What isn’t there to say about this legendary, opulent, yet family-run resort in Marrakech? Set in 20 acres of luscious gardens, boasting the city’s biggest swimming pool and with a choice of two hotels to stay in - the original Es Saadi and the modern Es Saadi Palace - the resort is a tranquil haven from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Steeped in glamorous history, the original Es Saadi was created in 1966 by Parisian Jean Bauchet – who previously ran the Moulin Rouge. (Yes, really, this place is that fabulous.) Situated next to the Casino de Marrakech, the hotel quickly became a destination for the glitterati of the Swinging Sixties. Princess Margaret was a regular, the Rolling Stones once took up residence for a photo shoot with Cecil Beaton. Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge moved in while building their own home in what was then the capital of Morocco. Indeed, so close did Saint Laurent and Berge become to the Bauchet family that earlier this month, the opening dinner for the long-awaited Yves Saint Laurent Musee Marrakech was hosted at the hotel. Built in 2008, the Palace has 84 luxury suites as well as 10 private villas. In recent years, the Palace has played host to stars including Kate Moss and Cynthia Nixon, who stayed there during the filming of Sex and The City 2. Guests will also recognise the hotel from scenes in the BBC drama, The Night Manager where the resort represented Cairo.
I was lucky enough to stay in a suite with views over the glorious gardens and Atlas mountains in the distance. As you fling open the balcony doors, birdsong and the heavenly waft of orange and rose blossom greet you – although be careful of the birds who can occasionally swoop into the suite to nibble on the delicious (and gluten-free) pastries delivered to the room. Every day starts with a delivery of detoxing hot lemon juice and the balconies are large enough for two sun loungers and a table. The sizeable bathrooms are bedecked in Moroccan tiles in explosions of glorious colour.
EATING & DRINKING
There are seven bars and restaurants to choose from. Breakfast and lunch are delightful at the Lagon & Jardin with the plentiful breakfast buffet and bountiful array of salad at lunch. On the first floor with glorious outdoor terraces is the traditional La Cours des Lions with esteemed resident chef, Fatema Hal. The tagine is particularly delicious and the range of after-dinner teas with bespoke spice menu is delightful. Moroccan wine is particularly good and I would opt for the rose.
Do have a digestif in the bar at the Casino, it is a feast for the eyes, festooned with flowers and golden baubles.
Wow. Not only does The Palace boast the only Dior Institut outside of France, a bespoke clinic that specialises in cutting edge anti-ageing treatments, but the spa itself is truly one of the best I have ever experienced. Highlights included the brushing in the traditional Moroccan Hammam and the incredible signature four-hand ‘Le Bienheureux’ massage – I swear I had an out of body experience during it. Do not miss the nine different steam rooms, each with a unique scent – think orange blossom, eucalyptus and mint. The spa offers an ‘experience menu’ offering guidance on how long to remain in each steam room, and in which order to achieve different states such as detox, tonic or energising.
There is also a gym and Pilates studio – the yoga instructor Sally Goldfinger is excellent.
The brand new Yves Saint Laurent museum is a mere 10 minute drive away and well worth a visit, featuring an Aladdin’s cave of the designer’s creations spanning his entire career – most interestingly highlighting how he discovered colour in Marrakech, where he had a home. And of course, don’t miss the incredible shopping experience in the souk which is a mere 10 minutes cab journey from the hotel. Be prepared to barter hard.
WHEN TO GO
Morocco has always been THE destination for winter sun and Es Saadi is THE destination in Marrakesh, so what are you waiting for? Book now!
Prices start from £88 a night for a double room and suites from £245 a night. Villas from £558 a night. Airlines including Ryanair, BA and Easyjet fly direct to Marrakech. Find out more at www.essaadi.com/en