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Where to Dine, Wine, & Stay in Style in Marrakech, Morocco's Fabled Red City

By Jochen Ehrhardt Managing Director, Founder, TRUE 5 STARS | September 12, 2021

While Marrakech is already on the to-visit-list of European and North American travelers for the ultimate and truly authentic 1001-Nights experience, who would have thought that Morocco produces its own wine?

Allow me to start by providing a little bit of background on this colorful city:

Moroccans are generally good at languages. Typically, they grow up with up to three languages: The Moroccan dialect of Arabic, the so called Darija, French, and Berber.

Marrakech, with a population of roughly one-million inhabitants, is Morocco's fourth largest and best-known city-apart from Casablanca, which owes its entire fame to the famous, same-titled movie, even though it was not even shot on location! Founded in 1070, Marrakech is served by a world-class airport, Menara International, and draws mostly French, British, Germans, Spaniards, Americans, and Moroccans themselves. The city is famous for its fortified city, the Medina, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site, and boasts the largest traditional market in the country, the Souk.

Kasbah Tamadot

Marrakech is a year-round destination with dry heat peaks during the low season in July and August and a cooler winter during December to March. High season is during the months between.

Marrakech, the Red City-so called because of the Medina's buildings and ramparts being of beaten red clay-is one of only two African cities with a large luxury hotel offering, the other city being Cape Town, the Mother City-being the original city in South Africa-at the other end of the continent.

Hotel development has been progressing rapidly over the past two decades. While in the beginning of the century there were only two world-class hotels, La Mamounia and Amanjena, as of July 2021 this number has at least tripled, depending on how you look at it. displays up to 55 results when you filter for 5-star hotels. Interestingly, the reason for staying in a hotel in Marrakech is probably 95% leisure, be it for a weekend trip from nearby Europe or longer trips from overseas that mostly involve some kind of hotel-hopping. The nature of Marrakech's luxury hotel scenery lends itself perfectly to dividing a stay into at least two different hotel stays. In addition, at the very top end of the market, it is very hard to decide on just one hotel.

So, here's a little guidance from someone who has just spent two weeks in Marrakech's top hotels, and from someone who has visited, inspected or stayed at about 1,800 of the world's best hotels in over 80 countries.

Kasbah Tamadot

There are basically three regional clusters for luxury hospitality offerings, the Medina comprised of mainly Riads, small establishments with windows looking out on calm courtyards, L'Hivernage, La Palmeraie and anything outside the city boundaries but within a 20-30 minute drive.

My top picks for opulently-adorned Moroccan-style über luxury hotels are clearly La Mamounia, Marrakech's Grande Dame, and the Royal Mansour which belongs to the Crown's treasuries. Here, the 1001 Nights fairy tale comes to life, albeit in very different forms. While La Mamounia is the place to meet and mingle while staying at its 202 beautifully-appointed rooms, suites and villas, the Royal Mansour is, with just 53 Riad-style homes each with its own rooftop plunge pool, a place to find refuge and enjoy the privacy of one's own Riad. Rates from USD 1,200 a night are not for everyone.

There was much talk about La Mamounia's complete makeover a few years ago. Rumor has it that some of the regular guests did not particularly like it as they felt the hotel had lost part of its soul. In any event, I would like to agree to disagree! Not moving with the times means running out of customers sooner or later. Let there be no mistake, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, the hotel is an absolute beauty and not many hotels on the planet can match its magic.

Leaving the city, you don't have to go far to find two other beauties, the Mandarin Oriental and Amanjena. They are my top picks for staying outside the city boundaries. Both are absolutely beautiful, and at the same time, very different. The Mandarin Oriental draws Marrakech's elite to its Chinese Ling Ling restaurant, overlooking the resort's pool area and facing the High Atlas mountain range. The vibe on weekends is very chic and classy, seeing and being seen! Starting at 3,229 sq ft/300 sqm, the 54 pool villas are magnificent in every aspect while seven of the nine at least 1,453 sq ft/135 sqm suites have splendid views of the nearby High Atlas mountains, in addition to plunge pools.

Amanjena is a classic already. As one of AMAN's first resorts, the 40-villa property has lost only a bit of its former glory. Regardless, along with the Royal Mansour, it is Marrakech's most exclusive resort with a distinct focus on the privacy of its celebrity clientele.

La Sultana Marrakech

In the southern part of the Medina, there is a hidden, magical place, called La Sultana. Your 28-bedroom museum-like Riad with, of course, a rooftop bar. By the way, did you know that Marrakech is one of the three (hotel) rooftop bar hotspots worldwide? The others are Barcelona and Bangkok. For those in search of the ultimate Riad-experience in the city's old quarter, look no further! After a day or two, all employees will know you by name, and, maybe, vice versa.

Another rooftop bar recommendation would be the 360-degree top level of the Pearl-soon-to-be-Nobu Hotel. Located just outside the city wall in the Hivernage district, within walking distance of La Mamounia and Royal Mansour, this rooftop boasts some of the greatest unobstructed views of the mountains and the city.

Should you decide to head out to the mountains, there is another magical place, thanks to Sir Richard Branson. His Moroccan Retreat, Kasbah Tamadot, is so worth a stay! The setting and views are absolutely stunning and with just 28 rooms, suites and tents spread over 27 acres/11 hectares including its own organic tomato garden, two tennis courts and a 72 ft/22m outdoor pool, privacy and fun are more than guaranteed. Moreover, situated 4,265 ft/1,300m above sea level, temperatures during the hot summer months of July and August are always notably below the level in Marrakech. The snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas are highly visible during the December to March winter period. No worries, there are enough hot spots in the main building such as the library to cuddle up in front of the fireplace when temperatures go south.

If you are into horses, the Selman is for you. Located just outside Marrakech, a beautiful pool and real Arabic horses are the main draw. Your own private horse show for a special occasion? Ask Madonna.

As a sports enthusiast, you might want to try the Fairmont hotel, located within its own 18-hole golf course. Additional sports offerings include four tennis courts and a squash court. Bedrooms are oversized.

As for the quality of the service and guest engagement in Marrakech's top luxury hospitality offerings, there is definitely room for improvement, as reflected in guest reviews. In any case, there is the one or more highly motivated employees who knows how to serve without losing his/her authenticity. I view it as of paramount importance to leave behind limiting standards such as scripted language and any kind of robotic behavior: A hotel offering that aspires to exceed should not be standardized or forced into a template.

What's in store? Park Hyatt is said to open next year and Ritz-Carlton in a few years.

In case you travel on a budget, try Riad Tarabel or AnaYela in the Medina or BAB Hotel in Gueliz.

La Sultana Marrakech

Needless to say, Marrakech boasts many beautiful restaurants. A favorite among locals and visitors alike is La Trattoria Marrakech. Established in 1974 by Italians, it was taken over by a local businessman in 2001, and subsequently given a complete makeover. While you will be hard-pressed to find any Italian elements, except for the food of course, the indoor space is a real stunner. Tables are arranged around a pool. The place is packed seven days a week, so reservations are recommended. Another good sign, the owner is personally present, every evening. And of course, they are serving excellent wines from Italy and...Morocco!

Wanting to know more about this hidden gem, I conferred with one of Morocco's top sommeliers, Mr. Rabi Ahsina, from the Fairmont Royal Palm in Marrakech, who was kind enough to shed light on the status quo of Moroccan wine:

How did you become interested in wines and how did you become a sommelier?

I began my hotel career in 2004 and it was during my first period of training that I immediately discovered a real passion for wines, one that I wanted to study further, as it looked to me a great world to discover. Six years after that I had the opportunity to work at Sofitel Marrakech with a wonderful wine cellar, which pushed me to dive deeper into my discovery of the art of the sommelier and wine knowledge. The support of the team gave me extra motivation to explore this passion, to study and visit Moroccan vineyards.

When did Morocco start producing wine?

Morocco first began its wine production in 1927 with the first harvest in the Domaine of Thalvin in Oulad Taleb, not far from Benslimane in the region of Casablanca.

What are the major wine regions?

One of the most important regions for wine production is surely Meknes with several wineries such as the Domaine de la Zouina, Les Celliers de Meknes, Baccari and more. Other equally important regions include Val d'Argan near Essaouira; well known for its Biodynamic production; and of course Benslimane, which pioneered wine production in Morocco.

How do they cope with the heat?

Moroccan vineyards are all influenced by the Atlantic Sea breeze and by their own microclimates, which help ameliorate the hot weather. The grapes we have adopted were selected carefully by the Moroccan vignerons (wine growers) from the ones that grow best in hot-climate areas.

Kasbah Tamadot

Which grapes are prevalent?

The vignerons' favorite grape is probably Syrah, well known for its rounded and complex aromas; the Grenache is one of the grapes most present in our rose wines, whereas the Cinsault is harvested for our famous Gris, a typical Moroccan rose with a shorter maceration that results in a lighter color, a dry taste and good acidity.

Are there any established wine brands yet?

There are several well-established wine brands in the local market, which are gaining more and more international visibility. The most establish vineyard is Chateau de Roslane-the first AOC and the only Chateau in Morocco.

Does Morocco export wine?

Yes, Morocco exports several of its wine brands mainly to France and Europe. The vineyards and the institutions are putting great effort into promoting Moroccan wines in the international market, participating in different exhibitions while receiving several accolades.

Is wine consumed predominantly in (luxury) hotels?

Wine is served mostly in touristic establishments, such as luxury hotels, where we have an excellent opportunity to introduce and promote our Moroccan wines for their higher quality, taste, and aromas.

How do you see the future of Morocco as a niche wine country?

As mentioned before, the vineyards in Morocco are making strides when it comes to gaining international recognition for their wine. Nevertheless, we should not forget the hard work done by the recently established Association des Sommeliers du Maroc (ASMA - Association of Moroccan Sommeliers) that participates in several international events and supports the growth of the wine culture and knowledge in the country. ASMA is also putting great emphasis on training new sommeliers to better promote domestic production further afield. The influx of travelers to Morocco also helps in gaining international visibility as demand for Moroccan wines increases around the world.

Having benefited from Mr. Ahsina's expertise as well as Fairmont Royal Palm's cellar, I can personally recommend Morocco's excellent wines!

Main Image: Royal Mansour Marrakech

Mr. Ehrhardt Jochen Ehrhardt founded TRUE 5 STARS in 2010 as a B2B platform showcasing the world's top 1,000 hotels and resorts. Mr. Ehrhardt provides quality assistance for travel designers through his company, TRUE 5 STARS Advisory, allowing them to focus more on the client side of the business, and for hoteliers to perfect their offerings. Over the course of the past twenty years, he has visited, inspected, or stayed at about 1,800 high-end hotels in over 80 countries. In support of these businesses, Mr. Ehrhardt co-founded DNA QA in 2018 to provide an innovative approach to QA assurance; most recently, he developed a new approach to Quality Assurance through his latest venture, TRUE 5 STARS Quality Assurance, which is focused entirely on the human interaction between guest and employees, especially regarding the emotional component. Mr. Ehrhardt holds a degree in business management from Akad, Stuttgart, is fluent in German, English, and Spanish. Extended Biography & Contact Information

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This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of California notwithstanding any conflict of laws provisions. You and HotelExecutive agree that the venue for all legal disputes, controversies, actions of any kind arising under or related to this Agreement shall be San Francisco, California. You and HotelExecutive further agree that in case of any litigation regarding this Agreement, you irrevocably and unconditionally (i) consent to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the state and federal courts in the County of San Francisco, California for any litigation or dispute arising out of or relating to this Agreement, (ii) agree not to commence any litigation arising out of or relating to this Agreement except in the California Courts, (iii) agree not to plead or claim that such litigation brought therein has been brought in an inconvenient forum, and (iv) agree the California Courts represent the exclusive jurisdiction for all litigation relating to this Agreement.


Hotel Business Review Subscriptions

If you choose to purchase a subscription, member subscription payments can be made in U.S. Dollars, as well as a variety of international currencies. Membership terms are Annual Recurring, and Monthly Recurring. The Annual Recurring subscription is an annual commitment and subscribers will be charged each consecutive billing cycle. Annual Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first billing cycle and within 30-days of the billing date for a full refund. Monthly Recurring subscriptions are ongoing and subscribers will be charged each consecutive monthly billing cycle. Monthly Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first month and within 7 days of the monthly billing cycle for a full refund.


Payment for the services provided to you in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive may be made by automatic credit card, debit card, direct debit, bankwire or Paypal and other approved payment means offered in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive, and you hereby authorize HotelExecutive and its agents to transact such payments on your behalf.

You hereby authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card to pay for your membership to HotelExecutive. You further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card for any and all purchases of products, services in association with HotelExecutive. You agree to be personally liable for all charges incurred by you in association with your access or other use of any content provided by HotelExecutive or any third party in association with HotelExecutive. You acknowledge and agree that your liability for all such charges shall continue after termination of your access or any type of membership arrangement with HotelExecutive.

In the event that you have chosen to have your membership automatically rebilled, unless and until you notify HotelExecutive that you wish to cancel or terminate your membership to HotelExecutive, you hereby agree and authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to automatically renew your membership to HotelExecutive on a continuing basis and to charge your credit card (or other payment means you have selected) to pay for the ongoing cost of your membership. You hereby further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card (or other approved payment means you have selected) for any and all purchases of products, services and entertainment provided to in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive.


The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Emily Brannen
Stefan  Read
Florian Kittler
Scott  Lee
Michael Sturman, Ph.D.
Bonnie Knutson
Mary Tabacchi
Linchi Kwok Ph.D.
Rohit Verma
Jamie Sterling
Cynthia Mejia
Robert  O'Halloran
Robert  O'Halloran
Richard Takach, Jr.
Coming up in October 2021...

Revenue Management: Monetizing All Offerings

Of all the departments within hotel operations, Revenue Management may have been the hardest hit, due to the pandemic. The logic goes - no revenue, no need for revenue managers - so many industry professionals were furloughed. If business rebounds in 2021, as expected, then hotel management will have to determine when prevailing occupancy levels justify bringing back their revenue management team. Also, the pandemic seems to have exposed some weaknesses in the traditional RevPAR models. There is a growing understanding that it is no longer sufficient to use a "revenue per available room" model; instead, hotels are adopting a TRevPAR model (total revenue per available room). This model recognizes that revenue streams from other departments are just as important as the revenue gained from rooms. As a result, hotels are looking at ways to monetize any and all hotel offerings - from dining outlets and spas to outdoor function spaces and local partnerships. The October issue of the Hotel Business Review will examine these developments and report on how some leading hotels are executing their revenue management strategies.