How to create a unique Moroccan city break hotel? Pick a cluster of authentic riads and infuse them with intimacy and beauty of a traditional Marrakech townhouse, combined with contemporary oriental luxury. Ah, and do away with any last hint of stuffiness.
With every step, as we turned into a narrow enclosure surrounded by tall houses, the noise of the busy street behind seemed to recede and subdue. This illusion was undoubtedly triggered by the prettiness of the La Sultana entrance. Buildings converge on the hotel’s large brass gate, polished to a brilliant shine. It’s like an echo of ancient dynasties and Morocco’s exotic splendour.
We were soon exploring the La Sultana riads, unusually starting at the rooftop terrace. Shaded by white curtains in a comfy gazebo we were welcomed by Moroccan snacks brought in on a silver tray. Check-in formalities were quickly done right there, as we drank the extra-sweet Moroccan mint tea, poured to the traditional glass cups.
Keen on discovering the rest of the hotel, one after another we visited its five riads. Always with a courtyard at the core, each riad keeps its own identity, atmosphere and design theme. What they have in common is an outstanding craftsmanship that celebrates the country’s artisan traditions.
La Sultana is filled with beautifully carved cedar wood ceilings and beams, intricate stucco, striking tiles and extravagant furnishings that give interiors original themes—without ever veering into cliché.
The most beautiful to our eyes and the last riad we walked to was Riad Bahia. With a flooded-with-light open courtyard, its design looks effortless, and the contrast of dark wood set against white stucco-carved walls and columns is brilliant. This is the Riad with the deluxe suites and apartments, and it’s also where we stayed.
Each of the 28 rooms at La Sultana has a different layout and furnishings while reflecting the riad’s particular theme. Exquisite local tiles, handicrafts, and furniture from Europe and Africa bring warmth and character.
Our room had a large salon with fireplace, bathroom with a marble jacuzzi bath and was decorated with carved cedar panels. The lovely latched windows opened onto a shaded furnished terrace which connected our room with the white courtyard.
Our favourite places
The courtyard of the neighbouring riad is largely taken by a cool swimming pool, with the hotel’s restaurant close by. Softly lit by candlelight, this space makes for a wonderful dinner setting. The food is a highlight; the La Sultana’s French chef created a great menu inspired by Mediterranean and Oriental influences.
It’s a quick walk to the spa from there, by the way, a place which has a truly beautiful relaxation lounge. Utilising the original building’s architecture, its aesthetic is calming and elegant, with jade green and oxidised copper set against terracotta walls. The treatment rooms are soundproofed and have extra-wide massage beds.
In the morning, back on the rooftop, we’d munch on the La Sultana’s fantastic breakfast, served on blue and white china. The morning meals are sumptuous and rich. Delightful Berber dishes and local pancakes, as well as the sensational homemade yoghurt, were our faves.
Kissing our diets goodbye (with a shrug), we’d talk about a day ahead and the exploration of Marrakech. It’s a pleasant, short walk from the hotel to the Jemaa el-Fnaa, with its snake charmers, food stalls and all the hustle and bustle. Off we go!