Marrakech Discovery Experience with Fairmont Royal Palm
For anyone seriously considering purchasing a holiday home abroad, one of the most important things to do first is experience the sights, smells and cultural differences the destination has to offer. Buying a holiday home goes well beyond the property’s bricks and mortar. The destination itself must have plenty to offer to keep you and the family occupied for several weeks at a time and to make you want to return year after year.
Marrakech has it all. Once the capital city of Morocco, it is known for its vibrant souks, historic architecture, snake charmers, hidden palaces and more recently, its on-trend art galleries. What’s more, this intoxicating city is within easy reach of the majority of European cities with most flights taking just three to four hours. Marrakech offers a tantalising taste of north Africa.
However, there’s more to experience than just the vibrant and somewhat chaotic medina. Within one hour you can be trekking through the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, visiting authentic Berber villages or even quad biking in the Agafay Desert. As I discovered, Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech, now selling a range of beautifully designed branded residences, provides the perfect base to discover the region.
I’m delighted to offer our customers bespoke ‘Discovery Tour’ packages through our trusted and highly experienced travel partners and assisted by the incredibly helpful concierge at Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech. These trips can be tailor-made to suit your budget, timeframe and personal interests depending on how active you want to be.
Please click to receive our unique ‘Discovery Offer’ inspection trip brochure and learn more about the destination, the luxury resort and proposed Fairmont branded villas for sale and to see our five-day example travel itinerary along with special offers and terms and conditions.
WHAT TO EXPECT: below is a personal photo diary of my own ‘Marrakech Discovery Experience’ with my family, including daughters aged 5 and 11:
DAY 1 – ARRIVAL
We caught the first flight out of Gatwick Airport, arriving in Marrakech at around 10am feeling a little exhausted but excited about the full day ahead. A smartly dressed man in a brown suit greeted us off the plane (we chose the fast track option which I highly recommend – usually around €40 per person – €20 for children under 12, free for babies under 2) and were whisked through Customs and baggage collection within twenty minutes. I have to say, it’s a great feeling walking past hundreds of people in a slow-moving queue.
Twenty minutes later we were checking into our beautiful hotel villa at the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech. The rest of the day was spent relaxing around our private pool with lunch served at the pool side cabana. Feeling more or less back to normal, we took a taxi (great driver called Mohamad who became our driver for the week) into town and watched the sun set over Djemaa el Fna (having walked briskly through the square as my wife has a phobia of snakes…and there were quite a few snake charmers there), buzzing with locals, from the Café de France rooftop terrace before heading to the incredible La Villa des Orangers restaurant for dinner – a beautiful and peaceful 5* Relais & Château boutique hotel on the outskirts of the medina.
DAY 2 – A GUIDED TOUR OF THE MEDINA
No trip to Marrakech is complete without experiencing the colourful, if not crazy Medina. After a delicious breakfast buffet at the hotel’s Le Caravane restaurant, overlooking the 2,000 sqm swimming pool, Cabell Robinson designed golf course and the surrounding Atlas Mountains, Mohamad collected us at 10am and drove us back into town. Depending on traffic, this typically takes around twenty-five minutes. Our guide for the day was Jamal, a charismatic local with a good sense of humour. First stop was the Bahia Palace, comprising two connected riads built at the end of the nineteenth century in two stages by Abu Ahmed, a black slave that had risen to power and become vizier. The palace took around 14 years to construct and hosts intricate marquetry and zouak (painted wood) ceilings along with a vast grand courtyard, trimmed in jaunty blue and yellow which leads to the Room of Honour, with a spectacular cedar ceiling.
Our guide then walked us through the ancient medina’s labyrinth of alleyways of artesian workshops, markets and riads, stopping occasionally to explore some of the interesting souks and to watch intricate carpets being woven (which can often take around three months to complete). We stopped for lunch at Le Jardin, a calm and magical oasis within a beautifully renovated 16th Century building. The restaurant serves a choice of traditional Moroccan and European cuisine and I highly recommend the Chicken Brochette (chicken skewer) served with the most delicious vegetables I’ve ever eaten.
Before heading back to our villa and pool we toured the Jardin Majorelle, one of Morocco’s most visited sites. It took French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) forty years of passion and dedication to create this enchanting garden of cacti, bamboo and water features in the heart of the “Ochre City”. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought the Jardin Majorelle in 1980 and decided to live in the adjoining Villa Bou Saf Saf, which they renamed Villa Oasis – now a museum dedicated to Berber culture. Adjacent to this is the newly built YSL museum, designed by Studio KO (the architects involved in some of villas at Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech) which showcases some of Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent’s personal collections (also well worth a visit).
DAY 3: QUAD BIKING IN THE AGAFAY DESERT
Waking up to another beautiful day, our driver Mohamad once again collected us in the morning and drove us twenty minutes south to the Raid Quad Maroc centre to get kitted up for an enthralling two-hour ride through the luna landscape of the Agafay Desert. After a little training (and after 5 minutes of convincing my 5 year old daughter who suddenly threw a wobbly – she’s terrified of anything new but I knew that after a minute on the bike, sitting in front of me, she’d love it) we were on our way, passing through dramatic scenery, always with the Atlas Mountains in clear view, and local hamlets. We stopped for a traditional mint tea in a simple but cosy home before racing through winding creeks and over undulating hills until finally reaching The Scarabeo “Stone Desert” Camp; a superbly positioned tented camp facing the mountains where we were greeted by a man wearing a Sahara Blue Turban bearing more sweet tea. We had our own dining tent and enjoyed a variety of local cuisines whilst enjoying the incredible views.
We had planned a short camel ride and a night’s stay at the camp but the weather was set to change overnight so we whimped out and chose to return to the comfort of our luxury resort villa and the incredibly comfy beds. We had ‘in villa’ dining that evening, too exhausted to go anywhere.
DAY 4: A DAY OFF ACTIVITIES
Marrakech has experienced more rain over winter and spring than usual this year. The bonus being that the countryside was a lot greener than usual and the landscape both in and around the resort was covered in beautiful flowers. It rained all day, possibly the last spring rain of the year, but today was always going to be about relaxing and doing very little other than reading a good book or taking a swim so it didn’t bother us. However, I did use it to tour the resort and the revisit the areas around the golf course earmarked for the new branded residences while my wife took advantage of an hour long hammam and body scrub at the 3,500 sqm Spa at Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech.
Dinner was at the ornately decorated Al Aïn Restaurant, sampling delicious Moroccan dishes and condiments with a subtle and delicate blend of Arab, Berber and Moresque traditions.
DAY 5: A GUIDED TOUR OF THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
After eating far too much all week we all needed a more active day. We set off from the hotel around 9.45am and headed straight for the mountains. After a brief en-route stop near Tahnaout to view the first traditional apricot-coloured Berber village, we continued our journey to the village of Imlil. We were then introduced to a fantastic new guide called Hassan who took us all on an hour and a half trek through the mountains, stopping at the impressive Kasbah du Toubkal (1,800 metres above sea level), a boutique hotel with spectacular views over the Imlil Valley and towering mountains. At 4,167 metres, Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco, North Africa and the Arab World. Hassan is amazing with children and has three himself so he often carried our youngest over any tricky parts and kept her entertained.
The Imlil Valley is a beautiful spot, with a river, water fall and spectacular vantage points. It’s an easier trek than the Ourika Valley so ideal for those travelling with young children.
Heading back to the resort we stopped for lunch at the famous Kasbah Tamadot, Sir Richard Branson’s Moroccan Retreat. The hotel’s dining terraces overlook the surrounding valley and hillside villages.
DAY 6: DEPARTURE
With our flight home not scheduled to leave until 9.15pm we had the whole day to relax and enjoy the villa. A late and lazy breakfast followed by pool time (and Kid’s Club for our youngest – making doughnuts) and then a light lunch at The Sabra restaurant in the Club House overlooking the golf course, lake and mountains. We watched the hot air balloon taking guests up in the air for panoramic views of the hotel and surrounding landscape. Walking back to our villa we discovered a buffet lunch taking place at L’Olivier restaurant and wished we’d gone here as the variety of food, including a barbecue, looked and smelled fantastic. Children also had the opportunity to ride camels through the grounds in front of the hotel.
Finally, it was time to pack. With fast track service at the airport we could afford to delay our departure from the hotel until nearly 7pm. Getting through the airport with assistance was an absolute pleasure and removed all the usual stress of getting through Customs and baggage checks with young children and lots of suitcases.
There’s so much to see and do in and around Marrakech and we only had time to touch the surface so we are very much looking forward to returning. The great thing about Marrakech is its location with easy access to the mountains (the ski resort is just 1.5 hours away), desert scenery (there’s also the Sahara for those willing to drive four or five hours south, with an overnight stay, surrounded by incredible dunes) and the coast (Essaouira, great for kite surfing and Agadir with miles of beautiful beaches) is also just a little over two hours away. A new TGV train line will make travelling around the country even easier. Marrakech is the perfect base to explore the whole of Morocco. Compared with many European destinations, it’s also great value!
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