Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Sofitel Marrakech Palais Imperial / Sofitel Marrakech Lounge and Spa

29 Jun 2010 by BusinessTraveller

Background The two Sofitel properties in Marrakech are in fact part of one large complex, which until 2008 was listed simply as the Sofitel Marrakech Imperial Hotel and Spa. The decision was made to effectively split the hotel in two, creating the Sofitel Marrakech Lounge and Spa, marketed as a modern art hotel with spa facilities, and the more traditional Sofitel Marrakech Palais Imperial.

In reality however, all of the public facilities including the swimming pools, spa and restaurants are available to guests at either property, and while there are offcially two separate entrances and reception desks, the hotels are linked internally, so there is nothing stopping guests of either hotel from entering and leaving as they wish. 

There are plans for the rooms and suites designated to each of the hotels to be refurbished in different styles to differentiate the two properties by the end of this year, but until then there is currently very little to distinguish the hotels from each other aside from room types and numbers, so for the purpose of this review I will list most of the facilities together as if they are housed within one large hotel.

Sofitel has a growing presence in Morocco, with a total of seven properties – one each in Agadir and Fes, two in Essaouira, two in Marrakech, and the recently rebranded Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses in the Moroccan capital (see online news April 22). Accor also operates a Suitehotel property adjacent to the Sofitel complex in Marrakech, plus two Ibis hotels and a property under the Lucien Barriere Hotels and Casinos brand.

What’s it like? The main entrance to the property is built in traditional Moroccan style, with a fountain outside the front, palm trees lining the driveway, and a pastel pink exterior. The lobby of the Marrakech Palais Imperial is a grand, calming affair, with another fountain-cum-statue filled with roses, plenty of seating space, and a piece of artwork on the far wall displaying dozens of colourful Moroccan Babouche slippers. When I arrived I was invited to take a seat, and the check-in form was brought to me along with the offer of a drink and dates.

On the other side of the lobby there is a terrace area with a small library and a bar, and past this are the swimming pools. Turning right through the lobby takes you past the hotel’s restaurants and retail concessions, to the smaller reception area of the Sofitel Marrakech Lounge and Spa (which also has its own separate entrance), and then past this there is a large open space containing various modern works of arts and sculptures, all of which are for sale. Off this area are the hotel’s meeting rooms and the spa.

Where is it? To the south of the modern Gueliz district of the city, and to the west of the old town, with its souks, food stalls and city walls. You can walk to either in 15 minutes, or a taxi should cost no more than DHR20 (£1.50), although as with most things in Marrakech you’ll need to haggle to get this price.

Room facilities As already noted the rooms at both properties are due to be refurbished in due course, and where you’ll notice the need for an upgrade is in the technology (traditional TV sets rather than flatscreen versions). The decor also feels a little worn, but certainly in my Prestige Suite everything felt well-built and functioned properly. All rooms feature the comfortable Sofitel MyBed concept.

Superior and Luxury room categories measure an average of 30sqm, and feature bathrooms with combined bath / shower and L’Occitaine products, workdesk, wifi internet access, satellite TV, minibar, safe, hairdryer and air conditioning. Most of these rooms also have balconies overlooking the pool and gardens. Junior Suites measure 44sqm and have views of either the pool or the Atlas Mountains, and also feature a lounge area, while Prestige Suites are larger at 68sqm, have upgraded Hermes amenities, and some have two balconies. Finally Opera Suites measure 81sqm, have two bedrooms, and also feature a whirlpool bath.

The wording on the hotel website describes the Prestige Suites as having “panoramic views over the [Atlas] mountains”, although I would note that between the hotel and said mountains there is a busy main road, meaning that sitting out on either of the two balconies (one for the bedroom and a second one, with table and chairs, for the lounge area) was not actually a very peaceful affair. When I visited, the mountains were actually obscured from view due to clouds, to the extent that i actually began to question whether the room was actually facing them, although clearly there isn’t much the hotel can do about this.

Business and meeting facilities There are a total of 14 meeting spaces, mostly located around the artwork /sculpture space mentioned above. Capacities range from 12 people for a boardroom meeting, up to 500 delegates for a cocktail reception in the SO Lounge. There is wifi internet acces throughout the hotel, and overhead projectors and video equipment is available on request. The hotel’s business centre is located in the same area, and is open 24 hours.

Restaurants and bars Aside from Oasis poolside restaurant and the small bar by the main lobby, both mentioned above, the property’s main eateries are Le Jardin and L’Orangerie. The former is located on the ground floor, and serves breakfast and a buffet-style lunch. There is a lovely terrace area overlooking one of the pools, and next to the hotel’s herb garden (most hotels in Marrakech seem to have one of these).

Above Le Jardin is L’Orangerie and the adjacent Bar Lawrence, both of which also have terrace areas overlooking the pools and further afield to the Atlas Mountains. The bar is open from 7.30pm-1am, and L’Orangerie is open for dinner only, from 7.30pm-11.30pm. The menu includes several typical Moroccan dishes, including tagines and couscous options. Alcohol is available in both the bar and restaurant (most establishments outside of hotels in the city do not serve alcohol), although it is relatively expensive, with a bottle of wine starting from around £30.

The hotel is also in the process of building a new bar called the SO Night Lounge, which is due to open by this October.

Leisure facilities There is little doubt that these are the highlight of the property, with no less than three swimming pools, and a wide choice of outdoor seating areas. A heated outdoor swimming pool was added to the property during recent renovations, and there is another non-heated outdoor pool, along with a third indoor pool within the spa area.

Around the outdoor pools are positioned traditional sun loungers and umbellas, cushioned seating areas with tables, large double bed lounges shaded by silkscreens. and several hammocks, as well as human-size chess board, and plenty of foliage and palm trees creating a peaceful ambience. In one corner of the terrace Oasis pool bar is open from 12.30pm until 5.30pm, and serves snacks including pizzas and salads. 

The spa is officially part of the Lounge and Spa property, although it is open to guests of both hotels providing they are having treatments. Aside from the five treatment rooms (including one double) which use Decleor products, there is an indoor pool, spa bath, sauna, solarium, hammam and gym.

Verdict Excellent leisure facilities and attentive staff, this property will suit both both leisure and business travellers looking to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the souks. It’s not yet clear how the two hotels will differentiate themselves enough to justify the separate marketing, but the advantage of shared public areas mean this property is hard to beat in terms of facilities.

Fact file

How many rooms? 119 assigned to the Sofitel Marrakech Imperial Palais, and 89 to the Sofitel Marrakech Lounge and Spa, making 208 in total. These are split across Superior rooms, Luxury rooms and Prestige Suites, with 11 Opera suites in the Palais Imperial

Hotel highlights The excellent leisure facilities, and the Orangerie restaurant with its outdoor terrace.

Price Fully flexible “Business at Sofitel” internet rates for a mid-week stay in a Luxury Room in mid July started at £182, including breakfast and internet access.

Contact Rue Haroun Errachid, Hivernage; tel (Sofitel Marrakech Palais Imperial) +212 524 42 56 01 (Sofitel Marrakech Lounge and Spa) +212 524 42 56 00; sofitel.com

Mark Caswell

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