La Sultana Marrakech is an extraordinary hotel, tucked away down a quiet alley that feels a thousand miles away from the mopeds, rickety bikes, and street hawkers that make the city’s medina so famously vibrant.
It’s essentially five riads compiled into one hotel, with a maze of shadowy corridors and concealed rooms surrounding a beautiful series of central courtyards. Each riad has its own theme, but all pay homage to Morocco’s love of tiled walls and intricate design. I was staying in the colonially inspired African riad. Around a giant fern centrepiece, the building’s two floors were true to theme, replete with zebra skins, ebony furniture, and incredibly ornate arches. It’s nicely done, if a little imposing.
Above it all, there’s a sprawling roof terrace that features loads of sitting areas, dining tables, a bar, a billiard room, private sun loungers dotted around the periphery, and immaculate service from the fleet of charming hotel staff.
The hotel also has a beautiful spa, a cooking school to sharpen your understanding of Moroccan flavours, and (unusually for the medina) a fairly big swimming pool. While you wouldn’t come here specifically for the pool, it’s a nice addition.
I stayed in the ‘Elephant’ suite, which, as you might expect, was an elaborate ode to the great African pachyderm. Two enormous ivory tusks flanked the headboard of the massive bed, while miniature elephant carvings reared and stomped across the dark wood furniture. That—and an actual elephant could have stayed in the suite with room to spare. It’s absolutely huge. The bathroom is housed in its own wing, with a marble jacuzzi bath and a pair of gold his-and-her sinks.
The room is a cool, dark haven and perfect respite from the searing heat of Marrakech’s dusty roads. It’s probably a little too dark and ornate for my usual taste, but works well in the context. It also has a private balcony that overlooks the courtyard where dinner is served. I enjoyed being serenaded by the local ginbri—think Berber guitar—player’s music drifting up as I got dressed for the evening.
There isn’t a definitive restaurant in the hotel, as you might understand it. Rather, guests have a choice of several places to eat around the hotel. It makes it feel more like you’re being waited on in a private home, with guests perching sporadically around the hotel.
Breakfast is taken on a stone-clad balcony overlooking the intricate mosaics and etched marble of the Saadian Tombs 100 feet below. The food didn’t live up to what you would expect at this sort of place. The pastries and juices were nice enough, but the cooked breakfast had few redeeming features.
Lunch and dinner are served either in the courtyard alongside the hotel swimming pool or on the roof terrace. I would make the roof terrace your own, if it isn’t too baking hot. The food is a mix of local delicacies and more international fare, if you’ve ODed on tagine. And it’s good.
Eating out in Marrakech is quite hit and miss, but when you get it right, it’s a tantalising prospect. It’s all about the spices here, as you’ll see from the thousands of spice stalls. The best food I ate was at Le Jardin and Naranj. Nomad also serves decent grub, with amazing views across the medina from the roof-top terrace.
Who goes there?
A real mix of clientele. From über-cool young families and honeymooning couples, to the wealthy five-star nomads who use their retirement as an opportunity to hop from one luxury hotel to the next as they travel the world. French tourists, unsurprisingly, seemed to make up the majority of guests.
Out and about:
You can’t really do justice to what’s on offer in Marrakech in a few short paragraphs. It’s a hot, dusty, chaotic place that is a wonder in its own right. Once you’re used to grazing elbows with kamikaze moped riders, it’s well worth just wandering around. Getting lost in the snaking alleyways is an adventure in itself. The buzz and thrill of being out on the streets makes the sanctuaries you find off them all the more serene.
For culture vultures, La Sultana is in a peach of a location. Nestled into the south-east corner of the medina, it’s bang next door to the famous Saadian tombs and many of the medina’s main attractions—Jemaa El Fna square, the Royal Palaces and the Bahia Palace—are within walking distance. You should also consider a day trip to Beldi Country Club, which has become a popular outing to escape the unrelenting heat of the city. Wander through rose meadows, giant Kew-style conservatories, and sit around the two 35-metre-long pools, tiled midnight blue, before settling down for a long lunch.
The worst thing:
The cooked half of breakfast.
The best thing:
The sprawling roof terrace. It’s hard to beat a late afternoon on the hidden sun loungers, followed by sundowners at the bar.