Elegant and beautiful. Mysterious and still. Oh, Resplendent Respite.
When I accepted an invitation to visit the Royal Mansour, I didn’t realize I’d be entering a sumptuous city handmade on command. King Mohammed VI commissioned over 1000 artists from Marrakech, Fez, Meknes and Essaouira to use the finest materials in crafting the showcase of Moroccan splendor which opened in 2010. Here guests are guided not to rooms but to fifty-three regal riads. With one to four bedrooms, the three-story mansions boast butlers and rooftop pools.
Hidden behind 13th century walls of the Marrakech medina, Royal Mansour was fashioned after medinas of all the imperial cities of Morocco with its courtyards, winding streets, and great gates. Cedar, metal and sculptured plaster construct an entrance like the famous “Bab el Khemis” (Thursday Gate) promising happiness, wealth and prosperity. Inside is North African, Spanish, and Portuguese traditional Moorish architecture.
Here every desire is anticipated. A straw for fresh-squeezed orange juice offered on a china tray from a white-gloved hand. A plush robe lifted from my shoulders, removed, then hung on a hook to prepare me for the hammam. As if with a sixth sense, staff appeared when needed and discreetly disappeared to allow me to roam the riad I shot and to relax for hours in the spa.
Most impressive, they protect the privacy of their guests. Unlike some in the service industry who use VIP labels to create a place “to see and be seen,” Royal Mansour offers a hidden haven for government officials, diplomats, celebrities. The large staff including 24-hour maid service, valets, and cleaners move surreptitiously through underground passageways so the world above is kept quiet. The goal is for guests to feel they are the only ones there unless they wish to interact in public areas, such as the restaurants under the supervision of Yannick Alléno. Last month the legendary Parisian chef won 3-stars in the 2015 Michelin Guide.
Alléno says his objective for La Grande Table Marocaine is “to give the Moroccan cuisine, already great by itself, a new dimension.” And of La Grande Table Française, under the same roof, he offers “a creative, structured, sensitive and modern cuisine. The menu was created in accordance with local raw materials using leading Moroccan products such as spider crab, Moroccan black truffles, lobster or veal.”
There are events open to the public. For those living in the city or staying elsewhere, they, too, can enjoy this gorgeous place for Easter brunch and an egg hunt, cooking classes, or a cigar party. See the schedule below.
A believer in Beauty Breaks, I spend weekends scouting places that soothe the soul. I was invited to visit three times (the first two I couldn’t photograph a riad because there wasn’t a vacant one). Touring, lingering at La Table for breakfast with a friend, and enjoying a hammam I was encouraged to play Monet and study my subject–a masterpiece–in morning, noon, and night light. Each time I entered, attentive, amiable staff members welcomed me. Each time I left every sense felt energized.
Birds, fountains, basins, and breezes. Hot marble. Cold marble. Steam rooms, cool pools and sheets.
Trees dripping olives, lemons, and pomegranates. Gardens of roses, gardenias, jasmine, and rosemary.
Follow me and experience Royal Mansour…