Tremendous terracotta palace turned hotel Selman – just outside Marrakech – offers glamorous guests a sprawling Henri Chenot spa, rooms with French designer flair (adroitly designed by architect Jacques Garcia), a palm-tree-flanked Olympic-size swimming pool and Arabian horse shows with 16 purebred horses. There’s been no expense spared in adorning this decadent destination hotel with skillfully crafted Moroccan trappings, but an art nouveau sensibility and an eye for detail ensure elegance trumps gilded gaudiness.
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A champagne cocktail and a guided tour of Selman's stables to see their herd of Arabian horses
Sixty, including five suites and five luxurious villas.
Noon, late check-out is available up to 6pm for 50 per cent of the room rate, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm, but flexible subject to availability.
Double rooms from £318.30 (€371), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.50 per person per night on check-out.
Breakfast isn’t usually included in the room rate; a Continental breakfast is MAD220 a guest and an American buffet is MAD320.
Selman's Arabian horses are their pride and joy – and they are handsome beasts to behold. The hotel has luxurious stables (also the work of Jacques Garcia) and five grassy paddocks where guests can watch the horses frolic. Alongside the show at Sunday brunch, it's possible to book a private show at breakfast or dinner.
At the hotel
Spa, paddocks, stables, landscaped gardens, gym (personal-training sessions available), library and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV and minibar. Villas have private heated swimming pools, a garden and a personal butler.
Our favourite rooms
With monochrome mosaic tiles, burnt siena-coloured furnishings and the Atlas Mountains framed in your window, the 120sq m Suite is one of the most regal in the hotel. Be sure to order breakfast in your room, sit on the low chairs by the window and watch the ponies prance in the show at the Andalusian Pavilion. If a suite stretches just beyond your budget, the Superior rooms showcase old-school glamour, with cream and aubergine colour schemes, mosaic-tiled bathrooms and discreetly hidden tech.
Three. The main 80-metre infinity pool – lined with Guatemalan marble – runs through a gauntlet of neat rows of palm trees and day-beds, with views of the tree-framed hotel and the landscaped grounds. The spa has two heated pools: one surrounded by white arches and a black day-bed filled gallery, and a 20sq m outdoor pool with a Jacuzzi.
The 1,200sq m Henri Chenot spa is theatrically decorated, with pierced metal chandeliers, oxblood and aubergine Zellige tiles and Majorelle blue doors, and a central heated pool. There are seven treatment rooms (including one for couples), four hydrotherapy rooms, plunge pool, hammam, gym, sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, hairdresser, barber and a boutique. Treatments include massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, and light therapy and mud wraps in the medi-spa. Specialist spa journeys run from three, to five, to seven days – an excellent excuse to top up the number of nights you're staying for.
You can’t ride the blue-blooded stallions on-site, but there’s plenty of horsing about on site. Pack some sturdy riding boots for saddling up, but don’t worry if you forget; the souks stock suitable attire.
The hotel has two ground-floor Deluxe Rooms suitable for disabled guests; however, public areas are not wheelchair accessible.
Dogs and cats under 3 kilogrammes can stay; beds and bowls are provided. Pets can stay in all room categories, but are not allowed in the restaurant or pool area. See more pet-friendly hotels in Marrakech.
There's a candy-coloured kids' club for 4–12 year olds. Baby cots and extra beds (free for under-4s, MAD600 for over-4s) can be added to all room types. Babysitting is MAD150 an hour and must be booked 24 hours in advance.
All ages are welcome and the hotel has plenty of child-friendly features.
The villas are the most private, with a heated pool and terrace where kids can play (watch novice swimmers); however, extra baby cots and beds can be added to all room types.
The heart-stealing kids' club has a packed activity programme, including arts and crafts workshops, horse-and-carriage rides and visits to Selman's stables – My Little Pony fans will have their tiny minds blown. Even adults might want to hang out in the club itself – the space is pastel-hued and decorated with delghtful Aladdin-esque touches. It's crammed with toys, games, stuffed animals, art equipment, and books, and it has a foosball table, slides and swings. Children, tweens and teens aged from four to 14 are welcome, and it's open every day from 9.30am to 5pm.
The hotel's main pool will keep kids splash happy, and it's supervised by a lifeguard.
The hotel has a handful of restaurants, so you're guaranteed to find something they like – Le Pavillion is a little more casual, so perhaps the best suited to family dining. The dedicated Little Horse Rider's Menu has simple pasta dishes, healthy salads and sandwiches.
Babysitting is MAD150 an hour, and at least two hours must be booked.
Spend summer lunchtimes sitting at the edge of the Pavilion restaurant to watch equestrian acrobatics. In the evening, get snug by the fireplace in Selman Restaurant.
Confident Versace-style va va voom. Zhuzh up your hair, brave your skintight white jeans and let Mr T be your jewellery spirit guide.
Le Selman Restaurant is a cavernous, charcoal-grey, Caliph-charming banquet hall with garden views and plenty of pageantry, with heavy purple drapes, gold fringing, chandeliers and plump padded banquettes. There’s a fireplace upstairs, outdoor seating on the terrace, and a suitably sophisticated menu to match the surroundings, with globally influenced fare such as truffled-artichoke soup; seared foie gras; roasted sea bass; saffron clams in a celeriac purée; and fragant pastries. The Pavilion Restaurant serves lighter Mediterranean fare in a Mousharabi-screen-shaded area of the garden, from which you can watch the Arabian horses – come on Sunday for a superlative brunch and the full-gallop horse show. An appetite-defeating breakfast spread has scrambled eggs, meats, cheeses, pastries, breads, fruit, juices, smoothies and tea and coffee, served in Selman restaurant or the Pavilion restaurant in warmer weather. Maximalist in its approach to both decor and dining, Assyl offers Ottoman-style opulence. The menu has traditional Morrocan fare, and Garcia has styled the space with dark woods and intricate Mousharabi screens; it's open from Tuesday to Saturday and guests are treated to live oriental dance performances and Andalusian music.
Three. Selman Bar is a dark-walled baroque den with mood-lightening myrtle-hued lamps, velvet drapes and button-back furnishings; a drape-disguised mezzanine level allows VIPs to party in peace. There’s also a bar at the Pavilion Restaurant and one in a linen-draped cabana by the main pool.
Selman Restaurant is open for breakfast 7am to 10.30am and dinner 7pm to 11pm. The Pavilion Restaurant is open for lunches and light suppers noon to 4.30pm. Assyl serves from 7pm.
A refined in-room menu is available 24 hours a day, whether you’re craving pancakes with strawberries for breakfast or monkfish tagine and orange-blossom île flottante for dinner. Coffee, tea, juice, wine, beer, champagne and cocktails can be ordered too.
Selman lies to the south of Marrakech, just outside the city walls. Sitting on a green six-hectare estate, the hotel emerges mirage-like from the surrounding desert sands. The Medina and Koutoubia mosque are a 15-minute drive away.
Marrakech Menara (http://marrakech.airport-authority.com) is 5km north of the hotel, a 10-minute drive away. Flights arrive direct from London Gatwick Airport and major European cities; flights across the Pacific connect via Hong Kong. The hotel can organise one-way transfers (for up to three guests), in a private car for MAD600.
If you’re travelling within Morocco, trains from Casablanca, Rabat, Fes and Tangiers arrive at Marrakech Railway Station – a 15-minute drive from Selman. The hotel can arrange one-way transfers for MAD300 (MAD600 if arriving after 11pm).
Driving in the centre of Marrakech can be an eye-opening experience, with honking cars, confused tourists and the odd stray donkey. However, you’ll need a car to reach the hotel and, once you’re outside the city, desert driving is a less chaotic affair. There are Avis car-hire booths at the airport and free valet parking on arrival.
Worth getting out of bed for
Set away from the city centre, Selman’s modus operandi is languid five-star pampering in palatial surrounds. The main pool has all the pomp of an aquatic catwalk, or there’s a cloistered plunge pool in the Henri Chenot spa – a 1,200sq m space with a hammam, gym and a range of treatments from sigh inducing massages to squeal-eking face peels. A tour of the scarlet-hued stables, is a must, and guests can watch the equestrian acrobatics of the majestic Arabian horses during brunch (see them in the paddocks at other times). Riding lessons aren’t available on these noble steeds, but the hotel can arrange unique classes, including a dressage lesson with horseback artist Sadek El Bahjaoui; a stretching session in the spa with one of the horses; and a pony circus tricks lesson for kids. There are a number of top-tier dressage and choreographed horse shows to see, too
The hotel’s perfectly placed to balance outdoor exploration with city sightseeing. Excursions include trips to Samanah Golf Course (+212 (0)524 483118), camel or horseback trekking on Essaouira beaches (a two-hour drive away), hot-air ballooning with Ciel D’Afrique (+212 (0)524 432843) and day trips into Imlil village and Ouirgane National Park for treks into the Atlas Mountains. Get down and dirty quad biking across the desert plains, or pinpoint the finest powder snow from a helicopter, then swoosh down it, in ski resort Oukaimeden (30 miles south of Marrakech).
In central Marrakech, dive into main square Djemaa El Fna’s souk for a colourful, whirl of trinket-stuffed stalls, vocal vendors, street performers and fragrant eateries; keep bewilderment at bay by asking the hotel to arrange a guide. Koutoubia Mosque (the tallest building in Marrakech) is close by and Majorelle Gardens (+212 (0)524 313047), an Yves Klein-aping blue and chartreuse-hued house with glorious gardens, and a petite but intriguing museum, is within walking distance; stop for mint tea, pastillas and cakes at the café. After dark the Casino de Marrakech (+212 (0)660 210806) encourages dissonantly lucky punters to part with their dirhams under neon lights – bring a game plan and your best James Bond impression.
There’s a dearth of dining in the hotel’s immediate surroundings – head into Marrakech for excellent eateries. Pepe Nero Restaurant (+212 (0)524 389067), a 12-minute drive north on Avenue Guemassa, serves Franco-Moroccan fare including sea bass with fennel in an attractive mosaic-tiled courtyard. Dar Rhizlane (+212 (0)524 421303) – a 10-minute drive away on Avenu Jnane El Harti – is an idyllic date-night destination, with tea-rose trimmed tables, gorgeous garden views and a menu of unique flavour combinations, such as lamb with pistachio and vanilla. Macaroons in rainbow hues, hand-made ice cream and artistically assembled gateaux can be found at 16 Café (+212 (0)243 39670) – close to Église des Saints-Martyrs, in the city centre – alongside an exhaustive salad selection. For after-hours fun, international nightclub Pacha (+212 (0)245 88400) diverges from its European counterparts with shisha pipes, bongo players and belly dancers – it’s also just a seven-minute taxi ride from the hotel.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have been dethroned from palatial Selman hotel in Marrakech, and unpacked their Henri Chenot potions and sand-dusted riding boots, a full account of their luxury break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Selman…
There’s a rags to riches, Aladdin-esque sense of having arrived as you pull up to Selman; one moment you’re trundling through the desert palm groves, the next, sleek white fillies are prancing about on verdant turf and a terracotta palace appears to have risen from the desert. However, on insouciantly sauntering over the threshold – a suitably elaborate colonnaded portico – you’re swept into an absinthe-fuelled fever dream of the Arabian Nights, even grander than the impressive façade. Here subtlety is eschewed for Franco-Moroccan opulence – velvet-swagged bar corners, malachite-lined hallways, intricate fretwork, Arabian horse portraits blown up to Godzilla proportions and liberal splashes of imperial purple.
In-room, chaise longues and plump pillow-garnished beds will make you feel equally ‘to the palace born’, but before slumbering slip into something flamboyant and sashay catwalk-style through chandelier-lit corridors to the 1,200sq m spa for a spot of grooming, before visiting the equally primped Arabian horses in the scarlet-hued stables – which rival guest rooms for style. Staying at Selman may inspire delusions of grandeur, but while there’s a volley of staff and spectacular surroundings to bolster them, why not give in and have another champagne flute brought to your day-bed?