BEST FOR: THOSE SEEKING MINDFUL HEALING IN THE BRAND NEW UMBILICALLY ATTACHED SPA NOT FOR: ANYONE SENSITIVE TO NOISE. THE CALL TO PRAYER CAN BE A SHARP WAKE UP CALL IN THE MORNINGS, BUT REMEMBER YOU CAN VISIT THE SPA EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT STAYING HERE
Crisp and comfortable, Riad Farnatchi has long been a reliable stalwart on the Marrakech scene. What was originally a superbly renovated home for the friends and family of award-winning hotelier Jonathan Wix, this 10-suite oasis in the medina is now one of its most stylish hotel hangouts. The unobtrusive entrance is tucked into a quiet side-street alley and the magic begins the minute your dusty feet cross the marble threshold. What a relief – no more donkeys and motorbikes. Instead a cute and cooling seven-metre pool, perfect for quick dips and scattered with rose petals, takes centre stage in one of the two tranquil courtyards adorned with bougainvillea and circled with discreet sitting areas where you can sip mint tea. It’s incredibly pretty and private. And the best news? The gorgeous new spa, love child of Jonathan’s son, James – your ultimate ‘Man in Marrakech’, who is now running the riad with barrel-loads of his enthusiastic English charm.
James has thought of everything. His top priority was to make the spa a light, bright bolthole in the medina – “so many of the spas in Marrakech are dark dens, which can be atmospheric, but we wanted to create something equally special but a little more sophisticated and uplifting” . They surely have. Comprising of two magnificent private marble hammams with vaulted ceilings and four serene treatment rooms, the space is restful and refined, intricately conceived with impressive wooden carvings, but with an underlying simplicity which invites you to drop. All the little details are here – delicious fresh mint tea (with or without sugar), juicy dates and nuts post-treatment, a little mani/pedi station with Essie polishes, and on the walls, stunning antique photographs from the Maison de La Photographie de Marrakesh. The pictures lend a rare cultural honesty to the proceedings and, combined with the authentic architecture, infuse the atmosphere with something of the sacred and profound.
Treatments range from the simple delights of natural Moroccan lineNectarome, whose aromatherapy line is produced in gardens just outside the city (try the traditional hamman with black soap,you’ll emerge baby fresh) to the more heady and sensual therapies of British born Ila whose organic ingredients are grown all over the globe and include Argan oil from a women’s co-operative in Morocco, whose skills have been passed down over generations of Berbers. All of Ila’s treatments, from their Prana Vitality Massage to their blissful Body Renewal Scrub, work way beyond the surface of the skin to nourish on a deeply spiritual level. Perhaps the most stand-out treatment-of-the-moment is their new Gold Cellular Restore Face Therapy, the result of three years of research. This exquisite facial, which uses three types of naturally occurring gold and the rarest of Frankincense, ethically grown from the Gardens of Ethiopia, not only works to plump up tired skin, increase collagen levels and reduce inflammation, but seems to cradle you into a new dimension. Combining a thorough cleanse and exfoliation with gentle lymphatic massage, your face is lightly shrouded in a paper sheet drenched in a Boswellia extract mask – the essence of which is pushed deep into the skin using a special ila sonic wave wand. It may sound new fangled, but honestly feels like it is reaching deep into the most needy layers of your skin, massaging as it goes – so satisfying. Such is the magic and delicacy of the therapists’ touch, that you soon fall into a trance-like state, all the while listening to the hypnotic music composed and sung by ila’s founder Denise Leicester.
Emerge from your treatment gently and pre-order a light lunch on the terrace. Consisting of cold soups, crudites and light vegetable dishes it’s rare to be able to eat healthily in Marrakech, and this is something James has considered carefully. Indeed he wants the whole spa experience to be cohesive. Alongside clean and organic food, you can also order fresh juices and pre-book private one-to-one yoga sessions. All in all the whole experience feels thoroughly balanced and calm with the sort of service which truly makes you feel looked after. Riad Farnatchi itself is a masterpiece in elegant Moroccan decor – evident in all of the extremely smart suites, each with large fireplaces, sunken bathtubs (they take an age to run) and every comfort you can think of – from armchairs so big you can lie on them to excellent and brilliantly honest literature on the best (and worst) restaurants. If you don’t do shabby chic or small beds, make Farnatchi top of your list. Come night it’s an Arabian Nights dream – magic, sparkly, other-worldly. You can’t ask for a more transporting experience than that.