June 10, 2019
Marrakesh’s Hidden Gem: Riad Farnatchi
The city of Marrakesh has a pungent mix of smells from sweet cinnamon, fresh oranges, sticky honey, warm breads, bitter Arabic coffee, raw lamb meat, stray animals, dirt, and the nauseous mixture of pigeon excrement and camel hides that the Berbers use in the hot sun to prepare their famous leather.
If you want an exotic city break in the rough hustle of a nearby place, Marrakesh is your best bet. In the south-western town of Morocco in northern Africa, Marrakesh is a place where Arabs come to let loose and Europeans come to enjoy an affordable vacation with hotels and riads built for kings. The allure was the 28 degree sunshine in May since, most expectantly in London, the English summer was a blustery wet dribble.
I decided to take a break during Ramadan whilst local Muslims fasted and chanted their obligatory Salat prayers from the Quran which were heard echoing through the city every day.
The beauty of Marrakesh is in its architecture. With a history built by Berber farmers, Almoravids, sultans, Sufis, Kings, and north African trades people, the medina is a treasure trove of archaic sandstone passageways, mosaic walls, cobalt blue and burnt green tiled floors, speckled golden lanterns with flickering candles, beige and burnt red leather luggage cases, orange and yellow spices, colourful djellaba’s (unisex robes) and vendors selling brightly coloured ceramic bowls and gilded cups.
The medina is a hot winding marketplace of activity where locals will sell their wares. *** Be wary though of local hustlers who offer you their free guidance then take you into a back alley to press you for cash.
When we arrived in Marrakesh Menara Airport, we were picked up by a car organised by Riad Farnatchi. I would suggest you have your hotel arrange airport transfer to and from the hotel you are staying in as one can definitely get lost.
We arrived on a street filled with market stalls, multicoloured painted chicks, and stray kittens. The neglect and treatment of animals in Marrakesh is quite unsettling.
Our driver took our bags and we followed him through a few side streets into a small passageway which led to our doorway. Welcoming us at Riad Farnatchi was owner and Englishman James Wix who moved to Marrakesh with his wife 9 years ago to take over the charming boutique 10-bedroom hotel with spa, originally a collection of five small Riads that was painstakingly converted into the luxurious gem it is today under the eagle eye of award winning hotelier father Jonathan Wix.
Riad Farnatchi is lovely. With light courtyards, 10 gorgeous large bedrooms, a white marbled spa, a roof terrace and a 7m pool which looks more like a majestic Mosaic emerald fountain, it is a wonderful location to be in the midst of it all whilst getting away from it all.
As we entered the bedroom, we instantly felt at peace. It boasted modern fittings mixed with Moroccan paintings and rugs, air conditioning, a small open air terrace outside our bedroom, a large sunken bathtub, a walk-in waterfall shower, and a spacious living room with outside terrace overlooking the pool.
We decided to freshen up and explore the souks. The hot freshly-made bread is delicious and I would definitely recommend purchasing some Berber leather goods or ceramics whilst you’re here. After a fantastic day seeing the sights, we were ready to enjoy dinner at Riad Farnatchi’s new restaurant right across the entrance called Le Trou au Mur. A stylishly designed building, we walked to the rooftop garden for a gorgeous evening and the best dinner we had in Morocco!
With the dark night air littered with orange-flamed candles and the sound of chants in the background, it was a magical night. We dined on saddle of lamb Meshoui with chermoula and tomato sauce as well as traditional beef tangia and cous cous. Both dishes were hearty and delicious. We finished off our meal with a delectable Banoffee pie. The setting, service and food made it our favourite evening in Morocco thanks to their wonderful staff.
Another winner for us was the breakfast served poolside at the hotel in the morning. The Eggs Shakshuka was divine and so fresh! Tomatoes, peppers, cumin and paprika with an egg fried in the middle was served with a side of sausages, a warm selection of fresh breads and jams, freshly squeezed orange juice and hot black coffee with steamed milk.
After a morning of dining on a feast of delicious food, we walked across the second courtyard up the stairs into our spa treatment room for the Royal Hammam.
I understand now why hammam’s are not just a leisure activity but a necessity in Marrakesh. With the excitement of the city bustle also comes the filth engrossed in it all and to keep clean requires a thorough exfoliation treatment.
Riad Farnatchi’s Royal Hammam was gorgeous. It is described as a full body traditional scrub using exfoliating glove and black soap with essential oil of eucalyptus. It is followed by a mask of aromatic seven plant ghassoul. The hammam ends with a gentle beldi massage based on stretching and rinsing with rose water.
With a revitalising cleansing treatment on the doorstep of your exotic hideaway, Riad Farnatchi offers the wonderful service, food, and apartment-sized bedroom which makes it simply a gem in the heart of this wild city.
Special Offer: Riad Farnatchi are Brexit proofing their pricing & offering an exchange rate of 14Dhs to the GBP instead of the current 11.2 which would take a superior suite (3,800Dhs) from £339 to £271 (saving of £68 per night). They are offering a free Hammam Royal for two with bookings of three nights or more.
June / July offer – A 3 night stay at Riad Farnatchi is from £813 (based on two sharing a superior Suite on a b&b basis) plus a complimentary Royal Hammam for two in the Farnatchi Spa.
A: Riad Farnatchi, 2 Derb el Farnatchi, Qa’aat Benahid, 40000 Marrakech Medina, Maroc
T: 212 5 24 38 49 10/5 24 38 49 12
W: Riad Farnatchi /Farnatchi Spa / Le Trou au Mur
Written by Jessica Patterson for Luxuria Lifestyle International