10. Amanjena Marrakech, Morocco
Amanjena (peaceful paradise) is the first Aman resort on the African continent and is located just outside the ancient city of Marrakech. Set within an oasis of palms and olive trees, Moorish heritage is reflected throughout the pisé-walled resort, including the Morocco luxury villas and pavilions that radiate out from an ancient bassin, echoing the style of a sultan’s palace. Amanjena offers a variety of guided excursions on foot, bicycle or private car into the medina, the souk and squares, palaces, gardens and craft shops of ancient Marrakech.
Amanjena, or ‘peaceful paradise’, is the first Amanresort on the African continent. The property is located just outside the ancient Moroccan city of Marrakech on the southern road to Ouarzazate, the gateway to the Sahara Desert. The High Atlas Mountains claim the Marrakech horizon and the Atlantic coast is just two hours away. The 18-hole Amelkis Championship Golf Course lies immediately alongside Amanjena, with a second course – the Royal Golf Course – just minutes away.
Known in Arabic as Al Medina al-Hamra, the ‘Red City’, due to its rosy-hued walls and structures, Marrakech was the inspiration for Amanjena’s design. The resort’s walls and Morocco luxury villas echo the city’s old pisé (rammed earth) buildings as well as the Berber villages that cling to the High Atlas Mountains. Green is also a predominant colour in the oasis of Marrakech – the colour of Islam, paradise, royalty and abundance. The colour of nature gilds Amanjena, too: its lawns and vines, its emerald-clay roofs, Moroccan marble fountains and the dazzle of hand-cut, glazed tiles known as zellij.
The Restaurant is open for dinner and specialises in authentic Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine. Soft lighting lends warmth to the generously-proportioned room, centred by a scalloped onyx fountain surrounded by olive trees beneath a commanding central skylight. Arched moucharabieh wood screens decorate the upper reaches of onyx pillars while the tinted plâtre ciselé walls are the colour of honey, chiseled with Berber designs. Banquettes and tables line the walls. During the summer months, dinner seating is moved outdoors. The Thai Restaurant, situated alongside the swimming pool, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The light-filled room features banks of glass doors and coral-tadlekt walls decorated with old Moroccan leather horse saddles. The Pool Terrace meanwhile is open for breakfast and lunch, overlooking the pool and adjacent golf course. Guests can also enjoy private dining in their Pavilion or Maison. Special dinners or buffets to celebrate a unique occasion can be arranged. Upon request, intimate dinners accompanied by local music can be organised in the Caidal Tent, a traditional and romantic venue situated in an olive grove. Featuring clusters of cotton-sabra armchairs, The Bar is ideal for casual dining, pre-dinner aperitifs and post-dinner nightcaps. Located just off Amanjena’s entranceway, the venue is airily cool in summer and warmly welcoming during winter with its open fireplace and ambient lighting. Smoke-tinted mirrors along with old Berber daggers and Arabic swords in scabbards of deer antler, camel bone and olive wood decorate the walls. Housed within The Bar, The Fumoir offers a selection of cigars.
The two-storey Library features a fireplace and a six-metre, double-volume ceiling. A balcony runs along the perimeter of the second floor. Light filters in from dozens of windows cut on varying levels into the tadlekt walls. Recessed glass shelving houses books, magazines and newspapers, as well as DVDs and the distinctive green pottery of Tamegroute, a village in the Moroccan Sahara. A selection of travel books and board games is also available. The Library’s tables are of wild-cherry wood inlaid and stained to an ebony gloss. The room’s upper level is fringed by a Moucharabieh-screened railing which encircles most of the room. Cozy masria (Moroccan daybeds) frame the fireplace.
The Boutique is located within the cedar-ceilinged colonnade that embraces the main swimming pool. A variety of locally-crafted products is available for purchase including Moroccan art and handicrafts ranging from jewellery to brass lanterns, pottery and antiques. All fabric items for sale including tablecloths, shawls, caftans and djellabas are hand-woven. Some are created exclusively for Amanjena.
Amanjena’s Spa features two Turkish-style hammams (steam baths) complemented by showers, washrooms, a dressing area and a glassed-in whirlpool. The whirlpool opens onto a fountain courtyard bordered by a two-metre pisé wall. Spa treatments ranging from traditional Moroccan gommage (scrubs) to a selection of massages can be enjoyed at Amanjena’s Spa. Other services include reflexology, facials, manicures, pedicures and waxing. Private treatment rooms offer a peaceful sanctuary for relaxation.
Amanjena’s 33-metre heated outdoor swimming pool is finished in glittering green tiles of écaille de poisson-cut zellij. Chaise lounges and umbrellas line the pool’s terrace, framed by hibiscus. The pool area features a pisé-style arch over a wide wall fountain and a separate shallow pool.
Amanjena has two clay tennis courts floodlit for night play. Racquets and balls are complimentary. Guests are recommended to bring their own tennis shoes. The tennis grounds include central minzahs (gazebos) for drinks and rest breaks between matches.
Mountain bikes are available for exploring the paved pathways that lead from Amanjena through the surrounding olive groves and past the golf course and garden villas that lie alongside it.
Wireless broadband connections are available in all resort accommodations and public areas.
From the Arabic madina (city), the medina is the heart and soul of Marrakech. Largely surrounded by its original ramparts and 12th-century fortress walls of red earth, this ‘fully preserved historic town’, as UNESCO has called it, is a World Heritage Site. It presents a captivating inner world of winding lanes, old fondouks (inns), hammams and souks (shops) of every kind amidst the enticing smells of cumin, mint tea and barley bread baking in communal ovens.
Apart from the boutique in Amanjena, there is a profusion of shopping options within Marrakech. A number of specialist antique shops have recently opened and the numerous souks display great diversity. Rural markets, with their vegetables, sheep heads, mules, saddles and portable steam baths, are a delightful distillation of everyday Moroccan life. Amanjena offers guided tours through the souks: visiting tanneries, traditional bakeries and hammams, where everyday subsistence living has a charm unlike anywhere else, are immensely rewarding, as much can be drawn from their edifying and uncomplicated way of life.
Marrakech’s most memorable landmark is the 12th-century Koutoubia Minaret, the tallest structure in the city at 70 metres. Built in classic Moorish-Moroccan style, it is the oldest and grandest of the surviving Almohad-era towers. Established in the 14th century and completely rebuilt in the 16th century, the Ben Youssef Medersa is among the most beautiful of Marrakech’s buildings. Recently restored, the former Islamic theological college features zellij tiles, carved wood and intricate plaster work.
The ancient Place Djemaa el Fna is one of the busiest squares in Africa, bustling with dancers, acrobats and musicians by day, and transforming into an open-air restaurant at night.
Marrakech is rife with palaces, but the 16th-century El Badi Palace, now in ruins, was once the largest and most luxurious of them all. Every June it takes on a hint of its former grandeur, hosting the National Festival of Popular Arts, Morocco’s biggest annual music and folklore festival. The palace also incorporates the Koutoubia Minbar, a masterpiece of medieval religious craft.
The hammam or steam bath is as central to Moroccan life as mint tea. Not surprising then that it is also the steamy heart of Amanjena’s Spa. Each hammam (one for men, another for women) is complemented by showers, washrooms, a dressing area and a glassed-in whirlpool, opening onto a fountain courtyard bordered by a pisé-wall two metres high. The hammam itself is a stepped, two-chamber room of Moresque arches meeting a vaulted ceiling.
Treatments available at the Spa include massages, facials, scrubs and wraps, as well as manicures and pedicures. The Spa also incorporates a timber-floored gym.
Route de Ouarzazate
km 12, Marrakech
tel (212) 5 24 399 000
fax (212) 5 24 403 477
Email [email protected]
BP 2405 Poste Principale de Gueliz
Marrakech 40000, Morocco
Official website: http://www.amanresorts.com/
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