Royal Mansour hotel review – a family friendly hotel in Morocco
On our way to the Royal Mansour in Marrakech, my husband warned, “I think we should be prepared for it not to live up to expectations.”
We had been dreaming about our weekend getaway at the hotel, commissioned and built to the exacting standards of the King of Morocco himself, long before we boarded the three-hour flight from Gatwick.
It was a quick getaway from the UK, making it the ideal location for a short break, especially after a night at the Courtyard by Marriott, which made it easy to catch an early flight.
Our hopes for the five-star retreat described as the place where the billionaires go to get away from the millionaires were high, unrealistic even.
As newbies to North Africa, would we be disappointed by the Royal Mansour, whose guests have included celebrities, sports stars and world politicians?
The first sign – literally – on landing was good when a member of the VIP airport service staff greeted us with a placard bearing the hotel’s name.
We were then whisked past the border control queues and into the back of an air-conditioned Mercedes S600 for the ten-minute drive to our home for the next few days.
Situated inside the walls of the Medina, Marrakech’s old town, there are no rooms here.
Instead, guests stay in one of 53 riads – the name for traditional Moroccan houses with interior courtyards.
These are dotted around peaceful gardens, where the scent of orange blossom fills the air and the sun beats down on the red sandstone walls of the Royal Mansour, built in the same shade as the earliest constructions in the city.
Ours had two bedrooms and three storeys, including a rooftop terrace with plunge pool.
These are the facts. What’s harder to describe is the sheer wonder of the place.
Like every piece of architecture at the Royal Mansour, it was a spectacular celebration of the best of Moroccan design.
There was filigree plaster, carved wooden doors, intricately decorated ceilings and mosaic floors.
The furniture was sumptuous, with a gentle bubbling fountain in the centre of it all and thick bunches of freshly cut roses to welcome us.
On the second floor was a bedroom for my husband and me and one for our very lucky six-year-old son, each with a huge marble- clad en suite.
“Guests think we have been here for decades,” said Royal Mansour’s Jean-Claude Messant, who has worked for 30 years as a director among the world’s most remarkable luxury hotels.
In fact, it opened in 2010 but looks like an ancient haven of luxury, with 100-year-old olive-trees, winding pathways and leafy courtyards.
Showing us round our slice of the 3.5-hectare estate was Said, our personal butler, who, like the rest of the service staff, could discreetly access the riad from a series of underground tunnels.
Said was as unfalteringly cheerful as his name, which means “happy”, suggests. He told us it was a special time for the country as our visit coincided with Ramadan.
With not even a sip of water generally allowed during daylight hours and with temperatures reaching more than 40 degrees, this made the impeccable standards from all those observing the holy month of fasting and working at the Royal Mansour even more impressive.
This was especially evident when my husband and I visited the Royal Mansour Spa – yet another stunning space – for a hammam, a traditional ritual where you are scrubbed and cleansed with some vigour until your skin is left silky smooth.
We also took the opportunity to enjoy the Le Ftour one evening – the meal taken on breaking fast, which began when the call from the nearby mosque was heard at 7.45pm.
It was a unique experience that gave us an insight into Moroccan culture. Equally fascinating was a look behind the scenes at how the Royal Mansour operates.
We were treated to a cooking lesson with head pastry chef Florent Margaillan.
The Frenchman, an award winner whose creations can be enjoyed daily from the Royal Mansour’s amazing pastry range, he allowed us into one of the kitchens to show us how to make one of his desserts.
Like everyone we met at the Royal Mansour, he was particularly welcoming of our boy, encouraging him to taste, mix and get involved.
In fact, our son had already been invited “backstage” to see where our delicious food was being created earlier in our visit.
He even got to follow Marc Lahoreau, chef at the hotel’s French restaurant, La Grande Table Française, to inspect the day’s arrival of fresh seafood with him.
After a brilliant morning with Florent, we got to taste the results of our efforts – a beautiful coconut sorbet – after lunch.
A few laps of the pool in the afternoon ensured we had an appetite again after our indulgent treat for the Royal Mansour’s Moroccan restaurant, La Grande Table Marocaine, that evening.
After a magical aperitif served under the stars in the Royal Mansour’s main terrace, we sampled the delights of three Michelin- star chef Yannick Alléno’s menu.
It was a truly atmospheric evening that was as much about the food as the setting.
Our hands were washed at the table in rose water before we ate – a Moroccan ritual – and there was music being gently played by a guitarist.
The food was outstanding, as was the Moroccan wine selected for us.
The next morning, we went out to explore more of our surroundings with a horse-and- carriage tour with private guide Jamal.
He was extremely knowledgeable and showed us the Bahia Palace, where the powerful Abu Ahmed lived in great opulence with wives and concubines.
Then it was on to the Saadian Tombs, where in death a sultan is surrounded by opulence in the form of solid gold and Italian marble.
Before heading back to the hotel, we couldn’t miss the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square, home to snake charmers, monkeys, camels, henna artists and stalls, and the neighbouring souk, where we were talked into buying a Moroccan rug.
“It’s a magic carpet for him”, said the seller, pointing at our boy.
It now lies next to his bed and if we stand on it and wish hard enough, perhaps it might fly us back to another wonderful stay at the Royal Mansour.
The McMath family travelled to the Royal Mansour in association with East Yorkshire-based VIP Worldwide, a leading film production, public relations and social media marketing agency for luxury hotels and resorts.
Two nights’ stay for two people in a superior one-bedroom riad with daily breakfast, fast-track service upon arrival and departure at Marrakech Airport, private transfers, one dinner at La Grande Table Marocaine and one hammam per person from about £1,500. Offer valid for stays between September 10 to December 20, 2016.
Hotel with parking at Gatwick Airport courtesy of HolidayExtras.
Example price: £107 for a double room, with one night’s stay and eight days’ parking at the Arora Hotel close to Gatwick Airport, transfers included. Price searched on June 16 for a stay on July 16, 2016. To book, visit HolidayExtras or call 0800 1313777.