Morocco: Town and Country

MARIE CLAIRE TRAVEL

Morocco: Town and Country

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Arriving at dusk, we?re greeted by wood fires and champagne by torchlight around a petal-filled pool. It?s easy to feel special at the Kasbah Tamadot. Perched on the lower slopes of the High Atlas Mountains, the buzz and lights of Marrakech are just specks on the horizon and you can totally switch off from modern living.

The Kasbah Tamadot is one of the super-luxe properties in Richard Branson?s Virgin Limited portfolio, which also includes Necker Island, a ski lodge in Verbier, Ulusaba game reserve, a safari camp in Kenya and Makepiece Island off the coast of Australia.

From the private Berber tented suites (complete with colonial-style binoculars, sun hats and handmade leather slippers) to the gloriously gluttonous in-room dining (breakfast tagine, anyone? Four course lunch? Oh, go on then?), we are spoilt rotten.

Branson?s Moroccan retreat has just 27 bedrooms, which means that every guest is greeted by name wherever they go by the 120 strong staff – all employed from the local area.

Riad El Fenn in the heart of Marrakech. She first bought the house in 2002 with the idea of creating a space that had all the comfort and luxuries of a modern hotel but with the laid-back feel of a riad town house. Over the years, she bought up adjoining houses and connected them with secret passages and doorways. The result is a cool rabbit warren of courtyards, balconies and terraces, with interesting design touches at every turn.

There?s an impressive contemporary art collection, including pieces by Bridget Riley and Antony Gormley ? not that any of the guests here seem to take any notice of it. If the clientele at Kasbah Tamadot was old school, the hipsters at Riad El Fenn are effortlessly, enviously cool.

Feeling as though we need to drop a couple of stone and get an asymmetrical haircut, pronto, we?re shown to our room. Though calling it a ?room? is like calling the souk ?a bit busy?. The place is vast. Bigger than our entire flat back home and split across three levels with a mezzanine, a private roof terrace and a plunge pool. Everything has Vanessa?s creative flair running through it ? from the leather-tiled floors to the tadelakt open bath and the sheet metal bathroom surfaces. It?s like the love child of Grand Designs and Wallpaper magazine and husband is in heaven.

Bags dropped, we head for the souk. The labyrinth of sellers and tourists and motorbikes whizzing through narrow alleyways of Marrakech?s vast market square is not for the faint hearted. We get lost. A lot. But once we?ve bartered a bit and managed to purchase a leather bag that has no conceivable use (other than to remind us what terrible hagglers we are), we feel a great sense of achievement ? we?ve made it out! In one piece!

www.kasbahtamadot.virgin.com for details.

At Riad El Fenn, prices start from £220 per room in low season, visitwww.riadelfenn.com for details.

Helen Russell

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Posted on June 6, 2012, in Morocco News, Visit Morocco and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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