If a man is tired of Marrakech is he tired of life? He’s certainly tired of the following: beautiful architecture, narrow crowded streets, motorbikes revving down those narrow crowded streets at such speed it’s a miracle the injured aren’t piled upon every corner. He is tired of rooftop bars, delicious food that can be procured from both luxury restaurants and market stalls, albeit at very different price points.

He is tired of souks that sell everything from leather jackets to metal sculptures to wooden ornaments to marble chessboards to silk scarves; and he is tired of shopkeepers who will noisily showcase their wares at every opportunity. He is tired of seeing donkeys, cats – so many cats – monkeys, cobras, horses idling in front of carriages. He is tired of the sun, the heat, the minarets reaching into the sky.

He might not be tired of life because life comes in many shapes and forms. Yet there can be few places where it feels more virile, more urgent than the streets of Marrakech. I understand those who weary of the experience but I cannot envy them. Look upon Jemaa el-Fnaa, the huge square that contains everything from stalls to snake charmers, music and lights, and tell me you don’t feel as though you look upon the human condition. Tell me you don’t feel alive.

(Cool fact about Jemaa el-Fnaa: the name has various possible translations, including ‘assembly of the dead’ and ‘the mosque at the end of the world’. Apparently a great mosque was planned for the square but its construction was never completed and the structure was ultimately destroyed. That’s one theory for the name: another is the public executions that once took place here.)

So you have the destination but what about the accommodation? Choose between a luxury hotel or a traditional riad. Or go full baller and do both. Let's profile your options.  

Le Farnatchi

Le Farnatchi

Le Farnatchi is the type of hotel that you boast about to friends and family on your return. It’s a riad, a traditional Moroccan house with an indoor courtyard – the name riad comes from the Arabic word for garden. Le Farnatchi has two courtyards, one of which contains a beautiful green tiled pool for guests to bathe in. (Word of warning: it gets nippy.) There’s also a garden on the roof with views over Marrakech and the snowy Atlas mountains on the horizon. Bring your camera. And suncream.

There is an element of magic to the place. Finding Le Farnatchi is a trick unto itself: the hotel is situated within the winding cobbled streets of the Medina and while Google Maps is your ally, it won’t be your immediate saviour – the odd wrong turn or two is guaranteed. (The Ben Youssef Mosque round the corner, dating back to the 12th century, serves as a useful checkpoint.) That’s part of the adventure, and your reward on entering the courtyard is another piece of magic. For despite its home in one of the most noisy, colourful and vibrantly alive areas on Earth, the riad is so calm and peaceful that you might almost be entering paradise. If I understood how the acoustics worked, I’d go into architecture and make a fortune.

Le Farnatchi is a bit of a maze itself, albeit a much more tranquil one than the Medina. There are only ten suites in total, each one individually sized and furnished. We had suite eight, its balcony overlooking the central courtyard and a little outdoor patio beside the bedroom. The decor was gorgeous and lavish: a four-poster bed, huge armchairs, a sofa, a desk, a fruit bowl that was replenished daily. The marble bath was so deep I’m surprised it didn’t come with a snorkel. The sound of water trickling into the courtyard pool makes for a wonderfully relaxing ambience.

You are perfectly positioned to discover the city: seconds from the souks, 15 minutes from Jemaa el-Fnaa. However there’s plenty to discover in Le Farnatchi. Firstly, the rooftop: a beautiful location to enjoy breakfast, a book and a sundowner. (I suppose you could do all three simultaneously if you wake up really late.) A bit like the riad beneath it, the rooftop seems to go on forever, a network of shady corners, coffee tables, sofas in the sun.

Le Farnatchi
Le Farnatchi

Getting a hammam is a Marrakech must. Le Farnatchi has an adjoining spa with private marble hammams and massage rooms. There are a ton of treatments at very reasonable prices: the hour-long Royal Hamman, for example, costs 550 dirham, a touch over £40. In London, they’d be charging £200 at a minimum. You get a full body scrub, body oils and so much water poured over your body that you might develop gills. You don’t walk out so much as float.

Along with the spa, Le Farnatchi also boasts one of Marrakech’s best restaurants: Le Trou au Mur, which translates as 'hole in the wall'. The average punter may struggle to track it down, although plenty will try regardless – the restaurant has picked up quite the reputation since opening a few years ago. Hotel guests will be pleased to discover it’s literally across the street. Inside you will find whitewashed walls, rugs on the tile floor, portraits of various sheikhs and warriors, a room warmed by an open fire. It has a real nice vibe, laid back yet buzzy: we visited on a Thursday and there was barely an empty table.

The menu offers local and international options; needless to say, you'll be having the former. Start with Tihane, offal stuffed with kefta on a bed of salad and utterly delicious. Various meaty delicacies can be sampled for the main course: slow cooked beef and lamb, the tagine of the day. Camel tangia – I dare you. I went with stuffed poisson, a baby chicken filled with vermicelli, traditionally served to newlyweds. It's a great advert for polygamy.

Riad, spa and restaurant are all owned by the Wix family – director James Wix is a visible presence around Le Farnatchi. Personal touches abound, the staff are immaculate, and I felt akin to an acquaintance dropping by for a couple of days: a guest in the true sense of the word.

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Derb el Farnatchi, Rue Souk el Fassis, Marrakesh, Morocco; Le Farnatchi

Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech

Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakesh

And now for something completely different. Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech is an absolute behemoth. The hotel boasts 134 rooms, suites and villas; six restaurants and bars; three swimming pools; a spa; a fitness centre; four tennis courts; two padel courts; one squash court; and an 18-hole golf course. Palatial doesn’t do it justice. Fairmont Royal Palm is basically its own town.

The hotel is almost overwhelming in its beauty and grandeur. Stand on the terrace and gaze down over palm trees and a swimming pool the size of an ornamental lake and the green grass of the golf course beyond the swimming pool and the mountains blurred on the horizon and the blue sky arching above. Then turn around and admire a building so magnificent it would be no surprise to see Jay Gatsby ambling out of the bar in one of his brightly coloured suits.

Speaking of brightly coloured attire, the hotel hosted a wedding on the Saturday of our visit. A white stage on the lawn, a live band, a photographer who couldn’t believe his luck – try taking a bad picture with that backdrop. Music, vows and numerous glories to God drifted across to the pool. Even the most hardened atheist would struggle to begrudge God His glory, considering the surroundings.

Everything here is big. The spa is big: there’s an indoor swimming pool, sauna, several steam rooms, a whole corridor of hammans. The steam room is activated by a button outside: the place goes from bare marble to volcanic geyser in a matter of minutes. The golf course is big, boasting its own clubhouse and restaurant Le Sabra. The swimming pool is big, the biggest hotel swimming pool in Marrakech apparently and I can’t imagine a bigger one. The breakfast buffet is absolutely massive, a veritable banquet of Morocco and European dishes.

Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakesh
Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakesh

The buffet is served in La Caravane, one of three restaurants within the hotel. (Le Sabra is part of the Fairmount Golf Club.) Le Caravane is Italian’; L’Olivier serves lunch by the pool; and Ail Ain offers traditional Moroccan dishes, albeit very high-end versions of them. We had a delicious Iskender Kebab and seafood pastilla. Live music in the form of an oud only enhanced the experience. I cannot vouch for the other restaurants but look, there’s no way the food won’t be good.

Like the rest of the hotel, accommodation is vast and luxurious. Our suite looked over the Atlas mountains; the bedroom and living room each had a TV, the bathtub was the size of a jacuzzi. Not big enough? The villas come with their own gardens, hammams and outdoor swimming pools. Tough life. 

Here’s the thing about the Fairmount: you’re a solid half-hour drive from the centre of Marrakech. Getting to town isn’t a problem – there’s a free shuttle every few hours and you should be able to haggle a taxi for 200-250 dirham (under £20). However, strolling into the medina is not an option. For some people this will be an issue, for others a selling point; and my word, I can’t overstate the splendid isolation of the place, the sense of existing within a gorgeous golden bubble where every desire is catered for.

Red pill or blue pill? Either way, you're in for one hell of a trip.  

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Km 12 Route D'Amizmiz, Marrakech 40000, Morocco; Fairmont Royal Palms