A rare and precious haven from the pace of the Marrakech’s vibrant centre, The Oberoi is a tranquil delight for all the senses
The tangle of passages and alleyways that characterise Marrakech’s medina (old town) has been described as a labyrinth so frequently as to be a cliché – but the real riddle lies in the city’s water supply, a riddle that was solved, thousands of years ago, by an ingenious system of irrigation –khettera - that channelled water from the oasis – the present day Palmeraie, also now known as the Beverly Hills of Marrakech - to the surrounding areas.
Without the existence of this clear, fluid, substance, and the alchemy that bent it to human will, Marrakech – like most cities – would never have been possible. It’s a reality that’s easily, even if only momentarily, suspended when we enter the shimmering mirage of the Oberoi.
With over 20 hotels and vessels located in destinations as exotic as Mauritius, India, Egypt, Indonesia and the UAE, the Oberoi chain, founded in 1934, is as synonymous with luxury as Cleopatra’s bathing practices. Not that these – mythical tubs full of milk and honey – have much relevance here, where the decadence of bathing is a riot of sluicing, dunking and scrubbing – a series of ministrations far removed from the languorous, soothing strokes you’ve likely experienced on a spa day ‘back home.’
As much as an authentic, as-locals-live, hammam should be experienced at least once during a stay in Marrakech, the Oberoi’s 2000 sqm spa offers an unmissable alternative. Its watery setting – on its own island within the property’s 28 acres - has, in itself, been thoughtfully conceived to reflect the significance of water in this setting: a significance as spiritual and cleansing as practical and hygienic.
Even if you’re able to resist the allure of the range of treatments – both eastern and western in origin – at the Oberoi’s spa, you’ll never be far from the glisten of water: of the resort's 84 accommodations, 78 have private pools. The public spaces exert no less of a aqueous allure – not least the sight of the 240m-long canal, flowing through olive and citrus groves, and visible from the main courtyard, itself reflected in a glossy ornamental pool and inspired by the 14th century construction of one of Marrakech’s most iconic monuments, Medersa Ben Youssef.
Thus inspired by both Moroccan and Andalusian architecture, the palatial nature of this initial introduction to the Oberoi is no mere nod to grandeur: it’s more akin to prostration. Taking over 200 artisans more than two years to complete, its astonishingly ornate zellige walls gleam in the pale desert sunlight, while reflected ripples from the central pool dance across its surfaces. In the reception area, geometric patterns form an indecipherable wooden puzzle overhead. Soaring archways frame views of the grounds, with the Atlas Mountains discernible beyond. In this idyll of beauty and serenity, the crowds and noise of the medina, part traditional life, part tourist trap, seem inconceivably distant, yet are just 6 miles away.
Although time in Marrakech’s souks is a key component to a visit to the city, it would be easy enough to while entire days away at the Oberoi. The communal pool, flanked by loungers and daybeds, is somewhat small for a property so large, (although the fact that most of the accommodations have private pools makes sense of this) but the adjoining restaurant, Azul, is a pleasant spot for a light lunch; when evening falls, fine dining and Moroccan specialties can be enjoyed – often with traditional musical accompaniment – at Siniman. That said, you could also be forgiven for spending long hours in your room, where decorative flourishes blend with decadent touches – either way, service, whether to your quarters or in the restaurants – is seamless. And, accustomed as you’ll soon become to the lap of luxury, it will only make sense to explore the wonders of Marrakech comfortably ensconced in a vintage sidecar, thanks to an exclusive partnership between the Oberoi and sidecar outfit, Marrakech Insiders. Expertly guided by a skilled rider to little known corners of the city and its surrounds, you’ll experience a Marrakech that not everyone is lucky enough to see – both within and beyond the walls of the Oberoi.
The Oberoi +212 525-081515; oberoihotels.com
Rooms from £709 per night for a Deluxe Room with Private Terrace incl 24-hr private butler service and B&B.
Marrakech Insiders, +212 (0)6 69 69 93 74, marrakechinsiders.com.
Rides from €175 for 1.5 hours, max 2 passengers.