La Sultana Marrakech

Fit for royals.

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As a circa-1987 yellow cab drops me off in the middle of Rue de la Kasbah, the dusty main road running through the centre of the Marrakech Medina, a charming bellboy appears before me in an outfit that surely inspired a Wes Anderson film. Always smiling, even while motorbikes narrowly zip by, the bellhop quickly sweeps up my luggage and leads me down a little alley decorated with burnt orange and red Berber rugs anchored by wrought-iron lanterns.

I have arrived at La Sultana, a boutique hotel comprised of five distinct connecting riads located in an area of Marrakech once inhabited by sultans and dignitaries. La Sultana is steps from one of the busiest streets in the Medina—it overflows with people and is lined with shops displaying engraved teapots and bright woven pashminas, with cafes filled with local men in deep discussion—but the bustling location is soon forgotten as I am shown to the hotel’s rooftop. Emerging from the intricately carved elevator doors, I am greeted by a clear view of the Atlas Mountains. The late afternoon sun has just set in, and the concierge has invited me to enjoy some mint tea on the terrace. Sensing my curiosity about the welcoming custom, he teaches me how to properly pour the drink, ensuring it effortlessly hits the cup as the silver pot is raised high above. He explains that fresh mint leaves are used and that locals sweeten the refreshing offering only for company they particularly enjoy hosting. I’m happy to find my tea delightfully sweet.

The staff at La Sultana quickly feel like long-lost friends, warm and personal in their approach to hospitality. They are eager to share stories of their culture and family life in Marrakech while still keenly anticipating guests’ needs.

The hotel’s rooftop terrace is an oasis from the chaotic Medina roads below, with only the booming call to prayer reverberating through the calm open-air space. Home to a restaurant, bar, and lap pool, the terrace is lushly surrounded by palm, banana, and sica trees. It is the largest rooftop terrace in the “golden triangle” made up of the royal palaces and the Saadian Tombs, the latter of which La Sultana shares a wall with. Peer over the edge of the terrace and see garden plots and the courtyard of the Saadian Tombs, which date back to the late 16th century and the reign of Saadian Sultan Ahmed el Mansour. The Sultan spared no expense with these final resting places, which feature intricate carvings, colourful Islamic geometric designs in turquoise, sky blue, and deep orange, and Italian Carrara marble. Design elements such as the marble are echoed within La Sultana, which went through a comprehensive multi-year restoration involving the Historical Monuments Organisation. The proprietors created 28 rooms, each with a distinct design identity complete with their personal collections of objects and furnishings. Each riad seamlessly connects with the next, with lush outdoor communal spaces and a large pool connecting the residences.

While the property’s rooms are vivid, with rich colours and textures including intricate wooden doors, the design of the spa is more minimalist, with crimson marble, a vaulted ceiling, and a soothing indoor lap pool at the centre of individual hammams, treatment rooms, and a relaxation area. The traditional hammam experience is not to be missed, with a thorough exfoliation, steam, and washing. With skin left feeling utterly soft, it’s clear why locals go for the treatment on a weekly basis.

Tradition is also infused into the cuisine on offer at La Sultana’s poolside restaurant, complete with an oud player providing the evening soundtrack. His music is best enjoyed with a lamb tagine, a selection of Moroccan salads, and a glass of Domaine de la Zouina Volubilia Gris—a local dry, pale-pink wine similar to a refreshing French rosé. A curated breakfast buffet is also served on the patio, with a secret nautical-inspired bar located below the surface. During my final morning in Marrakech, I find myself poolside, already plotting my next trip here over an endless supply of Moroccan pancakes served with honey. Let’s just say the pancakes won’t be the only reason I return.


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July 13, 2017