WHAT’S IT LIKE? Four Seasons’ first venture in Morocco opened its doors in June 2011. The resort is set in 16 hectares of Moorish gardens and there are 43 private residences on site. The proportions of the building are staggering, with high ceilings and plenty of corridors to get lost in. I arrived at night and the hotel was quiet so I was seen to quickly and ushered to the lounge area for a laid-back check in. Even the staff can be scuppered by the very similar looking corridors, and ventured down the wrong one first before I was escorted to the correct room.
The hotel is one of the most contemporary of the five-star offerings in Marrakech, with a beige or pale pink finish complemented by very subtle traditional touches, such as the lantern light fixtures or decorative white plaster adorning the arched doorways. It felt a little too sparse and simplistic in parts, but this may simply be because Marrakech is such an assault on the senses, with all its colour, noise and sights, that this modern space seems very pared down in comparison.
WHERE IS IT? Located on Boulevard de Menara, a five-minute drive from the airport and a ten-minute drive to the city centre, the hotel feels like an isolated resort and is a great escape from the hectic medina. Some rooms look onto the Menara gardens – a huge draw for tourists – which the hotel backs on to. Although from my map it looked as though I could easily walk to the city, I was not encouraged to do so by staff as the route would begin on a busy road and did not appear to be very pedestrian-friendly.
ROOM FACILITIES The rooms are all a great size (the smallest starts at 42 sqm) and are located within the main building off reception or by the pool – a golf buggy is used to transport guests to exterior suites. I stayed in one of the superior rooms, which are located on the first and second floors overlooking the resort. The terrace was spacious, with sun beds, and had great views of the palm-filled gardens surrounding the resort’s two pools.
Since I was only in the room in the mornings and evenings, the pool always seemed very quiet and made for a serene night time vista. The room was laid out with a small dressing area to store luggage and hang clothes (the laptop safe was here) and a cubby area with all the tea- and coffee-making facilities laid out (including a Nespresso machine) and a minibar underneath. There was a small round table with several chairs, a 42-inch LCD television, iPod docking station/alarm clock and king size bed.
The bathroom, stocked with L’Occitane products, is spacious, with a deep bath, separate rain shower and two sinks. I was offered a turn down service every evening by the very attentive staff.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS Solano is the main restaurant, used for breakfast and dinner service. Located on the floor below reception, its outdoor terrace overlooking the pool makes for a great way to start the day. There is a buffet and table service, with the accommodating staff happy to explain any dish. Despite the array of tempting pastries, meats, cheeses and hot food on offer, I went for a selection of the exotic fresh fruit and some traditional sweet mint tea – served with aplomb by the waiters who seem to enjoy pouring it from even greater heights each time you require a top up.
By night the restaurant becomes a lively hub of guests and locals (and the odd celebrity) who come to sample the mix of Andalusian, Italian and Moroccan fare. My guests and I ordered a selection of typical meze, which included crisp pasties stuffed with spiced meat, followed by chicken, lamb shank and beef tagines. The lamb shank in particular was delicious – melting off the bone and delicately spiced.
Upstairs from Solano is the Inara bar and lounge, a laid-back space that serves excellent cocktails. Due to open in 2012 is Bleu d’Orange, a Provencale-style French restaurant, and in February Zest bar will open – a rooftop bar serving light Moroccan dishes and hosting live bands.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The conference venue has its own entrance with valet service and is located in a separate but adjoining building left of reception. Spread across 2,115 sqm, the space is a mixture of huge indoor rooms complimented by small courtyards ideal for breakout sessions or cocktails. The five rooms are all soaring high ceilings and muted tones, with a splash of colour provided by modern art. The ballroom can be broken up into three rooms, and has a secluded courtyard. It can host 700 for a reception, while Le Jardin seats 450 for dinner. There is also a 24-hour business centre, accessed by key card or staffed between 9am and 7pm. Here, guests will find wired or wireless internet, PCs, newspapers and an office.
LEISURE FACILITIES The hotel has two pools, one for adults and one for families, both of which are huge and set among the palm tress in the gardens. Cabanas dotted around the pools can be booked in advance for a price and offer wifi and wired internet, fans coaches, snacks and magazines.
Past here you will find the spa housed in a separate building with 15 treatment rooms, hammams, a hairdressers and gym (open daily 7am-9pm) equipped with Technogym machines. There is even a VIP pavilion, reserved for royalty and celebrities, but couples can book in. I tried the Marrakech massage, which uses a combination of pressure points, deep-pressure massage and all-natural essential oils sourced in Morocco (from Dhr 1,000/£84). The experience was incredible relaxing and my masseur took me through the different methods and oils to ensure I was getting out of it what I wanted – a coma-like state of relaxation as opposed to the rejuvenation methods he suggested.
Other facilities include two clay tennis courts and a children’s centre. In 2012, a Moroccan Cultural Centre will open on site, where guests will be able to learn traditional craft such as pottery. Although there is no golf course on site, there are four courses located under a 20-minute drive away.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 141 guest rooms including 27 suites. Rooms are split between four categories and the largest are the Pavilion rooms, at 50 sqm, with direct access to the pool area. The suites are split between six categories and range in size from 56 to 206 sqm, with large terraces and lounge spaces. All rooms have some outside space overlooking the resort, the Menara Gardens or the Atlas Mountains, and there is a private royal villa of 350 sqm with dining space for 12.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The large marble bathrooms are a key feature, with excellent products and a sound system that is synched with the television set.
VERDICT A great contemporary resort that fills a gap in the market – it is the only resort of its kind located so near the medina and the airport, all others are situated out of the city in the Palmeraie region. The hotel felt fairly quiet when I stayed, but with a second restaurant and bar opening soon, it looks set to be something of a hot spot in the city.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in January started from 330 euros for a superior room.
CONTACT 1 Boulevard de la Menara, Marrakech; tel+ 212 524 359 200; fourseasons.com/marrakech