THE ROSE OF MARRAKECH

The fantastic and ancient city of Marrakech. The famous fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent spent his remaining years here, and legendary writer Sanmao wandered here as well. It is the location chosen for the first Amanresort on the African continent. Amanjena’s rose pink walls reflect the elegance, moresque flair and allure of old Marrakech.

There is so much more to Morocco than Casablanca, so sit back and prepare to explore Marrakech. This alluring city is probably the most important of the four Berber imperial cities. The old town is UNESCO World Heritage listed as a site of cultural significance and for this and a host of other reasons has attracted many celebrities over the years.

The walls of Amanjena resort are just a few kilometres outside the city of Marrakech at the gateway to the Sahara desert and only two hours’ drive to the Atlantic coast. Amanjena means ‘peaceful paradise’ in the native language. The hotel is designed by the Paris based architect and interior designer, Edward Tuttle. The most striking aspect of Amanjena is its rose pink walls which echo those of the ‘Red City’—Al Medina al Hamri, and the Berber villages of the Atlas Mountains.

Marrakech was brought to radiant life by the brilliance of 11th century Almoravid irrigation. Central to the resort is an ancient bassin or irrigation pool, inspired by Marrakech’s 12th century Menara Gardens. Channels flow along two canals which feed the resort gardens of olive and citrus trees, soaring date palms, orange-flame bougainvillea, pale peach hibiscus, orange- and white-blossomed rose bushes and pomegranate. Water is a unifying element at Amanjena, present in the Moroccan marble fountains strewn with rose petals in the resort’s entrance colonnade. Flowing water is considered a gift in this desert country, a symbol of grace and abundance. The rose is Marrakech’s flower. It scents walled courtyards everywhere, colouring fountains and dinner plates, perfuming Marrakchi women and welcoming guests.

When you arrive at the hotel you will be greeted with a cup of sweet hot mint tea. Waiters in traditional white gowns boil the water, measure the amount of tea leaves and brown sugar before serving with an elegant long-pour. This is a ritual in Morocco and one which goes a long way towards easing the fatigue of weary travelers.

The main entrance to the hotel is a breathtaking colonnade constructed of a succession of massive Moorish arches which are characteristic of the area and lend the architecture an expansive openness. The buildings are surrounded by date palms, olive and bitter orange trees, giving the whole scene an otherworldly charm.

As you pass through the entry hallway you arrive at the inner courtyard which surrounds the outdoor swimming pool. At this point you have symbolically arrived at the oasis in the desert, the clear water shining against the flushed pink courtyard walls. Arranged along two long corridors facing the pool are thirty-two suites, eight of which are equipped with hot spring swimming pools and private gardens. Each of the suites opens to a grand multi-faceted dome finished with Venetian plaster. The pale peach interior walls are painted using the lustrous Tadelakt, a treatment originally employed to waterproof the traditional hamman (steam bath) walls. Under the suites’ central dome sits a luxurious bed decorated with Berber carpet and brass lanterns and inside the suite there is a vaulted fireplace for the chilly Marrakchi winter nights.

Walking through the sliding glass and cedar doors you are lead to the pavilion’s garden courtyard with views to the adjacent Amelkis golf course and olive groves. Six of the thirty-two pavilions enjoy sweeping views to the central irrigation pool while eight pavilions piscine have their own heated pool and an extended private garden. A large lounging couch, flanked by black lanterns, rules the courtyard. The dazzle of hand-cut glazed tiles known as zellij feature in a fountain recessed into the terracotta-tiled floor. Chaise longues and maillechort candle lanterns lend a mood of pure Moroccan indulgence. All of the pavilions enjoy a pillared minzah (gazebo). 

To the right of the lobby is the Moroccan restaurant—open for dinner— specialising in innovative approaches to the local cuisine, as well as Continental dishes, the Moroccan is graced by more than 80 onyx columns, plâtre ciselé artwork, moucharabieh-wood screens and a commanding pyramid skylight. Dinner at the Moroccan, with the candle light flickering in the wishing well and the accompaniment of local musicians is one that you will not forget in a hurry. 

The Restaurant, alongside the swimming pool, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner indoors and in a garden courtyard. Authentic Thai cuisine is featured for lunch and dinner. Amanjena also has an authentic Japanese restaurant where you can have fresh Japanese seafood, sushi and a barbecue.

WANDER IN THE YSL GARDEN

The Majorelle Garden located on Saint Laurent Street inMarrakech was designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle. He devoted a large portion of his life to its design and construction,  and it became one of the most enigmatic gardens of the 20th century. In 1962, Jacques Majorelle had to go back to France for medical care following a car accident and died soon after that. After his death, the garden remained open to the public, however, it slowly deteriorated due to the lack of maintenance. Luckily, the famous fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent later became fond of the garden and bought it.

Yves Saint Laurent was Algerian by birth but had a great love of Marrakech. After purchasing the Marjorelle Garden he spent much of the spring and summertime there. The warm colours of the blooming flowers and tropical foliage provided him with endless inspiration. He was quoted as saying, 'over the years this garden has been the source of my spiritual power, and the unique colours are a welcome guest in my dreams.' 

The best way to enjoy the Marjorelle Garden is to wander its ceramic paved pathways with a quiet mind, inhale the scent of the flowers, the song of the birds and appreciate the cooling effect of the frog ponds. Be sure not to miss the Moroccan honey pancakes and sweet mint tea at the cafe.  A museum will open this autumn in Marrakesh to honour the work of Yves Saint Laurent. Over 5000 of his designs will be on exhibition.

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