Luxury Hotels

Marrakech’s luxury hotel that is also a working farm

One of the accommodation blocks

Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech is the destination’s sporty, and family-oriented, luxury hotel. Those who want to stay near the Medina, the historic part of town, would probably choose somewhere closer, although the hotel does run a shuttle.  Stay here, says the gal, for really good Cabell Robinson golf and an unusually attractive club house and restaurant.  Stay here, too, for an expansive gym – it spreads over both upper and ground floor of the Sports Centre but, like all other hotel gyms bar one it does not open until 7 a.m. and for some unfathomable reason the hotel’s Mauritian owners invested in pretty basic Technogym, with no television or video facilities.

Sports centre pool

The owners opened this 134-room resort under their own brand, Beachcomber, but in 2017 they realised they needed more global help. Hence the arrival of Fairmont, led by GM Afif Salibi (see the photo above), who found he was taking over a 571-acre estate.  This has crescent-shaped blocks with a total of 134 rooms and suites  and in future there will be 39 Fairmont residences.  There are, already, 90 owned villas, but these are managed separately and are not his responsibility.  He does, however, also oversee a forest of over 40,000 mature olive trees, which produce 2,400 litres of olive oil every year.

Slow-cooked baby lamb

There is also a five-acre farm, with a football-field-sized neat planting of vegetables, plus salads and herbs, and strawberries, and trees heavily laden with figs, oranges and lemons, and peaches. Close by are donkeys and horses, all from animal rescue sanctuaries in town, and chicken and ducks and lambs, all of whom provide a petting farm when kids come to visit.  Hotel guests, in fact, visit the whole time. There are cooking classes for adults, at a permanent outdoor kitchen at the farm, and at Easter a highly popular egg hunt to excite the children. 30 of the complex’s total workforce of 400 are full-time gardeners for the hotel and farm (fortunately the head golf groundsman is a keen agriculturalist who gives advice).

Breakfast collage, with lemon

Afif Salibi hosted a Moroccan dinner on the outdoor terrace of a second-floor restaurant. Musicians in long robes and red fez hats sat on low chairs and from time to time one of the children among the dinners would get up and dance.  I had a deconstructed salad, namely an 18-inch wide circular silver tray with tall central handle bearing with tiny dishes that included beetroot, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini salads. Next came a shoulder of baby lamb, cooked for eight hours, with couscous. The finale was amlou icecream, flavoured with almond paste, honey and argan oil. We drank Morocco’s Medallion Cabernet from Ouled Thaleb, on the Zenata coast. And thanks to the passion of this luxury hotel’s French chef, Serge Jost, the breads were addictive – I particularly relished a roll with crystallised lemon atop. And the breads were equally good at breakfast. BELOW, SEE ROOM 130, AND WALK THROUGH THE GROUNDS