The Saadian sultan that built Marrakech’s gloriously extravagant Ben Youssef college set the bar high for Arabic-Andalucian design. And then luxury hotel The Oberoi, Marrakech came along and one-upped him, recreating the college’s iconic zellige-lined courtyard and adding a spa set on its own island, butler-attended rooms and villas, and private-jet excursions over the Agafay Desert. Plus, it has the monopoly on romantic Atlas Mountain views. But behind the dazzle, there’s warm service and dedicated family spoiling, too, making you feel right at home in this palatial pad.
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Early check-in, late check-out (may be subject to availability) and a bottle of wine; GoldSmiths staying two nights also get one hammam session for two
84, including 72 villas with private pools, and just one each of the Royal Suite and Royal Villa.
Noon, but if you request late check-out before arrival, you can stay till 6pm for 50 per cent of the room rate. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £471.21 (MAD5,839), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of MAD49.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates don’t usually include à la carte breakfast (from MAD350 a person).
The hotel’s set on the site of a former farm, and it’s kept the citrus and olive groves for its 28-acre gardens. They make for romantic wanderings with the addition of fountains and flowerbeds.
At the hotel
Round-the-clock butler service; spa with hammam, sauna, beauty salon and hairdressers; fitness room and yoga studio; tennis court; library; kids’ club; laundry; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: smart TV, minibar, Nespresso coffee machine, tea-making kit, free bottled water, air-conditioning, Anne Semonin bath products. Suites and villas have a heated private pool, too.
Our favourite rooms
A pool of one’s own is the dream here, and it’s easily achieved; book a Deluxe Villa to dive into a – surprisingly sizeable – glossy blue stretch of water, before kicking back on a sunlounger-lined terrace. Indoors is just as magical, with handpainted zellige and artisan-sculpted panels, tasteful gold-hued furnishings and a huge bathroom with a peekaboo, pool-facing window. For families and couples feeling flush, the Presidential Villas are very accommodating at 158sq m, with the option to interconnect a room.
There are two: a 30-metre, rectangle-cut topaz of a pool outdoors, that’s safe for all ages and flanked by palms and sunloungers; and the spa has a 20-metre indoor pool (also family friendly, but a touch calmer). Both are temperature-controlled and open from 8am to 6pm in winter, 8am to 8pm in summer. Or if you want complete privacy and to swim in your pool as you please, book a suite or villa for your own secluded swimming spot.
To ensure the Oberoi Spa is as serene as can be, it sits on an island amid olive and citrus groves. From 9am to 9pm, staff with pitch-perfect pressure tailor Moroccan treatments to suit each guest, using botanical Alqvimia products. Naturally, there’s a hammam, plus a sauna, hairdressers and beauty salon. And, those seeking a more spiritual reboot can consult with the hotel’s ayurvedic doctor. There’s also a fitness room with equipment for cardio, weights and resistance training (open 6am to 11pm); but, to get your body moving in the most unique of ways, try one of the Oberoi’s many classes: from aquatic HIIT sessions to morning runs with the general manager.
Pack for all occasions: the Oberoi offers guests so much that between sunrise and sunset you might move from mountain trekking to yoga to poolside cocktails. So, athleisure, bikinis, tailoring, kaftans…
With lifts to rooms, accessible bathrooms in villas and golf carts for ferrying people about the estate, the hotel is very accommodating to guests with mobility issues.
All ages are welcome. Up to two children aged eight and under (or one child aged eight to 12) can stay in their parents’ room free, but only one extra bed or baby cot can be added. A separate room must be booked for any children over 12.
Babes and juniors.
The Presidential Villas can interconnect. Up to two children aged eight and under (or one child aged eight to 12) can stay in their parents’ room free, but only one extra bed or baby cot can be added. Children over 12 require a separate room.
The kids’ play room has a range of toys, books, DVDs and craft materials; older kids (eight and above) can take tennis lessons, play foosball or borrow a bicycle.
Both the hotel’s pools are safe for kids, but it’s best to leave the spa one to meditating (or FloatFit-practising) adults. The long outdoor pool has Roman steps and a lifeguard on duty.
Under-threes dine free; three to 12 year olds get 50 per cent off their meals. There’s baby food and a special menu for kids with healthy picks (poached Norwegian salmon, mini mozzarella and tomato salad, minced-beef parmentier), but the chef is happy to tweak dishes to little Smiths’ likings. There are highchairs, special cutlery, bibs and colouring sets, too.
Babysitting is available for MAD200 an hour (one day’s notice is needed).
No need to pack
The hotel is very well-equipped, with baby bedlinen, changing mats, potties, soft toys and board books.
Whether you’re schooled in ancient Arabic architecture or not, you’ll appreciate the tables at Siniman that overlook the intricately crafted courtyard, inspired by the Ben Youssef school.
Dress as decoratively as the hotel’s zellige’d halls.
There are three restaurants at the hotel. Siniman is the dress-up-for showpiece, with scarlet chairs, black-and-white tiled walls and elaborate chandeliers. Its suppliers are staunchly local, sometimes as local as the hotel garden; its Moroccan feasts, delicious. Try the harira soup, preserved-lemon-marinated sardines from Essaouira and one of the many tagines. Tamint is more international, with Mediterranean flavours; the chefs, nabbed from the Oberoi’s Indian properties, have added a little subcontinental spice too – try the kulfi for dessert. Breakfast is served here. And poolside Azur, which overlooks the garden’s Grand Canal-style water feature and citrus and olive trees, is a more casual affair with salads, sandwiches and light mains like lamb brochettes and grilled prawns.
Don’t prop up the bar at Vue – no, order a ras-el-hanout Julep and a date and sesame Old Fashioned (or wine and a single malt, if you prefer) and take them out to the terrace. Lantern-lit and peaceful, it’s privy to a breathtaking panorama of the Atlas Mountains. And, if you feel like you need something (even) more to make the moment land, the bar sells cigars, too.
Take breakfast in Tamimt from 6.30am–10.30am, and dinner from 6pm–10.30pm. Siniman serves from 6.30pm to 10.30pm (except on Mondays); Azur opens from 11am–10.30pm, while Vue pours drinks from noon to midnight.
Peckish but lost to lounging in your room? A menu of cheese and charcuterie platters, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas – and cocktails as needed – can be ordered round-the-clock.
The hotel is set in a former farm to the east of Marrakech, away from the bustle of the Medina. It’s further out from the centre, but peaceful with added Atlas Mountain panoramas.
Fly to Marrakech Menara Airport, just a 30-minute drive from the hotel; private transfers to and from the hotel can be arranged for MAD550 each way.
It’s easy to get around Marrakech on foot; however the hotel lies just outside the city, towards the Atlas Mountains, so – if you don’t want to secure a private driver or rely on taxis – a car may come in handy for going to and fro. Plus, with wheels at your disposal, you can cruise along to the wilder parts outside the city, into the mountains, over to Essaouira and beyond. There’s free valet parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Settle in, because the hotel could easily entertain you for the whole stay without you setting foot in the Medina. The spa has all manner of wellness-encouraging treatments, plus a hammam and sauna – and even its own ayurvedic doctor to administer ancient healing practices. A beauty salon and hairdressers add the finishing touches. If that doesn’t get your heart racing, the top-to-toe-working array of fitness classes definitely will. Try cardio boxing, CrossFit sessions, circuit training, muscle-reinforcement work-outs, sunrise yoga and FloatFit’s water-based ‘balance’ and HIIT classes. And, the general manager will happily lead guests in a morning run.
Take tennis lessons (age eight and up), turn over a few leaves in the library or play backgammon or chess in the bar. Tidy up your tagine-making skills with cookery lessons or get your butler to sort out dinner for you by setting up a private barbecue and a wine-tasting session for two. If you’ve arrived with little Smiths, they’ll be more than happy to hang out in the kids’ club, run wild in the grounds or splash about in the outdoor pool (a lifeguard will keep an eye on them).
But, one should venture beyond the palace walls for breakfast in a hot-air balloon, perhaps, or schooling in falconry, or maybe even a scenic private-jet ride over the Agafay Desert or the Kik Plateau; there are tours by camel and treks, too, with cocktails and a nomad-style lunch. If you’re heading into the city, ask to see the ancient Medina from a vintage sidecar, or have a local help you haggle in the souk and negotiate the crowds in Djemaa el Fna. Don’t miss the Jardin Majorelle (chased with a visit to the Yves Saint Laurent Museum), and the fascinating modern pieces at the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden.
You’re most likely to dine at the hotel; after all, it’s on the outskirts of Marrakech, it has three restaurants to divide your time between and you’ll get comfy in the lap of luxury. But, there are culinary hotspots worth seeking out. We like La Famille (34 Derb Jdid), which serves up colourful bowls of fresh salad, flatbreads and other veggie treats in a flower-bedecked courtyard. Al Fassia, a beautifully dressed space, has an all-women team in the kitchen whipping up seriously delicious dishes, including their signature aubergine caviar. Plus61 is more modern, serving Australian-Mediterranean fare; the bread, pasta, cheese and yoghurt are made in-house, and the rest is sourced from local farms.
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 returned from this palatial hotel in Morocco and unpacked their babouches and unrolled their Berber carpet, a full account of their decadent Atlas-gazing getaway will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Oberoi, just outside Marrakech…
The unstoppable Indian Oberoi Group are prolific builders of modern palaces; they’ve made pit-stops in Indonesia, the UAE, Egypt and Mauritius, leaving a trail of high-glamour stays in their wake, and now they’ve arrived in Morocco to glow up its hotel scene with the Oberoi, Marrakech. Some may baulk at attempting to emulate one of Marrakech’s greatest architectural treasures – the 16th-century Ben Youssef Islamic college – but with a horde of artisans painting zellige, carving plasterwork and crafting mashrabiya screens, the Oberoi has captured the Andalucian-Marrakchi look of its lavishly ornamented courtyard, plus sizeable rooms, suites and villas (most with private pools) around it.
The group’s ambition is evident beyond the stay’s beauty – the spa resides on its own island, gourmands can sample local-and-beyond delights in three restaurants, butlers attend to each room and drinks on the terrace have privileged panoramic views of the Atlas Mountains. And, the olive and citrus groves from the site’s former farm add a restful rustic feel. Marrakech’s souks, museums and gardens are a 20-minute taxi ride away, but the hotel will keep you entertained. Take cooling laps in the two pools, get active with some hard-hitting exercise classes or simply lounge around in the library; or take things up a notch with, say, a private-jet trip over the Agafay Desert, a camel ride to a nomad-style lunch or a vintage-sidecar tour. If they keep pulling out all the stops like this, long may the Oberoi’s reign continue.