Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Hotel insider: Go with the flow at Hilton Tangier Al Houara's tranquil beachside oasis

This resort's sprawling grounds and restful ambiance make it an oasis away from the bustling kasbah and medina of Tangier

The welcome

Warm, in both weather and sentiment. The sheer breadth of the resort is apparent from the outset, as you turn off the road from Tangier into what appears to be, at first glance, a well-manicured forest. Then you spot the floodlights amid the polished greens. The hotel itself is not even visible until you wind past the resort’s golf course (not yet open), towards the sea, nestled as it is among 24 hectares of oceanfront and greenery. Once we pull up outside the stunning entrance, all open-air structures and Arabesque architecture, bags and passports are whisked away for check-in, and our hands are left grasping a refreshing infused water. The process is swift and amiable, and we are soon escorted to our second-floor abode by a concierge, who points out the hotel’s restaurants and amenities en route, as well as the room’s features.

The neighbourhood

While the country’s cities can oft be found teeming with locals and tourists alike, Al Houara is a tranquil oasis located a 20-minute drive from Tangier’s city centre, and 10 kilometres from Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport. While you’ll need to hire a car or rely on taxis to explore the city’s souks, kasbah and other historic attractions, the resort itself offers a variety of activities to keep you entertained. Mind you, with three pools, a wealth of secluded outdoor seating, five kilometres of beachfront and the lapping of the waves as a theme tune, you could easily while away several days with just a good book for company. I’d recommend setting at least one day aside to venture further afield – explore the labyrinthine passageways of Tangier’s ancient medina or the famed blue-hued buildings of Chefchaouen, a two-hour drive away.

The room

Much like the resort's peaceful ambience, my king deluxe room is imbued with a sense of serenity, thanks to its calming cream walls, rich blue accents that complement the sea view from the generously sized balcony, and sheer drapes that waft in a breeze sweeping in from the open door.

Arabesque details nod to those in Tangier's historic medina and kasbah, but are used sparingly; the room is anything but busy. Storage is pleasingly ample, with a wardrobe, large chest of drawers and bedside tables, as well as a well-appointed desk and small L-shaped sofa. The bathroom, meanwhile, is spacious with a lengthy cabinet, separate bath and shower with all the mod-cons.

The piece de resistance is, however, the view, encompassing a near-deserted beach, palm-tree-dotted lawns, and the hotel's deep blue pools.

The service

I find some of the most helpful hotel staff I've ever encountered, whether it was the concierge who sourced a few toiletry items I'd forgotten to pack, to housekeeping, who would always greet me with a cheery "bonjour" in the hallway. The staff in the spa, where I enjoyed a soothing, rather than forceful, massage, were also incredibly personable, switching between French, Arabic and English with ease as guests passed through.

The scene

The resort was pleasingly quiet during our visit, though not dauntingly empty. During the day, a few younger couples lined the pool while several families could be seen walking the beach or playing on the grass. (Parents may be happy to note there is a kids’ club, open until midnight). Come evening, you could hear a quiet buzz of chatter emanating from restaurants, but the focus was certainly more on relaxation and rejuvenation ther than late nights and parties.

The food

The Hilton Tangier Al Houara has five places to eat on site, ranging from the upmarket to those of the grab-a-bite-poolside variety. Argan, named after the tree indigenous to Morocco and known for its nourishing oil, is where breakfast is served – a feast of mezze, fresh pastries, fruit and hot dishes – alongside lunch and dinner. Tucano, meanwhile, serves up easy-on-the-palate tapas, with views across the pools, greenery, and a gentle soundtrack of the waves.

The feather in the hotel's cap, though, is L'Olivier, a fine-dining establishment that specialises in gourmet Mediterranean food. Elegantly decked out in creams and rich chestnut hues, the restaurant is worth visiting whether you're staying at the Hilton or not. The melt-in-the-mouth beef tenderloin is a must-try, as are the variety of tapenades, with L'Olivier incorporating plenty of its namesake fruit into its dishes.

Loved

The sprawling location, which allowed quiet solo walks along the beach before dinner, an hour's reading fountain-side after breakfast, a quick post-lunch dip, or a leisurely stroll through lush gardens to help the night's three-course meal go down.

Hated

At the risk of sounding incredibly vain, the lack of plug sockets near a mirror was a trifle annoying when it came to blow-drying my hair, so instead I had to tame the mane blind. Considering the outside-of-town location, a small on-site shop to stock up on a few essential items wouldn't go amiss, either.

The verdict

Marrakesh might be most travellers’ destination of choice, but Tangier’s fusion of both antiquity and tranquility, particularly when based at the Hilton, which feels a world away from the city, make it a must-visit for those seeking a restful escape, rather than a jam-packed mini-break.

The bottom line

Rooms at Hilton Tangier Al Houara start from 1,050 Moroccan dirhams (Dh400) a night, including Wi-Fi.

Updated: November 27, 2019 09:12 AM

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