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Olinto / Atlas Mtns / Marrakech

Olinto / Atlas Mtns / Marrakech

Old Jul 3, 2023, 3:22 pm
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Olinto / Atlas Mtns / Marrakech

Olinto - Atlas Mountain Retreat

1 Review | 100% Recommended

Olinto - Atlas Mountain Retreat

Douar Marigha Ouirgane, MA 42173

Olinto / Atlas Mtns / Marrakech (30 Photos)

Olinto - Atlas Mountain Retreat

Olinto might very well be the best overall hotel experience my wife and I have yet enjoyed over 108 years (combined!) of hotel-visiting.

It is an adults-only (18 and older) retreat, near the village of Ouirgane in the High Atlas mountains, roughly an hour’s drivetime south of Marrakech.

16 acres, 9 keys, a place of incomprehensible beauty, calm, luxury and restraint.

Before getting into details, some history of this property might be in order:

 

Olinto is part of a much larger property, a sixty acre olive farm that’s been there as long as anyone can remember, at least a century or three. 

Fabrizio Ruspoli - an Italian prince whose arts/patronage provenance goes back many centuries - purchased the farm in 2019, just after selling his previous, highly storied Marrakech riad hotel La Maison Arabe.  
Ruspoli named the farm ‘Olinto’ (Italian for olive) and carved out a 16-acre portion of it for this resort.

Over the subsequent three years, he strove to create a very different kind of vibe and space than the storied La Maison Arabe apparently occupied during his forty-year ownership.

In designing and building the resort, directive #1 to Ruspoli's team - even before any considerations of layout, facilities, materials or style - was to not fell (or move/replant) a single existing tree in the process.

With the hotel (nearly) complete, they have needed to cut down only two olive trees (among seemingly-endless thousands of them).

Ruspoli employed hundreds of Morocco’s most skilled artisans - builders, woodworkers, zelige tile masters, plaster carvers, etc - to complete this dream of a resort during the entirety of the coronavirus pandemic, essentially saving the livelihoods of many in said vocational communities.

Any existing farm structures on the proposed ‘resort’ section of the farm were razed, save for one large barn that was repurposed (and to stunning effect) into a bar/lounge.   Everything else was hand-built from the ground up.

And the most remarkable thing about these new structures - indeed, perhaps the most convincing magic spell the entire property casts - is how absolutely ancient everything looks and feels.  

The stone pavilions (villas), the pushed-earth walls surrounding the property and its sections, the brickwork, woodwork and tiling all over the interiors of villas and common spaces, the gorgeous terra cotta Moorish/Spanish roof shingles…..   Everything looks like it’s been there for centuries, fully patina’d, weathered, just incredible.   
All of these structures existing where they do - i.e. among the already very mature olive/fruit/nut trees and other landscaping as per original vision  - surely plays no small part in this particular kind of magic trick. 

I should also note that we visited Olinto in early June, just as Morocco's ‘low season’ was commencing.  We did see some other guests, mostly during breakfast/dinner hours then later evenings at the bar, and we were told that 5 of the 9 pavilions were booked at various points during our four-day stay.  But I can’t imagine this sprawling oasis ever feeling anything less than completely private, even at peak capacity (18 guests).

Check In

Completely delightful, but like everything else here, very calm and private.

The drive-up and cul-de-sac for the lobby entrance feels Eden-like; a bespoke grass/gravel and stone affair nestled (like everything else on property) between rows of ancient-looking olive/fruit/nut trees.

Thankfully, no long reception lines containing the entire Love Boat crew in white gloves, clapping in unison.  Just an extremely quiet, classy pair of young gentlemen dressed in smart-looking traditional Berber uniforms, opening the doors of Olinto's luxury SUV for us, handling all of our luggage and whisking us inside to the private reception area.  “Welcome home!’ one of them near-whispered to us with a huge grin, after they each warmly greeted us by name and congratulated us on our 20th wedding anniversary.

(This was the 1st of 3 hotels on our trip, so we d arranged for Olinto’s own transport from RAK. This operationh was executed flawlessly and with similar grace.)

Once inside the beautiful (and amazing-smelling) lobby, after a delicious welcome drink and a passport given, we were offered the option of a short property tour or being escorted directly to our room.

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Room

All nine guest pavillions at Olinto are massive stone & pushed-earth villas. If I’m not mistaken, they are all '1BR', and all have either a full pool or plunge/soaking pool.

The pavilions are situated along either side of a bucolic road-width walkway. While one might at first worry that with such a vast acreage to work with, grouping all of the villas in one single (comparitively) small area might curtail complete and utter privacy.  It definitely does not.  
These lodgings are exceedingly private, with mature foliage and 5-6 ft pushed-earth walls surrounding you on three sides.  (The fourth side being your pool and/or garden with mountain/valley views.)

We were able to look at several of the other pavilions.  All indoor layouts feel similar, and they look to be of similar size.  
I’m also relatively certain they all have roof decks on their second floors.  

They do differ a bit in price, with ours, 'Eucalyptus' being the priciest of the nine.  Prices seems to depend on several factors: the size of the outdoor acreage, the size of roof decks, full pool vs. plunge/soaking pool, and how commanding the views.

While they are technically all ‘one bedroom’ guest lodgings, and all the indoor living space is on the first floor, to describe them simply as typical ‘luxury 1BR suites’ would be a near-meaningless characterization.

They are large - I’m guessing ours was at least 800 sq feet of indoor space - and very intelligently laid out.  Loft-like living/dining room with fireplace, large bedroom with several sitting areas, big beautiful double-vanity bathroom, as well as a large closet area and a second 1/2-bath off of it.

And beyond layout or size, the villas…are…...…beautiful.

Every inch of the structure is hand-crafted and completely Moroccan in feel -  from the oversized wood-carved doors, to the bespoke zelige floors of fully-reclaimed tiles, to the hammered/tanned-leather bed headboards.  The build quality and  finishes are on a level with Royal Mansour, if a bit less inricate, though everything somehow feels less dark and more open than the riads at that wonderful hotel.  And therein lies the twist :
The pavilions, along with much of the other common areas, are individually furnished with Ruspoli’s renowned collection of 20th century European furniture and art.  Many of the furniture pieces, light fixtures, art etc are quite literally 1-of-1 propositions.  Light woods here, gleaming crystal and chromes there, pops of fun color with lovely felts, naugahides, leathers and embroidery.  

The overall effect is one of class, comfort and, ultimately… lush, opulent luxury.

Bedroom has an extremely comfortable king bed with large menu of pillow choices. 
Full wet bar, mini-fridge stocked w waters/juices/liquor/etc, nespresso machine, tea set with hotplate, mugs/glassware/cutlery, all you’d need.

Bathroom may not knock out some travelers needing useless hi tech wizardry, but it is fantastic and spacious.  Finished in gorgeous dark-green marble, tile and wood.  Gigantic soaking tub, rainforest shower, great weauty/wellness products by a local Marrakech outfit (name escapes), and several fantastic extra touches like a large heated wall-rack for swimsuits/towels.

Fresh flowers were resplendent.  Welcome treats, fruits were delectable, and other treats were discreetly left at the pavillion daily.

In front of the pavilion is a large private deck with two separate eating/sitting areas (one covered with retractable ’tent’/drapes, cabana-style, the other with large umbrella), and two sun-loungers. 
Teak-rimmed, heated infinity pool - hand-tiled in gleaming amethyst-colored patterns - with jaw dropping views of Mt Toubkal and the snow-covered Atlas high peaks.

Out back of our pavilion was an outdoor shower and yet another sitting area under a fruit-bearing lemon tree.  Up a set of spiral stairs from there (mobility-restricted guests, take note) is a very large roof deck - maybe another 700 sq ft - with a covered daybed, plantings/landscaping galore and still more sitting areas and sun-loungers, both shaded and open-air.

When considering how large the entire pavilion complex was, 'square footage' becomes less useful than 'acreage' as a descriptor.  I'd reckon the area was 1/4 to 1/3 of an acre.

Each pavilion/pool/garden complex is gated with entry via card key and, again, surrounded by earthen walls at the perfect, just-above-eye-level height.


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Service

For this trip, pre-arrival communications were fairly extensive.
We were celebrating a very special occasion and my pre-request/notes list was a tad longer than the 3-4 items i usually send through. 
Fully informative, cogent and kind emails were always returned  - and by no more than three separate entities over a nine month period (!) - within 24 hours.

Once onsite, service was exactly how we like it.  
We’re not big fans of ‘high’ service.  More often than not we find it obtrusive (or at least over-attentive), disingenuous feeling, stiff or over-formalized w needless pageantry.  
We ask to be addressed by our first names, we don’t mind one bit if someone doesn’t remember our exact first-night cocktail order on the second or ninth night, and we generally want to be treated in a friendly, informal manner.

While Olinto certainly would seem to be able to provide more formalized, 'high' service if needed or desired, they caught right on with us and what we were after.  
We've always felt that, much better than 'great' service, is service than can instantly adapt/mutate its tenor and tone to any particular style a guest prefers. 
Not (necessarily) by asking, but by sensing.  Quickly.
I've read many hotels' service characterized as 'extra-sensory', sure.  That description has essentially become a hackneyed trope these days.
But I had never experienced such full ensconcement in what seemed like ESP-based service until staying at Olinto

As for sheer numbers, the place is silly with staff.  60-some service employees, reportedly, for a max of 18 guests - but it only feels this way when you actually think of something you need.  
In that case, a staff member suddenly conjures themselves, and seemingly out of thin air - either standing quietly out of sightline around a corner or in the 'next garden over' when you take a few steps to seek out help, or appearing wherever you happen to be on property within 60-90 seconds of a what’sapp shout.

From ownership, general manager, duty manager, concierges, servers to housekeeping, landscapers and buggy-drivers - everyone here is impossibly kind, efficient, friendly and eager to serve.

No request is seemed too obscure or outrageous.  
An example is a shot-in-the-dark, Flutie-hail-mary, choose-your-cliche request we made via what'sapp for 'Zantac' (an OTC heartburn medication) on a Sunday night 'round 9:00pm.  These Olinto coornidates are pretty out-there; again, it's a full 60 minute drive from Marrakech and situated at near-alpine elevation.  After the concierge first apologized that they might have to drive to Marrakech for it, but could have it by morning, they texted back 10 mins later to say they think they might have found a closer place.

The Zantac was at our villa within 40 minutes of the first text.

Dining

 

Olinto has ‘just’ one restaurant onsite.  
Ergo, if you’re the type of luxury traveler that needs at least three different dining options, each preferably ‘helmed’ by a brand-name global superchef, this may not be the hotel for you.

Olinto’s single restaurant, however, is a doozy.  
It produces the most delicious Moroccan tagines, fishes, and other regional dishes and uses produce from the Olinto farm. 
The breads made here are next-level.

For those wanting non-Moroccan food, the chef also prepares any number of Italian and other, various continental dishes.  Vegetarian options galore.
In fact, I'm guessing there is very little this kitchen can not prepare, and convincingly, to order. 

Mealtime dining takes place either within Olinto’s fabulous, candle-lit dining room - fireplaces often roaring - or outside under a dream-like round filigreed pergola.  Music is soft and classy: one night there was a musician playing qanun, another evening we heard the soft strains of a Hartman/Coltrane recording.

We ate outside under the pergola one evening, and on the deck of our pavilion another. 
Olinto will serve any meal, anywhere on property (and it is a BIG property), at any time of day with just a little bit of heads-up (30 mins tops for villas or main campus) via what’sapp.

The rooftop bar above the main lounge offers commanding views of the mountains and is a mesmerizing place for a sunset cocktail, but special mention needs to be made of the the hotel’s indoor bar/lounge. Refashioned from a barn, it is a singularly impressive masterstroke of Moorish detail-work. Dizzying cathedral ceilings, warm stained-glass windows and super-comfy seating.
We saw some truly beautiful bars at some of the hotels we visited - La Mamounia, Royal Mansour, Kasbah Tamadot, Amangena - but this room took the cake.  It is one of the warmest, most beguiling, refined and relaxing spaces we’ve ever enjoyed cocktails in.

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Location

On a hilltop valley within the Atlas mountain range, the property is a feast for every sense and a place ’nature-lovers’ need to book immediately..  

Unimaginably beautiful fragrances of rose, lavender, pine, bougainvilla, eucalyptus and lordy knows what other deliciousness.  Wondrous choruses of birdsong and mountain breezes/gusts.  It is the kind of property that seems to continue forever, too, proffering so many secret trails, brooks and sitting areas to discover.  One can wander for, quite literally, hours and continue to find new meandering pathways (not ’trails’ per se, these are are all ‘finished' to some degree) leading eventually to sculptures, fountains and gardens.

There is an enormous, central resort pool, shaped vaguely like a fleur-de-lis.  The pool is not heated, but in early June was plenty warm. Probably high 70's if not low 80's. 
Cocktails and snacks are of course available there (and everywhere), and the pool floats under the majestic Atlas peaks.  
It is ’tiled’ with what is, in fact, thin-cut stone of the most beautiful shade of blue.  Even with 18 guests, this spectacular pool is comically large, and with impossibly beautiful views.

There is also another smaller, heated pool just outside the still-under-construction spa/gym building.  (That pool is open, fully functional, and even more ‘zen’ than the main pool).

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Overall

Olinto was a near-perfect four days for us.  

I'm convinced this kind of experience is the sort that's available only at an independently owned hotel.  
No branded, corporate management chain - no matter how ‘small', how luxurious, how expensive - can provide such consistent devotion to the guest's whole experience.  

In fact, I don’t think it’s possible with even a single-hotel owner/proprietor who also just opened another ’sister property' just up the road.
Or at a single hotel run by an extremely wealthy, tasteful person that concurrently also owns/runs other businesses.

No, it's the kind of experience we’ve enjoyed at only one or two other places… The Point (Adirondacks), Le Sirenuse (Positano) and the original Anasazi (NM) come to mind, though Olinto’s locale and (even) smaller key count make it even more singular/unique than those places.

While it’s very much a high desert environment, the general topography and surroundings also felt somewhat similar to Dolomites, Tuscany, Southern Rockies, even the Alps.

If you need a full resort with a disco, at least two PGA-accredited golf courses, hi-end retail shops, or young beautitful club kids snapping insta selfies over deep beats from the DJ, Olinto may not be for you.

If you want awe-inspiring, mouth-breathing beauty, calm/relaxation and classy luxury in a quiet serene environment, this place is all you.

Also note that as the spa/gym are still being completed, Olinto is still in a ’soft-open’ phase, likely with ’soft-open’ rates.  (And treatments are available in your pavilion, meantime)

I’d take advantage now.  
The value offered at current rates is outrageously high.
Would feel more appropraitely priced at double what we paid.

 

Olinto / Atlas Mtns / Marrakech

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cornwall4000 is offline  
Old Nov 19, 2023, 10:47 am
  #2  
 
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Thank you so much for all the effort put into this review. We are booked to visit next April and even more excited after reading about your impressions and experience!
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Old Nov 19, 2023, 5:35 pm
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Thank you for the detailed review. Based on this, we canceled Jena and are now booked into Olinto.
We are renting a car to drive from Casablanca to Fes to Marrakech and then to Olinto. Can you tell me how the road was up to Olinto? Wondering if we should arrange for transfers directly with Olinto and not bother driving. Thanks!
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Old Nov 20, 2023, 11:52 am
  #4  
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Greetings to you both.
Olinto is new, so there is almost nothing user-generated to find.
While i never trust tripadvisor, i do find it notable that every single review of the 22 is nearly as rabid as my own.
ditto google.

i'm not sure it's for everyone - it's luxury, but completely unplugged/unhyped - but it was perfect for us.
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Old Nov 20, 2023, 12:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Desirees
Thank you for the detailed review. Based on this, we canceled Jena and are now booked into Olinto.
We are renting a car to drive from Casablanca to Fes to Marrakech and then to Olinto. Can you tell me how the road was up to Olinto? Wondering if we should arrange for transfers directly with Olinto and not bother driving. Thanks!
I came to Olinto from Marrakech, so can't speak to driving there from amywhere else.
The road from the MRK to the Atlas Mtns is indeed steep and quite wind-y.
However, i wouldn't call it particularly 'rugged'. It's all paved. (At least it was about a month before the earthquake, when we visited).
In fact, I think driving around the Amalfi Coast or the Hollywood Hills can be much 'hairier', more nail biting.

Still, even as i've driven myself in both of those other locations while on holiday, i chose to be driven (via Olinto's transport service) from the airport to Olinto, simply because it's exotic/unknown.
I would recommend you do the same!
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Old Nov 20, 2023, 12:48 pm
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Can i just say one more thing?
I'm not sure the switching from Jena to Olinto is any kind of equivalent trade.
They are so different.
About the only way they might 'match up' is when considering volume, complexity, vibe, quietude.

Other than that, they are really quite different, mostly due to their locale. Amanjena is incredibly peaceful, quiet, calm, but MUCH more 'centrally located'.

There is a much more varied list of off-campus activities closer to Marrakech. Starting with Marrakech itself (medina, hivernage, palmerai, 'new' city, etc etc).
The Atlas Mountains, while not even a full hour away by car, is a totally different world.
Remote.
There are charming mountain villages with extraordinary 'shopping' and local products.
There are impossibly beautiful mountains and valleys and meadows and forests..
Some restaurants, some beautiful old forts/castles to explore.
For anything even approaching 'nightlife' or high-end restaurants (in the western sense), there's Olinto and Kasbah Tamadot (currently closed i think, rebuilding from earthquake) up the road and..... that's about it.

So..... I'd choose Olinto over Aman if choosing between those two. But not because Olinto is a better hotel, empirically.
I just prefer the remote beauty.
As i said in the Marrakech thread, I strongly disagree that Aman's hard product has grown 'dated', seen its best days, no way.
That place is incredible, timeless.
I found the hard product at Mandarin Oriental (where we actually stayed) to be of inferior build-quality to Amanjena's (and Oberoi's) by a country mile.
The disparity in materials/craftsmanship between MO's much newer build and Aman's -strongly favoring the latter - was fairly obvious to my eyes and hands.
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cornwall4000 is offline  
Old Nov 21, 2023, 3:19 pm
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Thanks so much for all these details, cornwall4000... much appreciated.

As mentioned in the other thread -- Olinto will be on my list for the next Moroccan sojourn.

I agree that MO has shoddy build quality; they will have to redo a lot.
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Old Nov 21, 2023, 6:58 pm
  #8  
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Originally Posted by scented
Thanks so much for all these details, cornwall4000... much appreciated.

As mentioned in the other thread -- Olinto will be on my list for the next Moroccan sojourn.

I agree that MO has shoddy build quality; they will have to redo a lot.
Thanks cornwall4000 for your inspiring review

Amendments being made for our next visit !!
Hope the villas are still available for our dates 🤞🏻
Looks like a 2 week stay in area including Marrakech is in the works now 😉 , a Moroccan month ?!
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Old Nov 24, 2023, 9:41 am
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Thanks y'alls.
Genuinely worried now that flyertalk legends such as Scented, flyerEC, Offerendum et al are going to roll into Olinto and be like "was ol' Corny on drugs? This place isn't all that special".

But it really just blew us away.

Wish i could return to Morocco/Marrakech soon. Like, tomorrow.
Alas, too many other locations to hit on our bucket list before bucketing off this planet.
But what a country. What a city.
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Old Nov 24, 2023, 4:33 pm
  #10  
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Originally Posted by cornwall4000
Thanks y'alls.
Genuinely worried now that flyertalk legends such as Scented, flyerEC, Offerendum et al are going to roll into Olinto and be like "was ol' Corny on drugs? This place isn't all that special".

But it really just blew us away.

Wish i could return to Morocco/Marrakech soon. Like, tomorrow.
Alas, too many other locations to hit on our bucket list before bucketing off this planet.
But what a country. What a city.
Thanks for the legend I'm safe, as no rooms are available at the only possible dates.
Frankly, to pick a hotel in Marrakech was one of the more difficult tasks.
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Old Nov 24, 2023, 10:44 pm
  #11  
 
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Originally Posted by cornwall4000
Can i just say one more thing?
I'm not sure the switching from Jena to Olinto is any kind of equivalent trade.
They are so different.
About the only way they might 'match up' is when considering volume, complexity, vibe, quietude.

Other than that, they are really quite different, mostly due to their locale. Amanjena is incredibly peaceful, quiet, calm, but MUCH more 'centrally located'.

There is a much more varied list of off-campus activities closer to Marrakech. Starting with Marrakech itself (medina, hivernage, palmerai, 'new' city, etc etc).
The Atlas Mountains, while not even a full hour away by car, is a totally different world.
Remote.
There are charming mountain villages with extraordinary 'shopping' and local products.
There are impossibly beautiful mountains and valleys and meadows and forests..
Some restaurants, some beautiful old forts/castles to explore.
For anything even approaching 'nightlife' or high-end restaurants (in the western sense), there's Olinto and Kasbah Tamadot (currently closed i think, rebuilding from earthquake) up the road and..... that's about it.

So..... I'd choose Olinto over Aman if choosing between those two. But not because Olinto is a better hotel, empirically.
I just prefer the remote beauty.
As i said in the Marrakech thread, I strongly disagree that Aman's hard product has grown 'dated', seen its best days, no way.
That place is incredible, timeless.
I found the hard product at Mandarin Oriental (where we actually stayed) to be of inferior build-quality to Amanjena's (and Oberoi's) by a country mile.
The disparity in materials/craftsmanship between MO's much newer build and Aman's -strongly favoring the latter - was fairly obvious to my eyes and hands.
I just read your latest posts - Thanksgiving week has been busy for us. My TA and I were been going back and forth this week over where to stay in Marrakech and just this morning we decided to go ahead and book us back into Jena in May for 2 nights and then moving to Olinto for 3.

So appreciate all the information you have provided and looking forward to our trip in May.

Last edited by Desirees; Nov 24, 2023 at 10:50 pm
Desirees is offline  
Old Nov 25, 2023, 9:23 am
  #12  
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Originally Posted by Desirees
I just read your latest posts - Thanksgiving week has been busy for us. My TA and I were been going back and forth this week over where to stay in Marrakech and just this morning we decided to go ahead and book us back into Jena in May for 2 nights and then moving to Olinto for 3.

So appreciate all the information you have provided and looking forward to our trip in May.
Wow, I am really jealous.
That seems like an extremely potent double-shot of pampered calmness.

Congrats to you, Offerendum, FlyerEC and anyone else traveling to Morocco in the near future.
Choosing between all the wonderful and varied hotels - 'luxury' and otherwise - is indeed a tough task these days.

As a nation very much in recovery mode, there's an extra 'feel good' factor involved in visiting Morocco right now too.
Please support local vendors and artisans - in the medina, mountains, etc. - if you can.
This seems like a place (and time!) where it makes even less sense than usual to shop at the 'local' Hermes or Moncler or Prada shops.
cornwall4000 is offline  
Old Nov 26, 2023, 4:27 pm
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Originally Posted by cornwall4000

As a nation very much in recovery mode, there's an extra 'feel good' factor involved in visiting Morocco right now too.
Please support local vendors and artisans - in the medina, mountains, etc. - if you can.
This seems like a place (and time!) where it makes even less sense than usual to shop at the 'local' Hermes or Moncler or Prada shops.
Could not agree more... many of the city's local shops are on our list for the next stay, too & including some hotel boutiques carrying 100% locally made items. Also Paradis du Safran, where we were surprised to find not only saffron but also high quality cosmetics, oils and tea. All run by a lovely Swiss lady who lives on the farm with her animals and employs only local Berber women. Worth visiting.
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scented is offline  
Old Nov 26, 2023, 5:33 pm
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Originally Posted by scented
Could not agree more... many of the city's local shops are on our list for the next stay, too & including some hotel boutiques carrying 100% locally made items. Also Paradis du Safran, where we were surprised to find not only saffron but also high quality cosmetics, oils and tea. All run by a lovely Swiss lady who lives on the farm with her animals and employs only local Berber women. Worth visiting.
such great points! Are there any must go-to shops/ restaurants in Marrakech and Fez? Will definitely check out Paradis du Safran.
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Old Nov 26, 2023, 5:43 pm
  #15  
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I’m beginning to regret I won’t be getting to Marrakesh in this life.
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