In my humble opinion, there are few places in the world as intoxicating, vibrant and stimulating to the senses than Marrakech. To first-time visitors, the sun-filled city is full of surprises; an azure sky punctuated by white-tipped Atlas mountains, the haunting Muezzin call to prayer, the pungent scent of spices piled high on market stalls – and some of the most decadent spas on the planet.
Opulent, extravagant and often stunningly designed, these really are the ultimate places in which to be nurtured. Combine a short break with a spa day at one of our favourite pamper palaces, and prepare to take both mind and body on an unforgettable sensory journey.
THE SENSUAL ONE: Spa by Terrake at Kenzi Menara Palace
Spa by Terrake is a valuable addition to the 5 star Kenzi Menara Palace Hotel, which is located in the red city overlooking the former ancient city walls. With over 1800 square metres, six treatment rooms and a hydrotherapy pool with resistance jets and underwater lighting, it’s the perfect place to relax or recharge. Personal touches such as orange robes and tasselled locker keys give the spa personality, while the treatment menu is comprehensive – a traditional Hammam experience, Turkish baths, wraps, scrubs and a menu of face and body massage rituals using Terrake products and inspired by the four sensorial universes, earth, water, plants and air. My blissful full body massage successfully transported me to a calmer, more peaceful place, despite the spa soundtrack being on a loop; managing to tune out initially, by the time I left it had embedded itself into my brain. The best thing? Keeping the spa vibe going in my peaceful room, just minutes from the treatment room.
THE STYLISH ONE: Le Spa at Four Seasons Resort
The Four Seasons is dripping with style, from the scent and sight of the wonderful roses that greet you upon arrival, to the homely sitting room with books that you will want to lose yourself in. The spa opened in the summer of 2011, and the USP is centred around herbs indigenous to Morocco, namely neroli, rosemary, argan and verbena. Each of the treatment rooms is named after said herbs, and soon to open is a fragrant garden which will nurture herbs that can then be used in drinks and treatments. Products used include Natura Bisse and Ila. In a treatment room that overlooked its own sweet little herb garden, I slipped out of my luxurious robe and indulged in the Four Seasons Massage of Morocco, which kicked off (pardon the pun) with a cleansing foot ritual to apparently get rid of negative energy. I haven’t a clue whether it succeeded, but it was deliciously soothing all the same. The therapist was very skilled and the massage left me feeling great, not too spaced out and ready to face the delights of Marrakech head on.
THE SERIOUS ONE: Espace Vitalite Chenot Spa at The Selman
First appearances can be deceptive – it may look like a tranquil nirvana, but the sultry, candlelit Chenot medi-spa at the incredibly easy-on-the-eye Selman hotel is all about results. At this intensely serene yet serious temple of wellbeing, the therapists are committed to total health and wellness – you can enjoy a one off detox, anti-ageing or slimming treatment, or a bespoke package tailored to your individual needs and which can be combined with a fitness programme. While it’s an amazing place in which to spend a few hours, if you’re looking to be pampered, this may not be your bag; my two -hour treatment prescription included a steaming hot hydro bath with colour changing lights, 20 minutes on a dry flotation bed, and a detox/relax massage which included cupping. The treatment was very intense and effective, and wiped me out for the rest of the day. With frequent trips to the bathroom, my body certainly felt as though it was detoxing, and I slept like a baby that night. However, my back looked as though it had been attacked by some kind of weird sucking animal, not the prettiest of sights but as I was flying home the following day, there was no need to worry about revealing my suckered flesh around the hotel pool.
THE STELLAR ONE: Le Spa at Royal Mansour
Le Spa at Royal Mansour is one of the most awe-inspiring spas I’ve ever set foot in, period. Slick, uber-luxurious and the only spa in the world to offer Chanel treatments and products, along with Maroc Maroc, Sisley, Dr Hauschka and Leonor Greyl, your first glimpse of what’s to come unfolds when you set eyes upon the jaw-dropping atrium. Blessed with space, light, a silence that’s almost eerie and facilities more than befitting of its high profile clientele, I can only describe this place as akin to an ant’s colony – there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes but you see nobody and hear nothing. My treatment took place in the light-filled VIP Couples Suite which was fully equipped with a sofa and even a TV, although catching up with BBC World News was the last thing on my mind. The Thai Ceremonial Massage included an application of the most divinely scented Maroc Maroc oil, a full body massage and some skilful arm and leg stretching courtesy of my serene therapist. Having rained all day, just as my treatment was finishing the sun came out. A definite Marrakech moment.
THE SUPERLATIVE ONE: Spa La Mamounia
Want to flex that plastic? Then check into the 5-star La Mamounia. The smell of oud that assaults your senses upon arrival at this iconic hotel is nothing less than addictive, and sets the scene for the equally lavish Spa La Mamounia, with its beautiful lighting and a hushed tranquility that makes you want to stick around all day. The amount of floor space given up to the spa is impressive – 27,000 square foot to be precise – so you never feel as though you’re being rushed. Inspired by a blend of Moroccan and Eastern culture, the philosophy of fusing the traditional with the modern is reflected in the products used – Shiseido, Maroc Maroc and La Ric. But where possible, ingredients are natural and indigenous, and include black soap, ghassoul (a mineral clay extracted in the Atlas mountains of Morocco), argan oil, rose water and scented orange water. With my return flight beckoning (damn you reality), I didn’t have time to experience a treatment, but the ambience alone was enough to diffuse my stress levels.