Monday, July 12, 2010

Marrakech, Morroco

It was a fantastic Saturday evening in Morocco! Yes, Morocco definitely needed to be the next stop on the ScheckTrek; we hadn’t been to Africa yet. But where in Morocco? Casablanca sounded the most romantic, but Bogart and Bergman are no longer there, and from what I saw, it didn’t look like the place I’d necessarily want to be either. After a quick tour of the options, Marrakech emerged as the clear winner.

Founded in 1061, Marrakech (the “Red City”) is in northern Africa and is considered to be the most beautiful city in Morocco. It is the place where East meets West. Between its old city, the medina, and the adjacent modern city, it has a population approaching 1.1 million. Of greater interest to tourists is its souk (traditional market), which is the largest in Morocco. The maze of souks stretch out from the center of the Medina: the Djemaa el-Fna, the “place of the executed” where the convicted where still being separated from their heads as late as the early 20th century. Today it’s filled with multihued displays, food stalls, restaurants and everything from acrobats to musicians to snake charmers. Not sure how healthy my appetite would be with snake charmers nearby! (Information provided by 100 Wonders of the World, by Michae Hoffmann and Alexander Krings.)
My mission, however, wasn’t to shop for colorful, handmade items or sample exotic foods, but to choose the one hotel that stood out, in my mind, above all the others. I (virtually) traipsed in and out of hotel after hotel in Marrakech, admiring the differences and sameness of each. A common thread was the 2-story building height and the center, open-air courtyard. Each had its central water feature – whether pool or fountain. Overhanging the courtyard would be a second floor balcony that encircled the open atrium, and atop floor two would almost always be a rooftop terrace with plenty of seating/lounging options, often with Moroccan-style canopies for shade from the overbearing sun.
(Photo of Riad Dar Zahia by fabianjean 2010 05, )

Beautiful close-up illustrates the detailed filigree seen all over Marrakech -- in as many designs as there are buildings -- both in wood and metal. (Photo taken of La Sultana Marrakech, from

The land conjures up images of One Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights. Divans tossed with vivid pillows and floors scattered with Oriental rugs. Arabian arches. Pools and fountains. Courtyards and awnings. Palms in terra cotta pots. Rooftop terraces. Ornately carved doors. Columns and architectural bumpouts. Color on top of color – or conversely, Out of Africa neutrals. Tiles – so many types and colors of tile! Words are inadequate to describe the architecture and style of Marrakech. Thankfully, we have photos to help. Here are a few examples:
Riad El Faris. At 315 euros/night for a villa that will sleep 10, it's quite a deal! (

Riad 5 Sens (

Riad Andalouse (

Riad Hayhati (photo from hotel website)

Riad Zolah, which comes highly recommended by friends who honeymooned there. (

La Sultana Marrakech (photo from

La Sultana Marakech (photo from

Dining at the Villa Marrakech 43 does not come cheaply: 2500 euros/night, not including food
(photo from

There's quite a lot of style in the dining room at Palmeraie Golf Palace & Spa, especially considering room prices quoted at $89-173/night (photo from Expedia).

Riad Zolah (

Dining Room at Dar Rhizlane (photo from

Another rentable villa, the Dar Ayniwen -- food extra (photo from

Quite a magnificent setting at the Amanjena Hotel, where rooms go for an average of over $1000 per night.

La Sultana Marrakech (photo from I haven't decided if I like it yet...
...but, the one below is from the same hotel, and I know I like it. Look at that door!

(Photo from


Riad Hayati (photo from the hotel's website)

Someone said this one at the Villa des Orangers Hotel looks like it could be anywhere, but it has great doors, and the Out of Africa decor is appealing. (Photo from the hotel website.)

And talking about doors! This is the Baldaquin Suite at La Mamounia. (Photo from Expedia.)

A Couple of Bathrooms
(Photo from
One of the bathrooms at the villa, Riyad El Mezouar. Nice touch to have the water running for the photo.

(Photo from the hotel's website)
The Hagar bathroom at the Zamzam Riad. They incorporated a stylized version of Arabic design. I love the way those pendant chandeliers throw light against the ceiling and walls.

First Runner-Up from the Saturday-night tour: the Palais Sebban
The architecture at Palais Sebban is absolutely stunning in every direction. Having watched some videos on the hotel’s website, I’m convinced no photography can do it justice.

(Photo from

Palais Sebban cupola
(Peterhala photo on Flickr)

This shows, better than any photo I've seen, the levels of detail in the filigree.  My thanks to  Peter Hala for permission to include his photo.

I was not crazy about some of the rooms, but they’re all different, so there’s probably something for every taste. This was my favorite there, though I was quite entertained by the bordello-styled room (not shown here).

(Photo from

As I retired to my own comfy bed in Southern California, with this kaleidoscopic vision of sugar palms and magic carpets in my head, it was the images of one hotel in particular that eventually crowded out the rest. Ironically, it was the hotel that was ranked on Trip Advisor as #200 out of 391. It nonetheless had a user rating of 4 (based on only 7 reviews), but the review that wasn’t included in that was Conde Nast’s. They listed it on the Conde Nast Hot List Hotels 2009. A Conde Nast recommendation means something. The hotel was also a three-time winner of the World Hotel Awards.

My pick for Marrakech is the Anayela. As one reviewer said, they accomplish the impossible: “they are authentic and modern,” and the result is a jewel of a hotel. The AnaYela has only five rooms and suites in a 300-year old city palace. As transformation work began on the building, the discovery of a hidden love story which began, “Ana Yela” (“I am Yela") inspired part of the design. It was a story the 16-year old girl wrote on her wedding day. While over 100 Moroccancraftsmen were transforming the building to what it is today – making each piece of furniture, every lamp, and even the tableware – one of the most renowned calligraphers of Morocco hammered out the words of Yela’s love story in silver door panels, which appear chronologically in the hotel, like pages in a book. The hotel is a work of art.

(Photo from the hotel's website)

(Photo from

(Photo from

( photo)

(Photo from

Surprising as it was to my husband, it was the room below that attached itself to my imagination. It's a fresh interpretation, but is also wonderfully authentic. Notice the pattern in those ancient bricks, and the beamed ceiling. The inset bricks in the floor. And of course the rug is great. I’d love to see what the rest of the room is like. Wonder what's up those stairs on the left?
(Photo from Anayela website)

And this is the Anayela's crowning glory, the "Magic Carpet" on the roof.
(Photo from Anayela website.)

Somewhere along the journey, I departed from my mission, which was to pick my favorite accommodation and share it with you. In Marrakech, I was not equal to the task. In spite of my Saturday-night pick above, I was so taken by Moroccan design that I kept looking and looking; and even if it wasn’t a favorite when taken as a whole, I felt the need to share photos with you, which prodded me further still.

And then I found it.

Dar JL.

My very favorite photos of Dar JL were ones that didn't allow copying. But if you at all like what you see here, do yourself a favor and check out, click on The Dars, and have yourself an amazing tour. The going rate for Dar JL is 4,000. That’s not for a month or a week, that’s per night. And it’s not in dollars, it’s euros. But feel free to help yourself to a complimentary tour at the website. 
In the meantime, here are a few photos I could capture, to whet your appetite.

Dar JL

(Photo from

Dar JL
(Photo from

Dar JL
(Photo from

Though it isn't obvious from these photos, the stepping stones in the pool above lead through those tall doors to the bedroom below.
Dar JL
(Photo from

I also found other villas -- somewhat, to considerably, less costly -- that are also very lovely.
Riad Camilia
(Photo from

Riad Monica
(Photo from


  1. I ԁo not eѵen know how I еnded uρ
    hеrе, but I thought thіs post wаs gooԁ.
    I ԁon't know whо уou aгe but definitely уou'ге goіng to a famous blogger if you aren't alгеаdy ;) Chеerѕ!

    Fеel free to surf to my page - The Best Accommodations In Sydney

  2. If you are willing to visit Marrakech in group consider contacting
    The agency offers a huge catalog of luxury private villas all around the red city.