Royal Mansour, Marrakech
Room type: Premier Riad
Duration: 20th > 22nd November, 2017
Booked with: Dorsia Travel
After being put into a headlock, then having one arm put behind my back, I was driven to the airport to depart for a country that was warmer than England for my birthday. This criteria didn’t help limit the choices down at all, so we settled on Marrakech. The second stop after Amanjena was Royal Mansour – both great hotels, whether compared against other Marrakech properties or worldwide, but location is about all they share in common; Royal Mansour is probably the most spectacular design I have ever seen. It is like the designers were permanently in a state of climax, as their love of the work is on show over every square inch. You really do have to see it. Fortunately, I did, so now you don’t actually have to. I think that works. Stick with me here.
I was not made privy to the secret communication taking place, only to know that a guaranteed room upgrade was available on check-in if available….
The guaranteed upgrade was obviously not offered on check-in. Yet they lured us in with all the hopes of a boy in a sweet shop with £10 to his name, with probably the best pickup car I’ve ever seen: a Bentley. It even smelt incredible; like it was taking me out on a first date. I have previously been collected in a Rolls Royce by The Peninsula Paris, but as I had to pay the equivalent of a 3 Michelin star meal for the 35 minute journey, I will disqualify them from this competition.
From Amanjena, the journey was barely 20 minutes. Yet the driver still had time to put on his white gloves and leave us to enjoy the WiFi, water, snacks, newspapers, and tissues – as the excitement may have been overwhelming for some.
Once we arrived someone came out to say something to us about something. It was all very majestical, and then we never saw him again.
We were then taken to our riad, which through not being given an upgrade did teach us a valuable life lesson: never trust anyone in sales. Whilst killing all the staff with our eyes, we were given a clearly explained and professional room intro. Not that it would be of much use, as we would be in another riad before we could say “we’ve already checked the website and can see there’s availability”.
Sadly, it seems if one year you’re 30, the next you’re 31. So to rub this in my face, they had balloons with my new age handwritten on them. Can’t a man just age in peace? The butler thought so, as he welcomed us with drinks and one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten. So good, it was in fact better than one of the other best cakes I’ve ever eaten just a few days earlier (I was turning 31, stop judging) from Amanjena. Unlike Amanjena, they even sang Happy Birthday to me – in Arabic and English, no less – and remembered my name.
The Stay List really was perfect, right down to the Tempur pillows and exquisite Moroccan toiletries that included a non-lethal shaver. They even knew how to get the balance just right, as Lucie’s name was printed on all the stationery, even if it were my birthday. Never fail to acknowledge the lady.
There really was an impressive amount of effort put into this hotel, with the builders surely putting in abnormally long days – well over 6 hours. Over 80% is handcrafted and 99% of it just looks sublime, with them just failing perfection by throwing in some retail shops to cheapen the mood. It is one of the most unique properties I’ve ever seen, and whilst I’ll save you the hassle of reading further and mention that I didn’t love it all, I would recommend that you at least go visit it. Some places, such as Burj al Arab, are part of most luxury travellers hit list, purely for the sake of having been there and done it. I think there is more to be impressed by at Royal Mansour.
Amanjena is a beauty in its simplicity, yet Royal Mansour is a wonder in its intricacy. In some way, it reminds me of Palazzo Parigi, in that it’s product of absolute beauty. It definitely stands alone within Marrakech, and maybe all of Africa.
Do they know no limits to this depravity? At first I assumed they had made a mistake, yet after arrival it was slowly dawning on me that they had indeed decided that 140sqm was a suitable level for me. Me! Somehow the fact that I’d paid for this room type eluded them to the fact that I am deserving of the best and only the best. My mother always made it clear to me that a silver medal is the equivalent of losing in a Western drawn, which is something no one grows up wanting to achieve.
There was something cold about this place, and I don’t just mean the plunge pool that must have been developed by a Serbian guessing what heat felt like. The biggest issue with Royal Mansour is that it’s a three-storey house and deciding whether to go upstairs to get something probably takes just as long as going to get it. I own a three-storey house and I already hate the daily commute to the kitchen, so would rather avoid replicating it elsewhere. Amanjena was far more cosy (especially when the fire was lit) and offered a true outdoor experience with a large heated pool, whilst Royal Mansour offered a small rooftop area with freezing plunge pool.
The downstairs was so dark that I had to use a tripod during daylight to take photos, so we never wanted to spend anytime down there, but if you went upstairs there was no Internet. It was like Schrödinger’s cat, just I was the one that was dead. This forces you out of the room and into the amazing rooms, pools and grounds of the property, which is not a bad thing, but I would rather have the option. They did come and install a signal booster when we mentioned it, but even then it didn’t work, so we were left to talk to each other like cave men.
Every floor is up two flights of stairs, so clearly the Disability Discrimination Act is a few years away from being implemented. Not only that, but it is actually more cramped than I imagined. The BBC scammed me by showing massive rooms, yet as it’s spread over 3 floors you actually end up with a small bathroom with single vanity. That is, until you get your rightful upgrade, and then you get an actual room that represents the price, but even then it’s hardly what you’d call airy. Do make sure you avoid the entry level room at all costs, as what you save in money, you lose in basic human rights.
Speaking of the BBC, whilst the male presenter of their Amazing Hotels programme is as annoying as a tribute act to Gilbert Gottfried, it is worth seeing to appreciate what goes on behind the scenes. Each floor of the riad is connected to a series of tunnels, so staff can be doing turndown upstairs, all whilst you’re downstairs and completely unawares.
Elsewhere, there is a kitchen, but then nowhere comfortable to eat anything. Yet there are free movies, so you could eat in bed whilst watching the latest Nicolas Cage masterpiece.
There is a lot packed into this hotel. Yet it’s the small touches that once again shine, such as the never ending fountains putting me into a slumber through the relaxing treacle of water, or a piano player every evening in one of the bars. There’s actually 3 bars, each somehow more impressive than the next. 4 restaurants, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, gym and even a hair salon, so you can make yourself look good whilst looking good.
Spa / Gym
Once again, you just have to admire the architecture and design. Just don’t spend too long admiring it, as you may draw the attention of the miserable staff. It is amazing how one person can set an experience for guests, as my show around was a few finger points in directions and then an eye roll for her encore. When I went back to speak to someone else, they could not have been more pleasant if they had actually been made of Terry’s Chocolate Orange wrapped in liquorice.
The spa contains a heated indoor pool, with a separate area for an actually-heated-pool; you know, one that doesn’t give you a cardiac arrest as it’s actually freezing. It really was an absolute delight, and by far superior to Amanjena, and just ahead of Mandarin Oriental.
Strangely for so much opulence, there was only one sauna, which happened to be in the basement, and changing rooms that felt more suitable in size for Umpa Lumpa’s.
I was not being tricked into going on yet another tour of Marrakech and being guilted into buying yet another carpet. I already had to buy a warehouse to store the other shipment of carpets I was coerced into buying.
They may have lost the War, but Japanese has clearly invaded every corner of the world. Yet again we find a Japanese restaurant in yet another Marrakech property, with eerily similar prices to Amanjena, yet thankfully far better quality. For such a formal resort, there was a much more hip atmosphere here than expected, with upbeat music played over lunch at Le Jardin. A bit of a mix, with all the white gloves and a place where a warm towel just isn’t quite enough, instead warm water is poured over your hands, then a towel is presented.
The food was very enjoyable for lunch and breakfast; where the latter had an abundance of everything imaginable; trolleys with cakes and pastry baskets to supplement the lack of a buffet. All dishes are served at the same time by two different people in perfect synchronicity, but out of sync was one waiter who kept answering before the question was finished, like we were playing Jeopardy.
Royal Mansour was far superior to Amanjena, and due to not hiding in taxes and service fees and convenience fees and “because we can fees” at the end, often a lot cheaper. It just didn’t excel when it came to dinner, especially in Le Grande Table Marocaine, which offered very little other than an expensive bill.
Service was better at Royal Mansour, but I actually preferred it at Amanjena – it felt more relaxed, warmer and management were – as Aman’s are known for – everywhere, compared to never seeing, hearing or even dreaming of a manager here. The service was like having a cold parent; they look after you, but you’re not sure they love you.
Each property had moments of brilliance, followed by inexplainable moments of insanity. Such as how they would always present a stool next to our table for my camera, or how they remembered to light the outside fire, as we asked for it on the first; or how the room was scattered with petals on my birthday, or the perfection of room dining breakfast, through us not even being aware they had done it – they just phone you afterwards to tell you it’s downstairs.
Yet then, on my birthday, they kindly reminded me of my food allergies…somehow chocolate managed to work its way onto this list. If I were allergic to chocolate, I would not have made it this far; there would be little point in wasting unnecessary energy on breathing. I even corrected the waitress to tell her that was not true, and then she came out with a cake at the end of the meal and reminded me it was without chocolate, as I’m allergic to it. Thanks. A. Bunch.
The theme of contrasts continued on yet another meal, where we sat down and immediately were poured still and sparkling water with lemon juice, showing their eye for detail and remembering these preferences. Then they asked me if I was allergic to chocolate and lamb. So close, yet so far. Next they’ll tell me I’m allergic to Haribo so they burnt it all.
There were definitely some failures here, some worse than others. My biggest piece of advice is to remember to use the Do Not Disturb button, as otherwise you will find staff just walking around the riad without any warning. One moment you’re upstairs just minding your own business by writing fake Trip Advisor reviews, the next you can hear people talking downstairs like the beginning of Panic Room.
On the final night we asked concierge to print our plane tickets and we asked that they leave them downstairs. At 10:30 pm, someone shows up shouting so we can go collect them. It’s this type of incident that felt anything but luxurious. Some of the issues did not stop there though, such as it taking over 2 hours to get our luggage upon moving room, or the room not being cleaned by 12, or being sat by the pool for an hour and no one coming to offer drinks.
When they collect you in a Bentley, you’re certainly hoping for something slightly more luxurious than a Prius to take you back to the airport. Fortunately they stuck with the Bentley, provided us with fast track service and even filled the departure card out for us. A world class send off.
You are walking distance from the market, so location wise it is one of the better properties in Marrakech. If you’re really into those things. If you want every excuse possible to avoid going there, then I congratulate you on being sane and recommend Amanjena.
- Excellent choice of dining venues, with mostly good food selection
- Service was rather stiff
- Entry level room categories, even at 140sqm, are uneventful
- Above entry level room categories, even at 175sqm, are uneventful.
- One of the most opulent properties in the world
There is a lot to admire but little to love. I just struggle to get excited about it in the way other properties can, and this is taking into consideration that Amanjena was ultimately a bigger let down, but I still felt more welcome there. The service did, strangely, shine in places at both properties: Royal Mansour with such a perfect room setup and desire to please; Amanjena with offering free wine tasting, snacks and bringing out drinks without even asking. It’s just the best properties have a soul behind them and Royal Mansour’s was sadly the soul of a butler – the one who always gets killed in Cluedo.
I would rank my favourite Marrakech properties as:
- Mandarin Oriental
- Royal Mansour