Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO: Marrakech, PART 2 La Sultana

The very soul of exotic Marrakech is the Kasbah. It’s a blast of energy as men on bikes or donkey carts and women in gandoras and hijab push though narrow streets among aromatic spice stalls and buckets of luminous pink washing powder. Berber teapots, gauzy cloth…not for tourists but for the locals.

Right here in the Kasbah stands the Select Collection hotel La Sultana, turreted like a fortress, embracing luxury, peace and authentic Moroccan style. Another world. A retreat with fine dining, heated pool, spa with three hammams, body and beauty treatments, and sizable Jacuzzi. Just the place to recover after a day in the souks. We were offered a hammam, body peeling and massage experience – amazing. Ended up supple and silky, dazed and delirious with pleasure. Hard to go out after that.

Rooftop peaceful comfort

From La Sultana rooftop garden you overlook the Kasbah mosque, which five times a day calls the faithful to salah. On the other side of the rooftop you can actually see into a Kasbah souk where most of the women are in traditional dress and many still wear niqab, with only their eyes showing. Amazing and inspiring. The world is not all the same yet.

In your privileged place on the rooftop at La Sultana are bright flowering plants, comfy chairs, a bar, and the rooftop restaurant where you eat breakfast and lunch in view of the beautiful mosque and the Saadian tombs of former kings. There is also a plunge pool and comfortable sun beds, empty on our first mild day but full of sun bathers later on in hot sun. Oh yes – and a tent containing modern exercise equipment.

La Sultana rooftop breakfast
On the ground floor is a larger heated swimming pool and a stylish second restaurant in an open courtyard filled with glossy and exuberant date palms. At night this venue is just so romantic you could almost cry, with rich live Moroccan music by a mellow singer and master of guitar. But you do have to book. There are not so many good restaurants in this area.
La Sultana heated pool
This five star boutique hotel with its 28 rooms was created by a Frenchman from 5 riads – the typical extended family establishments of the better off citizens of Marrakech. Each riad has a courtyard that is open to the sky. Most have a garden, and all share the roof terrace and its garden. Bedrooms open with doors and windows into the courtyards. Seven suites have balconies – some privately hanging above the inner courtyards. Looking inwards is what creates the fortress against noise and heat of the sun.
La Sultana Bahia Riad courtyard
Courtyards are decorated with traditional mosaic tiles or intricate plaster work and woodwork. Original art and antiques further decorate the rooms and public areas. Little lounges and cosy corners for tête-à- tête abound on every floor. Probably as many little conversation settings in the courtyards as there are rooms.
All rooms feature a fireplace, dressing room or large cupboard, king bed, big bath (often imaginatively shaped) and separate shower, double basins – ours were gold. Suites feature marble floors, and rooms feature tiled floors. Seven suites have balconies.
Apart from our own exuberantly decorated Tiger suite, we saw three others.
La Sultana Tiger Suite lounge & bedroom (below)
Ocelot suite deluxe (below) has a private “balcony” at a higher level than the courtyard. This suite is popular with business people because of its separate office, explains Sales and Marketing Manager Julie Boisseau.
Dromedaire suite (picture below) is fancifully decorated with a camel table and other eccentricities including a secretive kind of walk in cupboard and pillars around the bath, which is meant to resemble the traditional bridal carriage on a camel’s back.
The most popular suite and a favourite with men is the Puma suite (pictured below), which comes in dark colours with large cerise flowers for vivacity, and has separate sitting room and bedroom. This is a suite deluxe and as such has a balcony, hanging out over the riad’s upstairs courtyard.
Marketing and Sales Manger Julie Boisseau explains that since every room is so differently decorated people actually like to move, and even book a series of different rooms for their stay. It is the only hotel she has experienced that.The renovation took 3 years. Craftsmen set up workshops on the site, and ambitiously created different style Moroccan interiors in every room and every nook and cranny – with leaning towards Africa here and there. Moroccan tiling – always exquisite, mixes with Moroccan ornamental plaster or decorative Tadelak, antique furniture and art.
La sultana dining room
Atmosphere…certainly Marrakech has atmosphere, it boils over and gently floats up to La Sultana’s rooftop from the Kasbah. You have your choice of seeing it from up there or going out and touching it, bargaining and intrigue – one minute away.
Its a 20 minute walk to the legendary square where the more upmarket souks start - because of one very busy road to cross (jaywalk) , for the highly strung it is probably best reached from here with horse and cart or taxi ordered via hotel.
Or you can stay inside in and feel part of privileged Morocco…ornate, elaborate, extravagant, luxurious and exotic like a tropical flower.

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