From riads offering quiet seclusion, to luxury hotels with remarkable levels of service, historic Marrakech has havens to suit all tastes so we check out two different properties. The first boutique riad Almaha Marrakech
Baudelaire’s poem Invitation to the Voyage inspired the design of Almaha Marrakech, an alluring small hotel in the red city’s Kasbah. The poem is an illuminating choice since this opulent retreat delivers on the poet’s vision of an enclosed paradise – the place oozes style, tranquillity and comfort.
Belgian architect Charles Kaisin has transformed this collection of old buildings on the site of the former royal stables into a 14-suite riad tucked away from the frenetic streets of the Moroccan city’s oldest neighbourhood.
Enter through a huge wooden door on a quiet derb (alley) and the striking design soon emerges – traditional craft skills blend harmoniously with contemporary flourishes.
Walk into the Pixel Room – at one end of a central courtyard – and you’re dazzled by an interior covered in diamond-shaped silk cushions overlaid with pixelated images of scenes from the city’s Jemaa el Fna square.
At the opposite end, the library houses more than 1,000 books celebrating French literature – the pages of each title folded to reveal a letter on the fore edge which, when linked together, spell out Baudelaire’s dream-like verse.
The seductive appeal continues in the spacious suites; behind cedar doors you’ll find decorative stucco plasterwork, huge beds with colourful throws, lush carpets, ornate lanterns, and distinctive metal and leatherwork.
Most have private roof terraces from which you can gaze at the Koutoubia mosque’s soaring minaret and, in the distance, the snow-capped Atlas mountains. Stairs lead to a subterranean hammam (steam room) lined with mosaic-patterned tiling, offering treatments that could help even the most jaded urbanite de-stress.
Indeed, relaxation and good food are key ingredients of this experience. Breakfasts are delicious: pancakes, traditional breads, honey, yoghurt, fresh fruit and coffee arrive on large platters inside the Pixel Room.
In late afternoon refreshing mint tea and scrumptious home-made biscuits are served around the courtyard (water-filled and illuminated at dusk), while dinner in the Library is a feast – tagines of lamb, beef or chicken with locally grown vegetables and followed by exquisite traditional desserts.
Although it’s hard to leave the riad, you’ll want to explore this vibrant city, ideally with a local guide to steer you beyond the well-trodden paths.
The Jemaa el Fna still enthrals, with its Berber musicians, snake charmers, magicians and food sellers, but a tour of the lesser-known Mellah – the atmospheric Jewish quarter – is just as stimulating.
Meanwhile, in the northern medina, La Maison de la Photographie is also worth a visit, displaying a wealth of vintage prints showcasing the diversity of Moroccan life.
The city’s dining scene has never been better, but two restaurants stand out: romantic Le Tobsil, where the food is indulgent, and Al Fassia, whose female chefs serve equally appetising dishes at two locations.
Back behind the walls of Almaha Marrakech you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep – the true test of any restorative break. The attention to detail and friendly, informal atmosphere make it the perfect spot to recharge over a long weekend. And as Baudelaire promised, “luxury, peace and pleasure” are assured.
British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and Royal Air Maroc fly to Marrakech.
Suites, breakfast, mint tea and pastries at the Almaha Marrakech cost from €310 (£285) per room, per night. Airport transfers included.