Mystical Marrakech

Heidi Kemsley on 07 June 2010
Exotic & mystical, Marrakech sits on the plain at the foothills of the breathtakingly beautiful Atlas Mountains. Fashionable in the 1950's/1960's it is once again attracting the discerning traveller keen to explore its boutique riads, colourful souks and sophisticated restaurants serving some of the finest food in the world.

On my recent visit in June I was thrilled to be staying in the newly re-furbished and iconic La Mamounia - known fondly as 'The Grande Dame' of Marrakech. The hotel was famously once the home of Sir Winston Churchill for a while and General de Gaulle who took it over for his party's headquarters. Since the 1920's La Mamounia has hosted dignitaries and royalty alike and enjoyed a reputation as one of the worlds most exquisite hotels. The refurbishment took over 3yrs to complete and having witnessed the sheer opulence of the finest mosaics and rich furnishings it was easy to see why.

During my stay I visited many of the tiny Riads which offer an authentic and more intimate stay within the Medina walls, often with just a handful of eclectic rooms in each. Some are small and offer simply furnished rooms whereas others have small swimming-pools and perfumed gardens within the central courtyards, Hammam Spas and restaurants offering authentic Morrocan cuisine. One of the larger Riads Les Jardins de la Koutoubia has the most amazing large pool surrounded by pretty gardens and large comfortable sun loungers and secluded seating areas where you my take refreshing Mint Tea.

The highlight of my trip was a 1 and half hour drive up to the High Atlas Mountains to visit Kasbah de Toukbal which is accessible by either foot from the village of Asni or by mule for the last 30 mins. The view of the snow-capped Mount Toubkal from the Kasbah was breathtaking. It is in this mountain valley that Sir Richard Branson bought and opened his mountain hotel retreat that is Kasbah Tamadot, The Kasbah is set amongst spectacular scenery and scented gardens and offers a selection of superior accommodation including rooms with private pools and Berber Tented Suites with private deck and plunge pool. The meals here are a gastronomic delight. There is much to do in the Atlas Mountains from hiking, trekking and mule rides to hot air ballooning.