Royal Mansour / Marrakech

Old Jul 14, 23, 10:19 pm
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Royal Mansour / Marrakech

Royal Mansour

1 Review | 100% Recommended

Royal Mansour

Rue Abou Abbas El Sebti Marrakech, MA

Royal Mansour / Marrakech (26 Photos)

Royal Mansour

Royal Mansour is among our favorite (and thus 'best') hotels we’ve ever stayed at..
Certainly in our top 10, maybe even top 5.

Our stay was not 100% flawless.
But Royal Mansour as a whole seems to be soooo tantalizingly close to the perfect iteration of what it aims to be, what it (quietly) purports itself to be, we feel that it deserves no less than a full-on "GO" recommendation.

First some overall notes - overwhelmingly positive, even at pricepoint - and then a minor blemish or two.


If you’re even considering Royal Mansour, you likely already know much about who built it, who owns it, what it aims to be, and that it is easily the priciest base-rate in Morocco (and perhaps all of Africa, barring luxury safari camps and similar exclusive-use).
You also know that it's won many hotel-of-the-year awards and multiple times.
In short, It has achieved the kind of renown very few ’newer’ hotels (i.e. younger than 30-40 years old) could ever hope to.
This feat is still more impressive when one considers there’s an obvious class/pricepoint rival - century-old classic La Mamounia - mere steps from Mansour’s jaw-flooring, gargantuan gates.
Press is press, of course, and press is not always easy to trust.   
But this hotel has had plenty of it, the majority of it highly positive.

The comparison between Mansour and Mamounia is apparently a common one - in researching this trip, we found many multiple webpages and mag articles devoted to just such a side-by-side 'shootout'.
I think the comparison is an instructive one, at least to a certain point.
We decided between those two, in fact, and our final decision came down to how much snappier/responsive Mansour's email responses were, when even inquiring about the hotel (a full eight months before travel) and how centralized their responses were.
Even after originally booking us into a suite at La Mamounia thru Amex FHR, I found that hotel's responses took much longer and came from a dizzying array of different email addresses.  Some took two emails over more than a week to get a response.   These responses were usually confusing, and not addressing the actal question i had asked.
Royal Mansour's responses were quick, informative, cogent, and from a single 'concierge email'.  Right from the first inquiry about the hotel.
This kind of pre-arrival service (really, pre-BOOKING service) simply inspired a much higher confidence level for such an important trip.  So we switched to the Royal Mansour.
And the 'pre-booking' attention was emblematic of what would be borne out upon arrival and at every moment during our stay, continuing on through our departure at RAK.
The service here is awfully good.

(I should also note that we visited La Mamounia for dinner one evening, and that property seems equally luxurious - if a distinctly different flavor than Mansour:  a touch more ‘hyped’ in the fashion/tech sense, but not obnoxiously so.  Dress codes are much tighter.   Staff a bit sniffier, though still kind.  Despite its French provenance and gorgeous Moroccan architecture, La Mamounia struck us as a slightly more ‘Monte Carlo’ type of hotel in its form of elegance.  At least in terms of vibe/energy/tone/clientele.  We did not see any guest rooms or riads, but the property and facilities are just lovely.   The gardens in particular are gobsmackingly beautiful, they may be the one attribute where i think Mamounia has a fairly commanding edge over Mansour's also beautiful though much smaller gardens.  The gardens at Mamounia go on and on, they truly are an 'orchard of the gods'.)

In addition to all of Royal Mansour's endless press and WOM accolades, everyone speaks in hushed tones about the countless man-hours of painstaking artistry and hand-craft that went into its creation.
Or have seen a bunch of pictures.  We certainly did and had.

But if you trust nothing else i write, believe me here:
Not unlike the Taj Mahal, or the Grand Canyon, or a live Prince performance from the fourth row, Royal Mansour is just DIFFERENT when you get your own senses on it.
Seeing it, yes.
But also smelling it. Hearing. Tasting.
Absolute beauty from front to back..


Quite a few people - from FT similar (inferior) UG content to vetted travel magazine reviews - have characterized this hotel as ‘over the top’, and not always in a flattering way.
No arguments from me there, at least not with the bare-simple characterization.
Much of Royal Mansour is indeed exceedingly 'over the top'.
It is opulent.  It is complex.  It (fairly) 'stuns' the senses.
But at least in this particular case, one simply MUST add a bit of nuance to ‘over-the-top’ (or any other simplified description) for the phrase to be anywhere close to defining.
Not one single inch of Royal Mansour is even one iota ‘over-the-top’ in the way that the priciest hotels in Macau are.  Or any Phillipe Starck designed hotel is.
I haven’t yet seen the Burj-al-Arab in person, nor been inside the Faena in Miami, but i’m guessing those hotels are ‘over the top’ in a way that’s so utterly disparate from Royal Mansour's version of 'over-the-top' as to render the entire characterization largely meaningless.

No, to my own sensibilities, Royal Manour meets the description of 'over the top’ only when considering pure beauty, craftsmanship, art and/or a specifically genuine sense of place.
It’s over the top like Versailles or Sagrada Familia or Mahler’s Ninth are over the top.
Only far less…. gaudy - sorry for the pun - or ‘arresting’ or extreme-in-execution than any of those.
(None of those things were purpose-built to be hotels, naturally.)

Royal Mansour was famously built with two (royal) directives.

Everyone knows the first: 
It was built to be ‘the finest hotel in the world’.
Even if such an objective were empirically achievable, I’m not sure it met this designation in my own mind, fantastic as it was to stay there.

But an equally weighted goal was the second directive:
Built to be ’the finest [modern-era] example of handcrafted Moroccan/Moorish/Berber structures/design/furnishings anywhere in the world”.
It may very well achieve that much, I'm tellin ya.
Everywhere you set your senses is beguilingly beautiful.

Another way of saying it - this is not the hotel my dear Mom would have first encountered and said "Oh you're so thoughtful to bring me here, Corny, honey, and it's beautiful, but it's just all a little....much".
She would have stood there like us, jaw in basement, mouth-breathing, in awe of the beauty.

The style is of course extremely intricate, bespoke, and very complexly-detailed, for sure.
Such is the millenia-old tradition it honors through representation.
And it’s pretty obvious that only the world’s finest base materials were chosen.
But one other thing is absolutely clear, at least to me:
None of it seems at all built to look simply like the ‘most expensive hotel in the world'.   That may have been a side goal, or a resultant happy accident/by-product of the goal.  If it looks 'expensive' to you.
To me, it feels first like the most gorgeous, the finest, and most Moroccan.
"What it must have cost" wasn't the first, or even the third thought that typically entered our brains at any given moment on property.
We've stayed at hotels where that notion is usually the very first thing we're thinking, involuntarily, at all moments.
Not here.

Besides, there are common spaces that don’t feel as bespoke and bejeweled and bedazzled, plenty of them.
As such, those several and large spaces may feel more calm (i guess?) or relaxing to some who might not like being surrounded by…..ornate rococo or berber or any other kind of complex detail-work…?


The main pool, as an example, is an extremely chill, sexy affair.
Huge, gorgeous lines.  Simple!  Contemporary!  (Some of the few right-angles I noticed on property, in fact, other than walls/floors/ceilings).  
Great music and f&b service.
Totally luxurious, discreet, and it still feels ‘of place’, but maybe not as….. fussy, not as intricately designed.
Laying on one of their ultra-comfy (modern!) loungers, listening to the quiet midtempo soul/lounge/reggae music while sipping a delicious margarita, one imagines they might also be resort-pooslide in Majorca, or Palm Springs, or Haifa.   (Albeit at a VERY fine resort, the overall level/pricepoint of which may not exist in those places.)

Ditto the outdoor poolside restaurant, Le Jardin.
It is a delightful setting, really spellbinding in its own simple way.
A magical garden, as it were, with plush, contemporary furniture.
That large space (and its handsome outdoor bar) would never read as over-designed, or particularly opulent in the eye-popping sense.
With different foliage/climate, it could easily be in Provence. Or Ubud. or Buenos Aires.
The food there, and everywhere else onsite, is top notch.
Incredibly tasty.


If you know my other reviews, you'll know that my wife and I enjoy fine food, but we're not foodies.  One Michelin star is usually plenty for us.

That disclaimer now noted, F&B was, across the board, both our favorite on the this trip and among our favorite hotel F&B ever experienced.
We ate at Le Jardin (twice), La Table and Sesamo.
These eateries (and bars/lounges) are each one more visually resplendent than the next, and each seem to be ‘helmed’ - nominally at least - by rockstar chefs that are each also simultaneously 'helming' several Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine in Europe and elsewhere.
I don’t really pay much attention to this starry superchef landscape, but if that’s a huge plus for you, chalk up another big win for the Mansour.  Three wins, i suppose.

What i CAN tell you is that every bite of food we ate at this hotel was phenomenal.

Sesamo, in particular, offered up one of the most sublime dinners we’ve ever experienced.
I can also tell you that if you do, in fact, follow the superchef bus n truck tour, you will likely be hearing more very soon about the young chef actually preparing the food at Sesamo.
Her name is Vania Ghedini.
I took note to type her name into my phone - not sure i’ve ever done that before - to tell a couple of foodie friends about this meal.  (And now, the more food-obsessed FlyerTalk faithful among you as well.)
Vania Ghedini.
Even to my slightly less-refined palate, it is obvious that she is clearly a talent of exceptional precociousness.   No matter where you stay in Marrakech, you should try to book a dinner at Sesamo while she is still there and running ‘just’ one kitchen.


We were in a 1br ‘premier’ riad - second lowest from the ‘bottom’ class - and it was just as astounding as the rest of the hotel.
It is truly like staying in the fabulous guest quarters of an imperial palace.
Anything anyone might want in a ‘hotel room’ is provided.
Anything else you could possibly think of can and will be provided, should you ask for it.
The bathroom is particularly grand and gluttonous.  The tub is so large that it actually becomes 'inconvenient'.  Takes a good 45 mins to fill.
Unlike our previous hotel, the lighting/air system was completely idiot-proof - consistent across rooms and smartly designed - and there was a veritable treasure-trove of entertainment options on their TV’s.

In general, zero hangups for us at all w the riad.
I will say that while we COMPETELY loved its style, and would not want it one bit changed or 'lightened up' for all the world, these rooms are dark.
They are rich, handsome, comfortable, luxuriant and totally inviting, they are simply dark.
That is to say, most of the indoor rooms get no considerable amount of natural light.

As such, it wouldn’t be our first choice to spend the rest of our lives living within as a primary residence (even if we were that lucky!), we’d choose something more light and contemporary.
But it is enchanting, leagues beyond 'comfortable', and probably available nowhere else on earth (not like this, anyway) at any pricepoint.

As others have mentioned, these riads are also extremely v-e-r-t-i-c-a-l.
In fact, the second floor in our riad (bedroom/master bath) wasn’t really a 'second floor'.
It's techincally a third floor (making the 'third floor' roof garden really a fourth floor).
This is because ther first floor living/kitchen/half-bath area has double height ceilings.  So there’s two full sets of stairs to climb from the first floor (living area) to get to that 'second' floor bedroom/master bath.
Happily, though, many of the riads have elevators,  so if you have any mobility issues (or despise vertical living), make sure to ask for one.
We had one and used it a lot.


While the ‘dress code’ seems considerably more relaxed here than at La Mamounia, we were twice given the same misinformation.  First at check-in from the concierge,  and then a restaurant host at La Table.
I had thought i had remembered there being no dress code mentioned on the hotel’s website during trip planning, but i was careful to ask at check in where we were told there that there was no dress code anywhere on property. 
I asked again just 30 minutes later, at lunch waiting for our room to be available; i did feel underdressed there, still being in my 'travel' sweat-shorts & sneakers, and the host there said the same. No problems anywhere at Royal Mansour, just relax and wear what you're comfortable in!
Yet that night when i showed up to Sesamo for an early dinner reservation wearing shorts, I was sent back to my riad to change into long pants.
Never mind that it’s summer in the desert, or that i was wearing a pair of pleated Massimo Alba dress-shorts that cost several hundred dollars and are part of a summer suit, along with Italian leather loafers and a collared dress-shirt.
(I was not in a tank top, cargo shorts and sneaks).
I dutifully ran back to the riad and changed into some garden-variety, fifty-dollar Levi’s chinos and all was well.
Not taking issue with the dress code itself (not much), but at this kind of hotel, all forward-facing employees (other than perhaps housekeeping and landscaping) - certainly the check-in agent - should absolutely know exactly what the dress code is for the entire property, if asked.
And take care to make sure any inquiring guest is fully clear on them, should the guest ask.

In the riad, while they knocked my pre-requested flower arrangement out of the park, and we found a multi-tiered tray of sweet treats waiting for us upon entrance, no other daily refreshes of complimentary treats or items removed from mini-bar.
Wasn’t sure if the original tray of treats was part of my Amex FHR welcome. an extra for our 25th anniversary, or something all guests receive, but it was delicious.

We had pre-requested that a champagne-welcome bottle included w our room be replaced with fruit juice or beer or detox concoction.  Wine, anything but champagne.
We’re not fans of the bubbly.
A big bottle of Veuve awaited us in the room anyway.

There are wood-burning fireplaces in the riad, one in the first-floor living room, and another on the roof garden. They say they will light them for you upon request.
For our last night there, i asked earlier that afternoon at the concierge desk to have the rooftop fireplace lit that evening.
“At what time, sir”?
Oh, i don’t know, we’re having dinner at 7pm, maybe 8:30? 8:45? 9:00pm latest?
“I’d need a specific time, sir.
OK then, let’s say 8:45pm.
“Excellent, we’ll have it done for you.”
We returned that evening at around 9pm and not only was the fire not lit, housekeeping had just begun turn-down.  Cmon, guys, even if i didn't ask on the fireplace, you already know what time we're dining.  Why would you start turn-down two hours later?
We asked that turn-down be skipped that evening, and someone eventually did some to get our fire lit by 9:30pm or so..
We didn’t request a lot of pre-planned stuff like this (or, really, request much at all), but they kind of whiffed on this one.

These may seem like a lot of dings.  At any pricepoint.  And they are.  But something about this place's magic...... i don't know.
The mishaps somehow really didn’t effect the overall glee we took in staying here.
And Royal Mansour graciously comp’d our final blowout dinner at Le Jardin, which we found to be an appropriately generous gesture, so that was fantastic.


Whatever one’s opinion of Royal Mansour, it’s hard to argue that it isn't quite simply one-of-one.  I can't imagine there's another hotel like it, or even that close.
It is an extremely expensive hotel, by just about any measure, but not many similarly-priced products or services end up giving you such a high percentage of 'what you pay for'.
This is the rare case where i believe Royal Mansour absolutely does.
If you can afford to spend even a night or two here, i believe that’s the real way you’ll truly experience the entirety of Royal Mansour’s utterly distinctive brand of strikingly opulent, yet beautiful and refined luxury.

But even visiting for a few hours or dining here may get it done as well.

We really really loved it and, while we may not ever return, will always remember the soft splendor of Royal Mansour.








Royal Mansour / Marrakech

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