Awaking all too early to the muezzin’s call, I slip back under a stack of pillows in my giant double bed. I’m staying at La Mamounia, just within the boundaries of Marrakech’s ancient medina, in a palatial suite fit for someone far more important than me. From my fragile state I perceive that last night may have featured a few too many drinks down the road at Comptoir Darna, where a sedate dinner soon morphed into a riot of bejewelled belly dancers, pounding DJ sets and colourful, nameless cocktails. A couple of hours in and we were ready for a change of scenery, which came in the shape of glitzy Lotus Club in Hivernage, where girls in barely-there dresses served up slim glasses of fizz in a club that looked more like the inside of a jewellery box than a late night drinking den. Come closing time, we were in need of a nightcap, so sauntered/stumbled back to the hotel’s opulent Bar Churchill, where we sank into rich red leather furnishings, listened to live jazz and sipped on expertly made old fashioneds well into the early hours.
Pulling on the fluffy slippers thoughtfully positioned by my bed, I wander through the ornate adjoining lounge and out onto our double balcony overlooking Mamounia’s sprawling 20-acre gardens. The sun is already beating down and I’m in need of a strong coffee so I pull on some clothes and join a few elegantly dressed guests down by the swimming pool for a vast breakfast buffet.
Thankfully, my plans for the day are suitably restorative. First on the agenda is a trip to the Beldi Country Club, on the outskirts of the city. Set within 14 hectares of olive groves, rose gardens and tranquil lily-padded ponds, Beldi sits in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains, a pure haven of tranquillity for tired travellers. I head straight to the hammam for a traditional Moroccan bath, followed by a relaxing hour’s massage. The perfect cure for the night before, I emerge preened, pampered and just hungry enough for a light lunch at the rustic poolside restaurant.
Saying goodbye to the peace and quiet of the country club, I decide it’s time to up the pace and spend an afternoon in the medina’s labyrinthine souks. I have shopping to do and there’s no better place to pick up a bargain than in this rabbit warren of shops and stalls. Trying not to get lost, I negotiate the narrow alleyways in search of trinkets to take home, and yet another Moroccan lamp, before taking a detour to visit newly opened Riad Sapphire, near Sidi bin Slimane in the heart of the medina. Here we stop for mint tea and Moroccan pastries up on the roof terrace and enjoy a gentle breeze for an hour or so before heading back out onto the busy streets.
Back at the hotel, we dress for dinner at Mamounia’s La Marocain; commonly considered one of the best restaurants in Marrakech. With such a moniker to live up to, expectations are high as we enter into an al fresco dining area decorated with fragrant flowers and low-lit with twinkling lanterns. Serving traditional Moroccan dishes transformed into elegant fine dining fare, the food is rich, complex and wonderfully decadent, especially when washed down with a few glasses of excellent wine from the encyclopaedic drinks menu. It’s getting late but there’s always time for one more drink so we wander over to elegant Bar Italien for a martini before bed. An hour later and I’m whizzing through the city in a taxi, in search of somewhere to dance.
Words by Katie Manning @kt_saramanning
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