It is easy to see why Yves Saint Laurent travelled to La Mamounia 60 years ago and by the end of the week had purchased a home in Marrakech. He and his partner eventually purchased Jardin Majorelle and returned annually to visit the beaches of Tangiers and the gardens of Marrakech.
The beauty and majesty of Marrakech will enchant and delight! You will at once be enveloped by the landscape….from the beauty of Jardin Majorelle to the warmth of the people and exquisite luxury of the hotel’s city properties and surrounding Kasbahs, it is a magical experience.
We were immediately transported back in time as we arrived at the opulent La Mamounia. The vibrant bougainvillaea danced gently in the breeze, while the classic Moroccan architecture was beautifully covered in a tapestry of intricate, jewel toned tiles. The bellmen dressed in traditional Moroccan garb guided us into the warmth and beauty of the elegant lobby.
Our concierge welcomed us with freshly made almond milk and succulent dates and ushered us up to our elegantly appointed suites. The traditional Moroccan décor and luxurious fabrics coupled beautifully with all the modern amenities.
The next morning it was hard to rouse from the lavish Frette linens to head down to Le Pavilion restaurant serving a sumptuous breakfast poolside. Although the sun shone brightly, there was a distinct winter chill in the air as we sipped the aromatic Moroccan tea.
Our guide met us promptly at 9am for our walking tour of the sites and sounds of the city.
Our first stop was the ancient Badia Palace. Sultan Al Mansour the “Golden King” designed the palace after the grand Moorish places of ancient southern Spain. At one time, Badia palace was the most extravagant of its time – with subterranean caves housing the Sultan’s ancient treasures and ramparts leading to the top of the palace walls with a 360 degree view of the city.
A leisurely walk took us quickly from the palace to the world famous Medina. It is easy to get lost in the maze of the Medina – so we marvelled at how deftly our guide led us through the labyrinth of ancient alleyways.
There is nothing that you can’t find in the Medina, from towering displays of local olives and spices, to the delicately woven gowns and iron goods.
After a few hours of exploring, we headed back to relax in the gardens of the hotel. The gardens of La Mamounia are an oasis for the soul. Hundreds of orange grove trees and an expansive vegetable garden surround a petite Pierre Herme café strategically situated in the centre of the garden- everything safely encased in a towering wall of trees.
The next day we took a drive through the countryside up into the Atlas Mountains. As we got closer to the Berber village of Ili we saw many young children winding their way down the mountainous roadside to get to school. Just as we began our hike, our guide stopped to introduce us to his beautiful wife and daughter – who was meeting up with a group of other Moms. Seems the mom network is strong in all corners of the world!
Our hike on the narrow pathway, over rocky streams and wooden bridges took us through the snowy mountainside up to the Kasbah, once there we relaxed outside on the rooftop terrace sipping Moroccan tea while basking in the winter sunshine, with a 360 degree view of the Atlas Mountains.
We hiked down past donkeys carrying tourists up the mountainside and returned to our awaiting driver. On our return trip to Marrakesh we saw local women, backs stacked with kindling, herding goats up the mountain. Our driver commented that women work the hardest in the community. In fact their day never ends – from maintaining the house to raising the children all while cooking, tending goats and gathering kindling throughout the day.
Halfway back to Marrakech we stopped at Sir Richard Branson’s magnificent Kasbah Tamadot. The elegant Moroccan retreat is filled with antiquities curated by the previous owner Luciano Tempo.
We enjoyed lunch outside in the crisp mountain air on the terrace overlooking the gardens of the Kasbah with olive groves dotting the landscape with a backdrop of the Atlas Mountains. The scent of exotic herbs and spices used to create the slow cooked vegetable, lamb and chicken tagine infused the air. The rich flavours delight your palate and the feathery light cous cous finishes the meal beautifully.
On our way back from the mountains we stopped in to visit Jardin Majorelle. Jardin Majorelle – covers 2.5 acres and incorporates over 300 varieties of plants, bubbling streams, pools and fountains. The original home owned by Majorelle was purchased by Yves Saint Laurent who, alongside his partner turned it into a Berber museum. The museum is a tribute to the art, literature and culture of a people they admired. The former house of YSL and Berge, Villa Oasis remains with its original design and décor but can only be seen on a private tour.
The last building that was completed in the garden is the YSL museum. The cultural centre was a labour of love built as a tribute to YSL by his partner Pierre Bergé. The building was completed just after Bergé’s death in September 2017. The centre houses a 130 seat auditorium bookshop research library and exhibition space – housing many of YSL’s creations. This mysterious garden is bordered by Rue Yves Saint Laurent, where you will discover a myriad of local designers and global brands.
Our final day was spent exploring the local streets and finishing our afternoon in the Hammam spa. An experience of extravagant pampering not to be missed!!
We were sad to say good bye to Marrakech but know we will be back again, as 3 days is just long enough to fall in love for a lifetime.