Just returned from Marrakech after a 3 night stay at La Sultana with my wife and her parents. Situated in the bustling Kasbah area to the south of the medina, the hotel is just up a small alley off one of the busy streets. Once you enter through the large golden doors, the noise behind disappears.
The hotel is a combination of four riads merged into one hotel - with a maze of corridors and winding stairs leading off to increasingly opulent rooms. The attention to detail in every aspect and finish is incredible - and you can really see why the hotel has been used in countless magazines. Each of the suites has it's own theme and is almost worth a tour just to see the intricate designs alone. The hotel was vast - with a number of courtyards, one for the pool, another for a water garden, and another with a jacuzzi and above the spa. When we arrived we were greeted with an array of delicious pastries and a glass of mint tea.
My wife and I stayed in the spacious Crocodile junior suite - a stunningly red room with intricate carvings and a grand king-sized bed. The bathroom was also something else - with gold finishings, a marble bath and shower area. The windows of the room looked inward to the centre of the riad courtyard on the first floor.
My parents in law were lucky to be upgraded to the Hippopotamus suite, due to a problem with the air-conditioning in their first room. Situated over two floors, and with two balconies, it was simply incredible, again with its own themes and exotic finishing. The bathroom had two levels itself - with steps up to a stunning plunge-pool style jacuzzi. Air conditioning worked very well in both rooms, which was particularly crucial as our first day was 43 degrees...
On our first night we ate at the restaurant on the spacious roof terrace. The food was wonderful - sampling an assortment of delicious salads, harrira soup (definitely try this), along with varying tagine and cous-cous dishes, all of which were to a high standard. This was accompanied by live musicians in the corner, creating an incredible atmosphere.
One thing we did notice - and something you have to get used to - was that service was fairly slow everywhere (particularly evident in bars and restaurants). It was simply just that life was so much more relaxed there. It made us realise how ridiculously fast-paced our lifestyle is back home. This is most summed up when you take a taxi ride around the city. To say driving is erratic there is an understatement - nobody knew how to drive, or in fact where to drive, and so quite often cars would end up on the opposite side of the road, face to face with another. People don't drive quickly there though, so we only once saw an accident, which was a minor bump.
Just looking over the wall of the roof terrace in the early morning let us watch life unfold down below - with stalls selling fresh fish, fruit and pastries quickly appearing. The view from here was something else - a panorama all round Marrakech and to the Atlas mountains.
The city itself was a sensory overload, with a bombardment of sights, sounds and smells! We decided to book a local guide for a day and a half, which was a very wise investment - and he took us on a tour of the city, through the Kasbah, into the Saadian tombs, through alleys across town, past the Koutobia, the Djemaa el Fna and into the labyrinth of souks. We visited stores akin to Aladdin's Cave and into a grand carpet store (where we did feet tests on an array of rugs!). He was most helpful in the souks though - fending off over-eager sellers and beggars, and keeping an eye to make sure we weren't ripped off. Frankly though, all you need to say is a simple 'Non' and people get the message - nobody went too far, we never felt threatened (as some reviewers have said) and the people were friendlier than in the majority of European cities. In fact, the banter with sellers and at the Djemaa el Fna at night was part of the fun.
Anyway - I could go on for ages, so here's a list of recommendations:
- hotel - as above, it is very expensive, but quite simply the most exotic place we have ever stayed, with service and attention to detail to match. The spa is also incredible.
- Djemaa el Fna - a chaotic frenzy of activity and sensory overload you would be crazy to miss out on. Snake charmers and monkeys by day, endless food stalls and storytellers by night.
- Le Marrakchi - a restaurant on the side of the main square, and has wonderful food at reasonable prices, with the best view on the second floor - but be warned you should sit next to a window as it got very hot in there.
- Cafe de France - sit back with a fresh orange juice on the roof terrace. You will not get a better view in the city.
- Le Riad Monceau - a small riad with a small restaurant near to the square, the food was simple but nice.
- camel trekking - in the Palmeraie to the north of the city.
- Jardin Majorelle - beautiful gardens, with vibrant blue, restored by Yves Saint Laurent.
- Saadian Tombs - definitely worth a visit.
- souks - goes without saying - go when it's busiest in the morning!!
- food and drink. Fresh orange juice. Is amazing. Also, the food was wonderful - kefta (meatballs in a tomato sauce with an egg on top) was amazing, as was harira soup and also berber breads.
- mint tea. Best. Drink. Ever. We rarely felt the need for alcohol, and it was a blessing that few places served it. Why don't they make this drink more in England?
Bear in mind...
- it can be expensive in town, and try to remember the exchange rate when you are bartering (think how much you'd value the purchase back home). We had to bring someone down from 9000 dirhams to 1500 in one store for a some antiques. The same applies to taxis - agree the rate before you get in. Most times they will ask you for the price first, so go in way below your ideal amount.
- take sterling or Euros. You can change at La Sultana, and there are loads of ATMs around town, which we had to use. Many places didn't take card (despite guidebooks saying that most did...).
- be sensible. Although we had a guide, when we didn't, we just used common sense around town. In the souks and Djemaa el Fna, most people will try to stop you to engage in conversation before getting you to buy something. Watch for the Henna tattoo artists too - dont let them grab your hand!! A simple 'Non' does the trick. If you take a photo of a snake charmer expect to pay them.
If you want an oasis of calm to return to in the city, then I'd definitely recommend La Sultana. The location was perfect and we could not fault it. Ignore previous reviews - I cannot understand why this hotel is not nestled at the top of the list. Marrakech is a wonderful place with incredible people, and we will be going back.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Near the Royal Palaces, La Sultana is over a combination of 5 riads.Featured in Elle Decoration for its gorgeous interiors, this member of SLH is a stylish retreat set in flower-filled courtyards. Elegant and sophisticated, each of the individually decorated rooms and suites captures the essence of old Marrakech with vaulted ceilings, antiques and objects d’art. Guests can also enjoy the spa, an outdoor heated pool and a fantastic roof-top terrace. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- La Sultana Marrakech Hotel Marrakech
- Hotel La Sultana