Having studied a fair amount of Latin, Greek and philosophy, I have learnt that, the pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil, as one famous ancient Roman once put it. This article makes no exception.
My family and I have visited the Royal Mansour during a very special trip to Morocco following my surprise engagement party in April 2015, and it has taken me months and a number of deleted drafts to come to complete this article. For I loathed to appear as a lunatic or related to the hotel by commerce or family thus rendering my text unfairly biased. I truly wanted to give a detached perspective on this incredible palace. Alas, in fact, I cannot. I have never been happier during a holiday and in general inside a hotel in my entire life. So I guess I will just go with my truth and invite discerning travellers to spend some time in this jasmine-scented, amazingly constructed, perfectly serviced palace.
The Royal Mansour has been converted from private royal residence into a hotel in 2010 after epic work. An impressive number of artisans (one thousand and four hundred of them per day) have worked on the project for almost four years. Different kinds of craftspeople, such as zellige (mosaics) and wood specialists, plaster sculptors and wrought iron technicians. Using materials such as marble, onyx, cedar wood, nickel, pink gold leaf, silver. Such effort is recognisable today just entering the hotel, as each meter one walks upon brings a surprise, a sensation, the feeling that everything here is precious and meant to be. The walk from the main entrance to each private Riad, a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard, from the Arabian term for garden "ryad", will grab a guest’s heart and wrap it in silk. There are more than fifty individually designed riads, each over three floors and comprising one to four bedrooms. The rooms are arranged around a central open-air courtyard with all ground floors featuring a living room, bar, lobby and an outdoor patio with private plunge pools. The larger ones also have galleries and dining rooms.
Sounds of birds and gently running water compose a melody that turns out to be unforgettable: we have fallen asleep to it, on our terrace, and we have gotten up to some strong sounds in our bedroom. We have stopped in the middle of our walk to the reception, surrounded by olive groves and palms, raising our noses up in search of those feathered animals you only see in ancient paradise illustrations. The heart of the SPA building is an impressive white wrought iron atrium, evoking an elaborate birds cage, and magnificent cages are to be found in the entrance courtyard, which symmetry recalls the gardens of the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
My career is in luxury rentals, since the early 2000's and I co-own two companies that manage prestigious villas in the Mediterranean area. As a teenager I have travelled, booking rooms for myself and, as an adult, renting villas for my family. I have always had a 'thing' for private properties rather than hotels and so my career has followed the steps of my passion. Those who not work in this business are not aware that people who rent luxury properties and those who instead prefer five- star hotels are generally profoundly different, both in their taste and their habits, and they rarely cross paths. This is because hotel service aims to be impeccable and speaks to a client who tends to keep the distance, probably a frequent traveller, somebody who loves the glamour of the top spot location as much as the possibility to order late night room service. Staying in and 'gathering' are generally not the focus of this type holiday. On the other hand, villa service offers a model of hospitality which is familiar, perfect to reunite people under the same roof, maybe with some minor flaws when it comes to service (the 24/7 service is not covered by the large majority of luxury properties worldwide) yet with an authentic take on cuisine, local culture as fundamental part of the experience and a homey atmosphere. The hotel offer is as attentive and detached whereas villa hospitality is intrinsically cuddly, even if in a professional way. However, the fact is I sincerely thought a place like Royal Mansour did not actually exist.
So, what if the highest standard of hotel service actually met the private, comfortable atmosphere of a deluxe villa?
The final synthesis, the best of both worlds we have found here in Marrakech at the Royal Mansour. We have actually ended rarely leaving our Riad and, although we have loved the city market and the walks of Marrakech, we have felt like getting out was almost a waste of our time, that we wanted to be inside our walled oasis, spending time together, enjoying such beauty as a family and as future husband and wife. This place is truly about devotion to customers and exclusivity: rarely we have felt so lucky and close to each other, so willing to spend time close to one other in such a fantastic environment.
We have felt relieved here.
We have also felt loved as customers, blessed by that kind of service that does not require an answer or continuous, responsive attention. We have been served like royals yet with no big parade about it. We have crashed in endless sleeps, like children, immediately, as a result of our instantaneous relaxation. We have been cuddled by the thought that whatever our staff was planning to clean, serve, bring, transfer, organise we would barely meet them and the job would always be perfectly delivered without even having to ask; we have after discovered that the gracious riad personnel uses different corridors and some underground tunnels connecting staff quarters to riads in order to be present without ever being intrusive.
We have of course dined at the Le Table, one of the two private restaurants of the palace, and used the SPA, a fine example of architecture and a place for extreme relaxation, and I would not know how else to put it, again, if not that we had an incredible meal and I got so relaxed during my facial treatment to have fallen asleep. The strong, round flavour of the Moorish cuisine experimented here under the supervision of Yannick Alléno, the famous Michelin three-star Parisian chef, has opened a new chapter in my own food taste book. The scents have permeated my nostrils for hours, days after our trip.
Above the rooftops of Marrakech, in front of the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, I have had the time of my life admiring the 3,5 hectares of walled property from the private terrace of my Riad, inhaling the amazing smell of jasmine as oxygen with open nostrils like when you outreach the top of a mountain, hoping that holy time would never end and that the fantastic Maghrebi mint tea would be poured for ever. I would count this place amongst the absolutely most beautiful of my entire life, and I have treasured every second of it. We will surely be back.