Time to check out Es Saadi Gardens and Resort in Marrakech.
After an adventurous week stargazing in the Sahara, riding camels and exploring kasbahs (check out the videos), I was ready for a few days of relaxation in Marrakech. I checked into a plush suite at Es Saadi Gardens & Resort in the upmarket Hivernage neighbourhood, and enjoyed a taste of the five star lifestyle.
With huge gates, flags blowing in the wind and elaborate fountains at the entrance, this resort certainly had something to shout about! Every December, stars of the big screen descend on Marrakech for the city’s prestigious film festival, and this is one of the resorts they return to time and time again.
Over the next 48 hours I wandered the pristine gardens, basked in the Moroccan sunshine by the pool, perused the impressive art collection and was thoroughly pampered in the spa.
Jean Bauchet, former manager of the Moulin Rouge, was the man responsible for the birth of Es Saadi. After visiting in the 1950s he bought 20 acres of empty land just outside the medina and built the casino. He invited dancers from Paris and soon people flew in for weekends. The hotel came next, and more recently the Palace and villas. The family were keen to make the hotel a dreamlike home from home, and avoid the commercial feeling of many hotels. The reception desk was tucked to one side, and the focus was on comfortable seating, Arabic arches, high ceilings, a beautiful dome and plush fabrics.
After a delicious glass of sweet mint tea on arrival, I was whisked off on a golf buggy to check out the villas. A few months ago I explored George Clooney’s stomping ground in Lake Como, but now I had made it to Leonardo Di Caprio’s top Moroccan retreat!
Highlights at the 10 villas include Murano glass lamps, ornate Libyan tables, Ivory chairs, heart-shaped swimming pools and private butlers. The plushest is Villa 1001 Nights, and as I entered through a heavy mahogany door, a beautiful golden light streamed into the room from the central dome. Luxurious fabrics, Moroccan antiques, a jacuzzi and an incredible bed inlaid with mother-of-pearl made this pure indulgence. That was before I ventured out to the private pool surrounded by beautiful trees and exotic plants. Wow – I could see why the biggest stars in the world returned to this corner of paradise year after year.
Back at the Palace, it was time to check into my home for the next 48 hours – a lavish suite on the 3rd floor overlooking the pool and gardens. I wandered along a Majorelle blue corridor and turned the oversized key in the lock of room 2304’s pale turquoise patterned door.
From there I could see beyond the bedroom and lounge area right to a terrace basking in sunshine. Off to the left was a grand bathroom with double basin, huge bath, rain-style shower, toilet and enticing Moroccan toiletries including black soap and an exfoliating hammam mitt. After my adventures riding camels, I couldn’t wait to soothe my aches and pains in a lovely warm bath.
A wooden-clad dressing room lay in between the bathroom and bedroom. The main room was large and divided into a bedroom area, workstation with a desk and a lounge area with sofa, table and chairs. There was a great view from the terrace with the oasis of the gardens, and beyond that Marrakech’s hustle and bustle.
Es Saadi is in an ideal location for a city break in Marrakech – a few minutes by car from the airport and the medina, and in a chic, safe neighbourhood. It really did feel like a sanctuary set inside the pandemonium of the city.
The resort is home to 9 restaurants, located across the Palace, Hotel, Casino and within the gardens. With French, Moroccan, Mediterranean, and a slow food restaurant for the health-conscious, there was plenty to choose from. At lunch, I dined on the terrace at Lagon & Jardin. After consecutive days of tagines and grilled chicken skewers, I opted for the lobster club sandwich, with fresh lobster from the coastal town of Oualadia (a town I remember visiting 10 years ago). I tuned into the summery soundtrack of birds tweeting and hotel guests splashing in the pool. It was remarkably peaceful.
The lobster club sandwich arrived as two rounds of toast with a generous portion of crispy French fries. Unexpectedly, the two sandwiches had different fillings – one with salty aubergine complementing the rich lobster, and cucumber, avocado and citrus in the other. They were tasty, particularly when washed down with a light glass of white wine!
Breakfast was also served on the terrace, with a large buffet available at weekends, featuring everything from exotic fruits, local goats cheese, pastries and salads to traditional egg dishes. The coffee was excellent (what a relief after a week of mediocre instant) and I enjoyed the jugs of water infused with ingredients including mint, lemon and rosemary. Dining alone, it was nice to be able to watch the gardeners busy tending to the exotic plants around the pool.
The highlight at Es Saadi Palace is the incredible spa. Built around a 100-year-old eucalyptus tree, it features a spectacular indoor swimming pool, hydrotherapy area, fitness studio and a hair and beauty salon. I loved exploring the Oriental Thermae – a series of dry and humid heat baths, with different scents, colours and musical soundtracks. I spent half an hour wandering between the different marble and tiled chambers (my favourite being the eucalyptus and sea salt) refreshing in between with trips to the ice fountain and the rain showers.
Es Saadi is also proud to be home to one of only two Dior Institutes in the world. Here several luxury treatments for the face and body are administered in special Dior themed rooms.
On my visit, I enjoyed a relaxation massage with friendly masseur Marcel. Once in the treatment room I selected a colour for the mood lighting (all part of the spa’s love of chromotherapy). I went for a calming shade of blue, selected an oriental soundtrack, and chose amber scented oil. After a brief wash of the feet and hands, I enjoyed almost an hour of pure pampering. The rhythmic massage eased all my stresses and included a series of light stretches to further relax me. It was strange to think of the pandemonium of Jemaa el-Fna and the labyrinth of Marrakech medina just down the road. I felt a million miles away.
Even if you’re not staying at Es Saadi, the Casino de Marrakech and Theatro nightclub are two reasons to visit. The historic casino was absolutely buzzing on Friday night. Even more lively, the theatre-style nightclub puts on nightly shows around 2.30am. Performers don light-up costumes, stilt walkers strut around the dance floor and acrobats show off their skills above the bar. It reminded me of places I’d visited in Mexico and Ibiza. It was busy with a mix of tourists and locals. For the more reserved, the elegant piano bar in the Palace had nightly performances by an excellent pianist, reinventing classic songs (and the odd Christmas song during my visit!) with a swing/jazz twist.
One of my favourite things about Es Saadi was its love and support of Moroccan modern art. Adorning the walls around the resort were interesting paintings and quirky pieces that stopped me in my tracks. I spent a good 30 minutes wandering around the main art space above the main entrance.
As my stay at Es Saadi came to an end I was sad to leave this sanctuary behind. While the Hivernage neighbourhood may have got its name for being the place the French upper classes jetted off to in the winter months, Es Saadi is somewhere I’d happily return to, whatever the season!
Check latest prices and availability at Es Saadi Gardens and Resort here.
Thanks to Es Saadi Gardens and Resort and the Moroccan Tourism Authority for hosting me in Marrakech. As always, opinions are my own.