Halfway across Jemaa El Fnaa, the square at the centre of Marrakech, Mrs Smith emits an ear-shredding shriek. She jabs her finger at a Moroccan gentlemen. ‘He’s waggling his snake at me,’ she sobs. Closer inspection reveals it to be a child’s toy. ‘Cheaper than Asda,’ purrs the vendor, smiling encouragingly. Well, why didn’t you say? Ten dirhams change hands.
Marrakechi street traders are obsessed by undercutting UK supermarkets. Everything is ‘cheaper than Asda’. By contrast, the city’s hoteliers have more in common with Harrods. This, after all, is the boutique-hotel capital of Africa. And one the brightest stars to join this constellation is the Murano Resort Marrakech, sister hotel to the stunning Murano Resort Paris. Situated in the Palmeraie (which is, as the name suggests, a large palmed area to the north of the city), Murano’s oriental-accented outpost is more of a chic country club than a hotel.
‘This is more like it,’ says Mrs Smith as we glide through the front gates in one of Murano’s fleet of courtesy cars. It gets better. As we’re checking in, a bellboy brings mint tea and traditional Moroccan sweetmeats. Yes, Mrs Smith. This is definitely more like it.
The hotel, or rather, resort, consists of four riads – traditional Moroccan houses arranged around a central courtyard – converted in this case into super-stylish suites. The walls are finished in tadelakt, the Arabic equivalent of polished concrete, but in terracotta tones, not flyover grey. As Mrs Smith and I enter our suite, there’s a pause, then an impressed nod. It’s nothing less than huge. It would has to be to accommodate the better-than-home bed, clothed in linen with the kind of threadcount that spells ‘luxury’ in six-foot-high letters and accompanied by pillows as soft as clouds.
The bathroom alone is as big as an entire room at most hotels in Paris. Meanwhile, the bathrobes are a cross between a Pierrot’s costume and a jilbab, the local garment similar to a monk’s habit complete with cowl. A bit like kaftans made of towelling with bright-scarlet cloth buttons up the front (red being the Murano’s signature colour), these are threads that instantly grant you a license to lounge.
Every room at the Murano Resort Marrakech has a fireplace, in front of which a shag-pile rug is positioned, one might suggest, romantically. All we had to do was ask at reception for it to be lit for us when the chambermaid did her evening turndown service – when visiting in chillier climes, this is a necessity rather than a mood-enhancer. Giving the wow-factor an extra boost is the view of the Atlas Mountains from the balcony – they’re snow-capped even in the summer. And an eyeful of that while luxuriating under our covers in flickering firelight, proves an absolute treat.
As for sunny days, each riad is treated to its own pool in addition to the central one. And at weekends, the latter turns into something not dissimilar to Wham!’s Club Tropicana video, with a DJ playing deep house from a booth located in the middle of the pool. It’s little wonder some of the guests never feel like venturing out, especially as the Murano Resort has both an excellent restaurant and a spa offering an extensive range of treatments. But if you’re staying for more than two days, it’s crazy not to explore, even though the Palmeraie is a good 20-minute taxi ride from Marrakech proper.
Having heard great things about it, Mrs Smith and I opt for the L’Abyssin restaurant at Palais Rhoul for dinner: traditional Moroccan food meets French haute cuisine in a sumptuous tent-like structure – the perfect place to indulge any Lawrence of Arabia-style fantasies. Be sure to have one of the specially blended teas to finish; we found them a decent therapeutic alternative to a treatment at Palais Rhoul’s spectacular spa.
No trip to this ancient city would be complete without venturing to the medina, the old town of Marrakech, to visit the souks. It’s a hot and dusty business all that haggling, so post-retail-rush-around we decamp to Les Bain des Marrakech, in the Kasbah, which proves to be the kind spa that sends her into paroxysms of joy. We skip the side-by-side baths made from black tadelakt, strewn with rose petals, and instead steam in the hammam, followed with an argan-oil massage. Wow. We’ve certainly never felt cleaner.
Fully freshened up, we head to Le Foundouk for our grand Moroccan finale. Named after an old Moroccan style of merchant hostel, it's popular with wealthy French expats, and it's a suitably special place to sup before catching our plane home. ‘I’d come back to Marrakech just to eat that again,’ announces Mrs Smith as she pops the last prune of her tagine d’agneau into her mouth. After a nightcap watching the light fade over the rooftops, a fez-topped fellow, cloaked in the ubiquitous jilbab, leads us by mediaeval lantern to a taxi home to pack up our bags at Murano.
As our Murano courtesy car speeds to the airport, Mrs Smith looks wistfully out of the window. ‘Would you come back?’, she sighs a slightly baleful expression that accompanies the end of every holiday. ‘An exotic Moroccan resort and men selling toy snakes “cheaper than Asda”?' I reply. 'Who on earth wouldn’t...’
Anonymously reviewed by Christopher Cottingham (Rock-star reporter)
Reviews of Murano Resort Marrakech from Smith members
Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…
My friend and I had a wonderful time at the Murano Resort. We were given the warmest welcome on our arrival by Slim and all the staff looked after us so well. It was lovely lying on our huge sun loungers by the red pool, listening to the music that was being played, and then retiring to the sofas under the olive trees for lunch. We cannot wait to return!
Sarah, BlackSmith stayed on 9 May 2012