The butler near curtseyed out of our palatial villa and Mrs Smith and I looked at each other, smiled the wide-eyed giddy grins of jackpot winners and then discretely high-fived. Then I went running wildly around the compound on fast-forward like Macaulay Culkin when he first realises he is home alone. Mrs Smith did not do this. Instead she popped the champagne, firing the cork into our private swimming pool which itself was surrounded by a mini lake (feng shui dictates that one huge cool pool is the yin to a smaller heated pool’s yang) in our private walled garden. We could have cavorted around completely in the nuddy if we’d wanted. And maybe we did. (We didn’t.)
There are five-star hotels and then there are five-star hotels. Palais Namaskar is a constellation of ridiculous luxury. It comprises 41 suites spread extensively across 12 acres of Balinese-inspired water gardens. Which is bit weird because it’s actually 20 minutes outside Marrakech, on a site that used to be a weekend crashpad for a member of the Kuwaiti royal family.
The place opened as a hotel in April 2012, and has since won a clutch of awards. It is a sister Oetker-managed property to Le Bristol in Paris and Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc where all the A-listers stay during Cannes Film Festival – which is to say, its parents are epically loaded. We were staying in one of six pool suites, but the three separate palaces – previously the Kuwaiti prince’s guest rooms – offer even swisher accommodation.
Check in here and experience how the other half-a-per-cent live. Guests can even commandeer a 14-seat Dassault Falcon private jet. We mulled it over but decided on balance not to remortgage our house. (As we tried to discreetly remove the easyJet tags from our luggage by pointing ‘look over there’ at a hammock slung between two towering palm trees.)
The palace is designed on a grand scale; everything is far bigger than it needs to be, as if built for giants. Or royalty. The beds by the pool could easily fit four private jetsetters, for example. Bespoke Murano glass chandeliers dangle from ceiling to floor. Dome roofs are painted gold. And why not? When in doubt, go for gold. I spent the entire first day Instagramming the bejesus out of everything until one of my friends back home in the London drizzle commented: ‘OK, enough now. #annoying.’ He had a point.
We dressed up for dinner for we correctly assumed that is what we should do. When we emerged from our villa the walkways that crisscrossed the shallow lakes had been candlelit with lanterns. Mrs Smith was wearing her highest heels and had had that bubbly and very nearly tottered into the water.
A central pavilion houses the hotel’s glamorous restaurant and main bar both of which were abuzz. Above, is the roof terrace bar where we sipped Cosmoroccans – mint-infused vodka with a twist of lemon and more vodka – and drank in panoramic views towards the glowing city of Marrakech in one direction beyond the stretch of desert, and the darkening silhouette of the Atlas Mountains in the other.
After the sun had finally set we took a table down below on the atmospherically lit terrace overlooking the hotel’s impressive main pool and listened to the soundtrack of thrumming wildlife and chillax beats. You can, if you so wish, have dinner anywhere on the estate – a picnic in the gardens, or on your own private patio, for example.
The chef, a protégé of Michelin man Alain Ducasse, is big on fusing French and Moroccan cuisines. Each dish was a work of fussy art – very pretty, very tasty, although not very warm. I had Moroccan salads followed by sea bass tagine and then the chef’s signature chocolate dome.
After dinner the mercury had predictably dropped so we summoned the butler to light the log fire in our sitting room and open that bottle of red for us. Then we discreetly pulled a curtain on the rest of the evening.
The following morning, to work off all the previous day’s excess and clean the slate for another onslaught of decadence, I felt I should do some exercise in the ludicrously well-equipped gym that rivalled a Bond villain’s lair. I bounded out the gym to see some staff harvesting the black olives from the orchard in the grounds. So I picked one from a tree and popped it in my mouth. My face caved in with the bitterness.
I returned, still wincing, to find Mrs Smith back from yoga and reading her Kindle in a hammock while waiting for her treatment in the hotel’s celebrated orange-blossom-fragranced Guerlain spa. Hey, life is tough. She had a manicure-pedicure while I pondered the entire array of treatments until choosing the same option I always go for: a massage. As back rubs go – and believe me, I’m now a connoisseur – this one was right up there with the best.
There’s plenty to do at Palais Namaskar – we just opted not to do any of it. The toughest decision we had to make was which pool to lie next to. However, the hotel’s bespoke ‘experience book’ offers everything from trekking in the High Atlas and desert sleepovers to guided tours of the medina to Moroccan cookery classes – if you can bear to leave the property. The only time we did was to drive the 20 minutes into Marrakech for dinner on the second night, chauffeured each way for free in a slick 4WD Merc, as arranged by our butler.
Palais Namaskar hotel and spa in Marrakech is undeniably soothing, perhaps thanks to the Parisian owner Philippe Soulier having ensured the Far East philosophy of feng shui guided every element. Landscaped to perfection, there’s a discreet nod to the five elements, fire, earth, metal, wood and water, whatever direction you look in. When planning its white-marble magnificence and elegant waterways of these private Palmeraie palaces, the Frenchman played architect and astrologer working in cahoots with renowned interior designer Imaad Rahmouni, the French-Algerian apprentice of Philippe Starck. Little wonder then that the suites and communal areas have been lavished with kilometres of custom-made soft furnishings and furnished with statement pieces such as Hermès-finished B&B Italia chairs.
Scrolling back through my Instagram photos, we really did have a brilliant couple of days of pure unadulterated bliss. If I were to sum up Palais Namaskar in two words, one of them would be a profanity and the next ‘opulent’.