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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Hotel Insider: Amanjena, Marrakech, Morocco

This exclusive complex is a blissful retreat from the city’s tourist traps

A view across the basin to the lobby area at night. Aman
A view across the basin to the lobby area at night. Aman

The welcome

This sprawling modern resort-style hotel, built in Moorish style in 2000 using mostly soft pink rammed-earth walls, is located about 7 kilometres south-east of the city. Security gates stop each and every vehicle going onto the property. Once inside, the lobby area is a collection of coloured indoor-outdoor spaces linked by stone floors and grand keyhole archways, dotted with fountains. Reception is informal, and I’m escorted to my room and shown how things work. Management seems to be mostly western, with housekeeping and other staff local.

The neighbourhood

This self-contained hotel is located next to a golf course and alongside open fields, but there is little other development in the immediate area, making it a relaxing base to retreat to at the end of a busy day in the medina. One thing to bear in mind is that the road system makes journeys across and around town quite time-consuming and expensive, although this is not likely to be an issue for most Aman guests. It’s about a 20-minute drive from the airport.

The scene

A pavilion bath. Aman
A pavilion bath. Aman

As with all Aman hotels, there is an air of exclusivity here, but this is elevated by the spectacular buildings, designed by American architect Ed Tuttle, paired with gorgeous small details, such as hand-made Berber rugs and lanterns. Not to cheapen it, but some scenes from the 2010 film Sex and the City 2 were filmed here (pretending to be Abu Dhabi). The hotel’s 40 rooms are actually villas (called “pavilions”, “mansions” or “maisons”), all beautifully private and quiet, and set loosely around a large reflecting pool. Amanjena means “peaceful paradise”, and it’s certainly that, although one might also add “for kings”. Neither over-embellished or too stark, the buildings have a Zen-like symmetry which is preserved by the relatively low number of guests staying here at any one time. Most seem to be American or European and some use it as a base for their whole trip to Morocco. One guest may be in the library, another at the spa; it never feels crowded.

The room

A pavilion bedroom at Amanjena. Aman
A pavilion bedroom at Amanjena. Aman

My 175-square-metre, one-floor pavilion has its own walled garden courtyard, with lounging sofas and a gazebo that’s beautifully lit in the evenings. Inside, the bedroom is at the centre of the space, with a Venetian-style interior dome over a king size bed. There’s a wood-burning fireplace and patio door access to the garden. But best of all are the small design details that make this private and quiet wooden interior sliding shutters offering total darkness at night, doors to close off the bathroom area, a solid work desk and a luxurious bathroom (the bath area has its own private exterior view of part of the garden). Lights are easy to use, and the air-con does what it’s supposed to do.

The service

The main pool area at Amanjena. Aman
The main pool area at Amanjena. Aman

Staff are smartly turned out, genuine and helpful, without being overbearing. Depending on where you sit at breakfast, there can be a wait to get the waiters’ attention. The hotel can arrange tours of the city and surrounding area.

The food

The buffet breakfast at the pool terrace (about €40 – Dh173) is very attractively laid out on a circular table – fresh cut peaches, yogurts, meats and salads – in addition to juices, breads and cheeses. Eggs can be ordered separately. The other restaurants are Japanese and Mediterranean.

Loved

My villa, which felt like a fantasy home, and the soothing confines of the spa, accessed from a dim, candlelight corridor.

Hated

Having agreed to pick a group of us up from another hotel one night, one of the hotel drivers failed to show, leaving us waiting outside for more than half-an-hour. We were told we should have taken his number and called him.

The verdict

An exterior arched corridor leading to the main swimming pool. Aman
An exterior arched corridor leading to the main swimming pool. Aman

The ultimate luxury base in a city crowded with the world’s top brand names.

The bottom line

Pavilions at Amanjena cost from €689 (Dh2,977) per night, including taxes.

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