By Nadia Pizzimenti

Anyone who has been to Marrakesh will tell you the city isn’t as much a destination as it is an experience. Morocco’s ‘Jewel of the South’ is certainly that – a treasure in the midst of chaos.

The first taste of Marrakesh might leave you with sensory overload: scooters whizzing by, shopkeepers ushering you into their store, or snake charmers ready to place their pet around your neck. All of this is happening against a backdrop of sandy pinks and peaches, streets lined with roses, and the intoxicating smell of Moroccan bread. Winding paths and alleyways are decorated with embellished doors and stucco walls. Enter through one of those doors and chances are you’ll walk into a Riad (a traditional Moroccan house or palace) covered in tiles, tapestries, fountains, and more.

The luxury that lies within the walls of the city, from visiting the newly opened YSL Museum and Gardens to spending a day getting pampered at a hammam, or even glamping in the Sahara Desert, will have you dreaming of this enchanting place long after your visit is over.

Photo by Carlyle Routh

 

STAY

 

El Fenn

With seven traditional courtyard houses, 28 uniquely decorated suites, a spa and hammam, a heated marble swimming pool, an impressive art collection, and a 7000 sq. ft. rooftop terrace, El Fenn ranks as one of the most stylish and luxurious hotels in the city. After a day at the world-famous Djemaa el Fenna square (which is only five minutes from the hotel), you’ll need a little tranquility to return to. Relaxation is not hard to come by at El Fenn, with its manicured gardens, library, yoga classes, painting kits, and a visit to the boutique filled with local artisan treasures. End your day at the cocktail bar, where you can enjoy a perfectly crafted Negroni while sitting by the fire. www.el-fenn.com

 

EAT

 

Photo by Carlyle Routh

Le Jardin

After navigating the ancient labyrinth that is the Marrakesh Medina, you’ll no doubt work up an appetite. Enter Le Jardin, an emerald tiled oasis, and retreat from a day of bargaining and shopping. Mint tea is a staple here and enjoyable even on the warmer days. Start off sampling the traditional Moroccan salads and work your way to one of the many drool-worthy tajines. www.lejardinmarrakech.com

 

 

 

 

Nomad

Previously an old carpet store, Nomad is the second Instagram-able Medina retreat by Kamal Laftimi. You’ll find ‘Modern Moroccan’ cuisine here, as well as international fare with a Moroccan twist. Cool off with one of their many juices or smoothies while enjoying the view that looks over famed spice square Rahba Lakdima and the Atlas Mountains. www.nomadmarrakech.com

 

OFF THE MAP

 

Nubia Luxury Camp: 3-Day Sahara Desert Experience

Photo by Carlyle Routh

If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Morocco, this is it. You’ll spend the first day winding through the Atlas Mountains, the scenery drastically changing as each hour passes. Upon arrival, you are greeted at sunset by your desert camp team. Follow the path of Moroccan rugs to one of the eight tented suites, each boasting the luxuries and decor of a boutique hotel. A mouth-watering feast of tajines, fresh bread, olives, and wine is accompanied by a warm fire, traditional Berber music, and a sky full of stars.

The sunrise isn’t to be missed, as it peaks up over the sand dunes, and you enjoy a breakfast of yogurt, crepes, shakshouka, and more. It’s a great way to start a fully-packed day of camel trekking, visiting a nomadic family, lunching and napping in a desert oasis under the afternoon sun, sand boarding, and ending your day trekking up a mountainous sand dune to watch the sunset over the Sahara.

On your way back to Marrakesh, you’ll have the incredible opportunity to visit a Moroccan rug showroom and learn about the different female Berber tribes that make these works of art and even attempt a hand weaving lesson of your own. www.thebeldicollection.com

 

VISIT

 

Photo by Carlyle Routh

Jardin Majorelle and the YSL Museum

The Jardin Majorelle is one of Morocco’s most popular attractions, and one not to be missed. The garden, which is as serene as it is glamorous, was created and cared for by French painter Jacque Majorelle (1886-1962) and later purchased by designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berger. Walkthrough 12 acres of soft green cactus-filled gardens which are complemented by splashes of bright yellow, coral, and that infamous Majorelle blue.

Next door to the gardens you’ll find the new addition of the YSL Museum. To say Marrakesh left an imprint on Saint Laurent is an understatement; the location’s impact is indisputable as you walk through the small but magical collection of photos, campaigns, muses, videos, and runway outfits of the designer’s past. www.jardinmajorelle.com

 

 

HAMMAM

 

Photo by Carlyle Routh

Beldi Country Club and Spa

One of the most popular and traditional ways to unwind in Morocco is by visiting a hammam, a Moroccan bathhouse. The spa at Beldi is itself a small douar (a typical Moroccan village), with intimate spaces and a serene atmosphere. Separated by gender and wearing nothing more than a small cloth around your waste, you’ll be greeted by an attendant who will pour warm water over you, along with salon noir (a special soap made with olive oil), and you’ll be left to steam and soak for several minutes. A special glove is used to scrub the entire body, followed by a spa treatment of your choice.

http://beldicountryclub.com/en/spa

 

DRINK

 

Comptoir Darna

Driving up to Comptoir Darna, you will notice a change in atmosphere. Designer stores are on every corner, and bouncers greet world travelers and Marrakesh’s in-crowd at the doors of stylish restaurants and nightclubs. Comptoir Darna is no different; it’s a two-level villa, serving Moroccan style dinner, creative cocktails, and an impressive lineup of belly dancers and musicians. www.comptoirmarrakech.com

 

 

 

Le Churchill

Once you have walked through an entrance of lush gardens, passed a myriad of marble and tiles, and walked through one of Marrakesh’s most elegant hotels, you’ll find a smoky, dark, jazz-filled bar called Le Churchill. The hotel has hosted Winston Churchill himself, and it’s no secret why. Luxury is evident in every detail of the bar, from the carefully-crafted cocktails to the leather studded walls and leopard-print fringed chairs.

 

 

SHOP

 

Chabi Chic 

Want to test your willpower? Try entering a Chabi Chic store and not leaving with several variations of ceramic trays, handcrafted vases, argan oil perfumes, and a pair or two of hand-stitched slippers. Created by Parisians Vanessa Di Mino and Nadia Noel, this lifestyle concept store is at the forefront of new trends and showcases Moroccan style revisited. www.chabi-chic.com

 

 

33 Rue Majorelle

Located across the street from famed Jardin Majorelle, 33 Rue Majorelle is a concept store like no other in Marrakesh. Here you’ll find slightly higher-end versions of what one might see in the market. The store represents 90-plus independent artisans, selling everything from tea sets to leather bags. www.33ruemajorelle.com

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