Be mesmerised by the magic of Marrakech: soak up the souks, devour fresh mint tea and explore the Atlas Mountains. Jill Nash reports from Le Riad, an exclusive Moroccan retreat close to the centre of Marrakech.
A less than four-hour flight from the UK will land you in this exotic North African destination. Marrakech is culturally far enough to feel you have landed somewhere far flung, but close enough to dip your toe in for a long weekend, or longer if you can manage the time. There’s a myriad of accommodation options for a variety of budgets and tastes, September/October being the optimum time to visit after the summer heat and the crowds have subsided.
Set in Morocco’s oldest palm grove is the exclusive space Le Riad, a perfect sanctuary for an all-inclusive holiday with all the trimmings. Le Riad is five kilometres from Marrakech and easily reachable by taxi, so you can explore the buzzing Jemaa el-Fna Square by day or night at your leisure.
The grand entrance with ornate doors leads into a private concierge area with mint tea permanently on tap. The swimming pool and private poolside bar are exclusive to guests of Le Riad, yet you can enjoy the rest of the facilities and entertainment around the Club Med village if you want to venture out. This being particularly beneficial to families, as there’s children’s entertainment, a fabulous mini-club, archery, golf and trapeze, where you can learn to swing high.
Le Riad accommodation is more than just a room. The delightful interconnecting terrace suites make it feel like a private villa, with tremendous sun terraces where you can opt for sundown cocktails and a tray of dates. The bathrooms are sumptuously decorated with ornate tiling, stone sinks, lovely soap amenities and the mini-bar is constantly filled (free of charge).
Staying in Le Riad you can benefit from private poolside service, and they host a private BBQ lunch once a week and an evening dinner of authentic Moroccan dishes. Each evening, there is a raft of canapés from 6pm, accompanied by cocktails and champagne and preparing you for dinner in one of the restaurants.
A few steps away from Le Riad is the Cinq Mondes spa, designed like a Moorish villa, with an ornate water feature and sun loungers scattered around a tranquil, luscious pond. There is a truly authentic marble Turkish bath, where you can opt for a scrub down to cleanse the skin – a memorable experience. Children over eight years can also experience the spa and enjoy children’s mini treatments and massages. Visit clubmed.co.uk or clubmed.co.uk/r/Marrakech-La-Palmeraie for more information.
Drink + Dine
Being an all-inclusive property, guests can enjoy eating and drinking literally all day since breakfast, lunch and evening meal are included in the price. As the sun sets, the chef wheels out trays of afternoon tea treats, which are almost an entire meal in themselves. Room service is complimentary should you decide to have an early night and watch a film, and you can still take advantage of the free beers and snacks.
Each day there are varied themes, gourmet barbeques (serving lobster to your heart’s content), so there is always a wonderful variety for everyone. Guests mainly eat in the international dining room at La Palmeraie, which is a buffet-style affair, where you can help yourself to the salad bar, pizzas and sumptuous local delicacies. The Moroccan-themed night is probably one of the best evenings, where they bring the local bazaar from Marrakech to the resort; you can pick up a pair of leather slippers and enjoy taking a photo with one of the resident camels. Evening entertainment is what Club Med does best and each evening, there is a host of different shows from We Will Rock You (rock ballad classics) to the trapeze spectacular stunt show or the mesmerising snake charmers and Moroccan dancers. You won’t be bored, that’s for sure.
Enjoying Moroccan hospitality and specialities at the El Kebir restaurant is an absolute must. Choose from a variety of tagines and couscous dishes and be served at your table in a cosy dining room with a roaring fireplace. El Kebir is included in the price, but a table must be booked in advance.
There are several places you can stop for a drink that are included in the price. The cheerfully stylish Le Pacha is ideal for afternoon tea or drinks before dinner, and its poolside bar perfect for a relaxing aperitif after a day of swimming. The bar du Riad is exclusive for residents at Le Riad, warmly and elegantly decorated, secluded and providing an intimate ambience by day. In the evening, the piano is playing, and the fires are lit as it can sometimes get chilly in the evenings in Marrakech.
Finally, the adult-only Zen Zone is the place to be if you don’t have the children – grab a drink by the quiet pool and head for a snooze on a sun lounger.
There is plenty within the resort to keep you busy for a few days; challenge your friends at the driving range, practice your drop shots on the clay tennis courts or reach for the stars swinging on the flying trapeze – all with expert tuition and included within the price.
Outside the resort, discovering the souks of Marrakech is undoubtedly one of the highlights for any first-time visitor. The resort offers a free shuttle to the main square several times per day; alternatively, you can easily grab a taxi. Wandering through Jemaa el-Fna is a treat for the senses; indulge in freshly squeezed orange juice and dates and inhale the fresh scents of mint tea and spices on offer in the markets. Haggle to your heart’s content for leather goods, sparkling jewellery and sequined kaftans. At night, the souks come alive with entertainment, including snake charmers, fire-eaters and music – it’s simply not to be missed.
For something more tranquil, head over to the three acres of botanical gardens and artists’ landscape known as the ‘Jardin Majorelle’, which was created by French Orientalist artist Jacques Majorelle. This is one of the most visited sites in Morocco and a spectacular work of artistry, and you can explore the space with a horse-drawn carriage, which makes the trip even more special.
A day spent on a 4x4 discovering the Atlas Mountains is a thrilling experience, you can organise this directly from Le Riad and take a day to enjoy the vast, impressive scenery and meet with the Berber population before enjoying a mint tea and Moroccan lunch.
For something more low key, and if you are tight on time and/or have children, take a camel ride for a morning. The resort boasts resident camels and expert guides, so you can head out of the resort in their company and are guaranteed lots of fun.
Whatever you are looking for – a short blast of autumn sunshine or a thrill-seeking weekend away – Marrakech has all the right ingredients for an unforgettable trip. Le Riad is affordable for families looking for that special getaway without breaking the bank.
For a family room (occupancy four: two adults, 8-year-old child and four-year-old child), prices start from £3,000 (seven-night stay, November and December 2019, Saturday or Sunday departure). Includes flights from Manchester and airport-resort transfers. Kids under six stay free. Visit clubmed.co.ukfor more details.