First impressions of Le Palais Namaskar, Oetker Collection‘s gorgeous luxury hotel in Marrakech, are breathtaking. Half an hour from downtown, or rather the Medina, you are out in the countryside. Turn down a road to the right to find a pair of 12-foot wood doors in a plaster wall on your right. This is opened. Get out of the car. You are escorted 60 yards and you turn right, on to this catwalk. The stone runway, about 300 yards in all, spans the property. The top ten pool villas are behind the archway terrace on the left here.
And then my villa (one of those ten). Villa Four. 1,300 sq ft inside, and at least twice that outside, much of which is taken up by a 25-foot swimming pool, wrapped round, as it were, by a big C-shaped decorative pool. I have palm trees, illuminated in fuchsia-coloured light, by night, and a shady terrace. Inside I have Bang&Olufsen, and Ila toiletries, and gigantic bedroom and living room and floor to ceiling windows, all looking into my own private-palace garden (the peripheral wall is about ten feet tall). The story, apparently, is that a Kuwaiti built two palaces, with gold domes atop. He sold them, with oodles of land, to a French entrepreneur.
And this entrepreneur fortunately has lots of money, and taste. He bought more land – it is now 25 acres, roughly a third of which is under water – and built a total of 41 villas. Ihmad Rahmoumi is architect and designer, and apparently he has also done the interiors of the owner’s 14-seat Falcon-900 private plane. It is all very tasteful, and stylish. My room service breakfast, for instance, was carried over in sensible wicker baskets, with inner compartments so things would not spill. Set up, it was an epitomal early morning meal, while I enjoyed my gorgeous over-pool view.
The pool villas are so agreeable that some guests never leave them. Why, indeed, would anyone want to venture out? But I did, to marvel at the main pool, about 100 by 100 feet or more, and to look at yet more domes, and quiet sitting areas with double-sized double loungers and hammocks. And yet and yet, I wandered all around and saw no other guests at all. I know the hotel is full. Where ARE they? Not in the gym – an excellent facility, in a building like a squashed bagel set vertically, with assistance from a Paris-based fitness operation Champion Spirit.
I needed good workouts after eating so well, and always by a pool. Main meals were by the main pool. Dinner was highlighted by a good local wine, Les Celliers de Meknès Roslane Les Côteaux de L’Atlas Premier Cru 2010. We finished with, or more technically finished by looking at, a dessert Namaskar, an icecream-filled chocolate bombe over which hot sauce was poured. Lunch started with a prawn salad that had been formed in a circular ring so that, by itself, it looked like a tiny titfer, the perfect hat for a summer wedding. And everything tasted yummy, too.
Laurent Branover is the king of this gorgeous luxury hotel. The son of a French travelling policeman – you know, the kind of globalist who is posted to such French territories as Guadeloupe – travelling, and visiting beautiful hotels was in his blood from an early age. His hotel guests are relaxing the whole time but how does he relax? Martial arts and meditation.