An afternoon at one of the most luxurious spas this side of Marrakech


By Cai Mei Khoo

An afternoon at one of the most luxurious spas this side of Marrakech

A short 15-minute car ride away from the medina in Marrakech, lies the Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech, the hotel group’s first property in Africa, which opened in 2015. The first thing that struck me as I entered the hotel lobby was the property’s immense vastness. Spread over 20 sprawling hectares of olive groves and lush gardens with some 100,000 roses in full bloom, the Berber-influenced resort hosts just 54 private villas, and 9 suites, complete with private pools, indoor and outdoor living spaces. The tranquility and huge expanse of the resort was in stark contrast to the bustling medina I had come from, where shop owners hawked their wares, and where busy walkways were shared by pedestrians, donkeys, motorcycles and even small lorries.


Located just next to the entrance of the hotel is The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech, the reason for my visit. Designed by Pascal Desprez, with interiors done up by Gilles & Boissier, the spa pays subtle homage to the ancient mosques and cathedrals of Andalusia. The space, totalling some 1,800-square-metres, encompasses a heated indoor pool, fitness centre, yoga studio, as well as hair and beauty salons. There are six spa suites in total, including one for couples, all with their own terrace and private garden, should you be keen on having an outdoor treatment.


After checking in, I changed into my swimsuit, and was led down a long, narrow hallway of red bricks that are ubiquitous in Marrakech (hence its nickname, the Red City), to the indoor pool. I was early for my treatment so decided to go for a dip. Although heated, I found the water a bit too cold at first, but after a few laps, it gradually got more comfortable. After a quick swim, I was then led to one of the two hammams at The Spa. After all, when in Morocco, one must try a hammam experience. Adorned with 50,000 zellige tiles, the hammam made for a gorgeous space relax in, as I lay on the warm tiles. Soon enough, my therapist came calling—it was time to start with my spa treatment.

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Done up in a soothing palette of neutrals, the spa suite was spacious and comfortable, with separate shower and bathroom facilties. The Spa offers signature treatments that the Mandarin Oriental group is well known for, as well as treatments inspired by Moroccan traditions. I opted for a massage (indoors, it was too sunny outside), with argan oil. Morocco’s liquid gold, I love the rich texture and slightly nutty smell of argan oil. I also find it incredibly nourishing especially on dry skin. After a quick foot soak, I settled in on the massage bed ready for a pampering, much-needed massage. The therapist used long, firm strokes to release knotted muscles in my neck, shoulders, and calves—my legs were tired from all that walking in the souks. One and a half hours later, I found myself in a completely relaxed state of mind—if only the massage didn’t have to end. Bonus points for going early and sitting in the hammam pre-massage meant that my skin soaked up all the goodness of the argan oil (high in essential fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins), so I left with well-hydrated skin that was silky soft to the touch.


I wrapped up in my bathrobe once again and headed out of my spa suite to the lounge that overlooked a sun-drenched reflecting pool, and sipped on hot mint tea as I watched birds dip in and out of the fountain—what utter bliss. I could’ve sat there for eternity, but a dinner of tajines was waiting for me; it was time to return to the lively chaos of the medina, but this time with the knowledge of where to escape to, should I need a few hours of solitude.


Planning an escape to Marrakech? Check out the Mandarin Oriental Marrakech here


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