. Much of this was attributed to the rapid spread of second wave feminism, encouraged by the release of iconic feminist texts like Betty Friedman’s The Feminine Mystique and the works of Gloria Steinem. All the while, Lesley Gore’s defiant feminist anthem ‘You Don’t Own Me’ provided the soundtrack to the feminist movement.

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Back in London, the fashion world was evolving, thanks to revolutionary designer Mary Quant, who, in designing clothes that revealed flesh, helped women feel empowered and free, rather than shameful.

Fast-forward to early 2019 in Marrakech with no internet, no mobile phone – read: Instagram – to distract me, I allowed myself to imagine a romanticised version of my life spent immersed in the best of 60s popular culture, like being a Beatle-maniac, rummaging through record shops hunting out obscure vinyls.

I would drift off to a place where I was perusing Carnaby Road’s boutiques for shift dresses and flowing kaftans like those worn by Patti Boyd or Anita Pallenberg when on tour with The Stones, not to mention agonising over whether my fringe is as impressive as Marianne Faithfull’s in The Girl on a Motorcycle.

My dream home would be filled with bright, geometric patterned homeware, courtesy of Celia Birtwell, and I would holiday in the glamorous, care-free heart of the bohemian movement, captured vividly via the likes of literary icons, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. 

I am, of course, talking about Marrakech.

Talitha Getty and John-Paul Getty JR in Marrakech
Talitha Getty and John-Paul Getty JR on the rooftop of their holiday home in Marrakech

I daydream about sashaying around the medina, bartering (unsuccessfully) for Moroccan teapots that I will never use, in the densely packed market souks, clad in a patterned kimono, not unlike the one worn by Tabitha Getty on the roof of the holiday home owned by John-Paul Getty Jr. You get the picture.

I lived out these daydreams, and much more, visiting the thriving city with its incredible colours and impassioned locals. 

If stunning weather, incredible food and oodles of culture and history is what you’re looking for, read on for the Stylist review. 

Where to stay in Marrakech

Es Saadi Marrakech Resort: the Palace
Es Saadi Marrakech Resort: the Palace

The Es Saadi Marrakech Resort

The Es Saadi is grand, vibrant and – as the name would suggest – nothing short of palatial. Surrounded by eight hectares of tropical gardens, the hotel is ideally located in the heart of the city of Marrakech. 

Previous owners of the Moulin Rouge, the Bauchet-Bouhlal family opened the Es Saadi in the 60s. Three generations later, it continues to be a family business, with matriarch Elisabeth Bauchet-Bouhlal running the business as president. Her French roots combined with her passion for Moroccan art and design is evident in the vibrant interior decor, the artwork adorning the walls, as well as the architecture and design of El Saadi, reminiscent of ancient palaces of Marrakech.

As a place to stay, you are spoilt for choice (budget dependent of course) at the Es Saadi. The luxury resort comprises of crenellated ksars (AKA small, private villas, drawing inspiration from Berber architecture), large luxury villas, as well as two hotels, Le Palace which houses the suites, and L’hotel, the original 5-star hotel from the sixties. 

Fun fact: the Es Saadi Marrakech Resort was used as the lavish setting for part of the BBC’s TV adaption of John Le Carre’s The Night Manager, starring Olivia Colman and Tom Hiddleston. 

The need-to-knows

  • Location

    Es Saadi lobby bar interiors

    Looking for the most beautiful place to to stay in Marrakech, within close proximity to the main attractions and airport? You’ve found it in the Es Saadi Marrakech Resort.

    Ideally situated in the peaceful Hivernage neighbourhood near the heart of the city, a ten minute distance by car from the Marrakech Menara airport. 

    Once at the resort, main attractions such as the Jemaa El Fna and Yves Saint Laurent museum are a ten minute drive away, twenty minutes if you would prefer to walk.

  • Facilities

    Where to stay in Marrakech: the Es Saadi Palace Ksars
    • Two heated outdoor swimming pools
    • Luxury spa, sauna and wellness centre with indoor hydrotherapy pool
    • Fitness centre 
    • Tennis courts 
    • Library
    • Eight restaurants
    • Four bars
    • Casino de Marrakech
    • Theatro nightclub
  • Spa

    Es Saadi Marrakech Resort Spa
    Es Saadi Marrakech Resort: book a hammam treatment at the highly instagrammable spa

    The palace spa at Es Saadi has to be one of the most stunning and impressive (not to mention Instagrammable) wellness facilities we’ve ever seen, thanks to the lagoon like hydrotherapy pool and enormous ancient tree, around which the three floors of the wellness centre are wrapped. 

    From traditional Moroccan treatments to aromatherapy, balneotherapy, the Es Saadi Marrakech Resort Spa is the largest in Marrakech. You cannot stay at the resort and not book yourself in for an authentic hammam treatment. A truly heavenly experience which focuses on exfoliating the entire body, it left my skin feeling smoother and healthier than it has in years. Be sure to follow up with a rejuvenating swim in the stunning hydrotherapy pool. 

    Es Saadi is also home to the Christian Dior Institut, offering structured, and bespoke skincare and make-up for guests dependent on skincare requirements. 

  • Rooms

    Es-Saadi Palace Room Balcony
    Best places to stay in Marrakech: suites in the palace have balconies complete with sun loungers

    We stayed in the palace suites. The epitome of Arabian luxury, the Berber inspired design elements, like the enormous (and very on trend) Berber rug added to the authentic Moroccan feel. 

    The huge king size bed, spacious living area, dressing room and glorious balcony complete with sun loungers was truly the stuff of dreams. 

    The rich, jewellery box style bathrooms were the stand out feature, with beautiful, temple like arched mirrors, patterned tiles and a deep jacuzzi bath. 

  • Food and drink

    Restaurant Lagon Jardin-Bar-à-Salades
    Lunch at the Es Saadi Jardin Bar

    It would be no exaggeration to say you are spoilt for choice when dining at the hotel, with eight restaurants across the resort in total. 

    Le Saadi, located at L’Hotel, is one of Marrakech’s finest restaurants and overlooks the pool, making it perfect for a spot for lunch during the afternoon sun. Back over at the palace you have the option of lunch or dinner against the gorgeous backdrop of the tropical gardens, at the more casual Jardin D’Hiver.

    You are sure to be delighted wherever you dine at the Es Saadi, but our personal favourite has to be the palace rooftop restaurant, La Cour des Lions. Serving up authentic Moroccan cuisine on the outdoor terrace, overlooking the pool. 

    The Bauchet-Bouhlal family are also committed to sustainability and for over a decade have been committed to serving local produce where possible, with all fruits and vegetables served in the restaurants from either the resort gardens, or the families organic orchard. The environmentally conscious attitude also extends to solar panels used to provide all of the hot water in the palace. 

  • Things to do

    El-Fna Square Marrakech by night
    Things to do in Marrakech: visit the El-Fna Square

    You can’t visit Marrakech without a trip to the Jemaa el-Fnaa and Medina, the bustling marketplace, full of souks, where local shop owners flog their produce to locals and tourists alike. 

    In the market square, you can pick up anything from rich spices, natural oils that aid any possible skin concern you could have, Moroccon crockery and the famous tea pots, pashminas every colour of the rainbow, on-trend berber rugs and more. 

    Just be sure to brush up on your bartering skills before hand. 

  • Musée Yves Saint Laurent

    Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh
    Yves Saint Laurent on the patio of his home in Marrakesh 

    Another must, is a pilgrimage to the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, an exhibition housing some of the iconic fashion designers greatest and most iconic creations. 

    Part of the exhibit is the holiday home owned by Saint Laurent and partner Pierre Bergé, painted entirely a lucid, royal blue and currently home to the Berber museum. 

    Make sure you pick up a copy of Letters to Yves by Pierre Bergé from the book shop, a slim volume of letters written to the troubled late Yves, after his death by his husband. Revealing and intimate, some messages recount happy memories, some letters are filled with anger and hurt. It will have you sobbing the entire flight home. 

  • Best time to visit Marrakech

    Blue House of the Majorelle Garden Marrakech, former home of the late French designer Yves Saint-Laurent
    Blue House of the Majorelle Garden Marrakech, former home of the late French designer Yves Saint-Laurent 

    Marrakech, is after all located in North Africa, needless to say that the climate all year around tends to be hot and dry. There are of course points in the year when the temperature skyrockets, which, for our sanity most of us would rather avoid for fear of returning like a freshly cooked lobster.

    That in mind, the best time to go to Marrakech tends to be during the UK spring from March to May and Autumn, between September and November, where the temperature sits around a comfortable 26 degrees on average. 

  • How much does it cost per night?

    Where to stay in Marrakech: Es Saadi Palace villas
    Where to stay in Marrakech: Es Saadi Palace villas

    Rooms in Es Saadi Marrakech Resort start at £270 in low season and £900 in high season. While one bedroom villas start at £800 in low season, and £1,500 in high. 

What to pack for a long weekend in Marrakech

Images: Getty, Es Saadi, Courtesy of brands