Enter the Es Saadi, Marrakech’s oldest five-star hotel (opened in 1966), and step into another world. You breathe perfumed air and hear the sound of indigenous music (often played live), while surrounded by art ranging from the classic to the modern. Pause long enough to have a seat in the lobby and someone will inevitably pour you an engraved demitasse of the trademark Moroccan sweet mint tea—one sip and your worldly worries melt away. Walk through to the gardens and you’ll find yourself in a welcoming oasis in the middle of a bustling urban landscape. It’s a haven where you can relax near swimming pools or enjoy the fountains and lush foliage (including bougainvillea, roses and palm, banana and orange trees) on the resort’s 20-acre grounds.
The resort includes the Es Saadi hotel (135 rooms, 15 suites), the Es Saadi Palace (92 lavish suites) and the ksars (eight smaller villas) and the Es Saadi Villas (10 freestanding structures, each with its own decorative theme and names like The Sultan’s, The Maharaja’s and The Casablanca). The one- and two-bedroom villas each come with their own swimming pool and butler. Rooms in high season (mid-December to the beginning of May) range from roughly $350 a night for a room in the hotel to about $3,000 for a night in the most expensive villa.
Gorgeously appointed with elaborate tile, intricate carpets and woodwork, the Es Saadi features almost a dozen restaurants, a casino (Morocco’s oldest, circa 1956) and a two-story health spa that includes everything from the latest workout equipment to their own hammam (a traditional Moroccan steam bath that includes vigorous scrubbing with exfoliating brushes). You’ll also find the Dior Institute—and a quiet room full of waterbeds on which to unwind—after unwinding.
The resort is located in the nexus of a trio of five-star hotels (the others are Sofitel and La Mamounia), but is the only one of the three that is family owned and operated by the Bauchet family. It’s a short walk to Jemaa el-Fnaa, one of the most famous public squares in the world. Within its several acres, it features a variety of diversions during the day, ranging from musicians to acrobats to snake charmers, and is ringed with local souks, the twisting-alley markets full of small shops selling everything from leather goods to fresh spices. Wander into an alley on the correct side of the square and you’ll find yourself in the medina, or the “old city.”
But it’s a brief walk—or an inexpensive taxi ride—back to the Es Saadi, and the luxuries of the modern world, filtered through an old-world consciousness. Indulge yourself.