The Oberoi, Marrakech review: five-star Moroccan opulence set against the Atlas Mountains
I’m dozing next to my private pool at one of Morocco’s most opulent new five-star hotels, The Oberoi, as the daily call-to-prayer sounds out across Marrakech. It’s easy to forget we were sweating our way around the city’s famous souks just a matter of hours ago, when we now feel this peaceful. The hotel’s 28 acres of Mediterranean orchards set against views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains certainly feels worlds away from the madness of the maze-like alleys and bustling markets of the country’s famous former imperial city.
The famed Indian hotel company opened its luxury Moroccan outpost, rather unfortunately, just months before the Covid lockdown in December 2019, so its traditionally-dressed staff often make (semi-)jokes about its three-year soft launch. What a waste that most guests had to wait so long: more than 200 local craftsmen took over 10 years to construct some of the intricate detailing carved into the walls and ceilings of the magnificent main building, constructed on the site of a former 11-hectare farm and designed to look like an ancient Moroccan palace.
The owners hired the same designer as Marrakech’s famous Yves Saint Laurent or Majorelle garden for parts of the landscaping, and the craftsmanship shows: the courtyard of the main building is a replica of Morocco’s iconic 14th-century monument, the Medersa Ben Youssef, and the whole hotel is centred around a 787-foot-long grand canal, which runs through the grounds and offers an opulent and satisfyingly symmetrical backdrop to any stay, whether it’s dining on the terrace at Tamint at sunset or taking a golf buggy back to your room after a day in the desert.
With fine dining, an award-winning spa and more than 80 private villas dotted charmingly around the landscaped grounds, it’s no wonder the hotel was ranked the number one resort in North Africa and the Middle East in last year’s Travel + Leisure World’s Best awards.
From dining by candlelight to the hotel’s on-site wellness programme, here’s what to expect.
Where is The Oberoi?
Just outside Marrakech, a 25-minute drive from the city’s main airport (you’ll drive through the palace walls to get there). Book a taxi through the hotel and the luxury starts the minute you’re picked up, with Oberoi Wi-Fi and bottled water ready and waiting in the car.
If you’re looking for a riad feel amid the madness of the souks, this isn’t your place. But you’re probably not, if you’ve got as far as looking into a stay here. Arrive and expect to be greeted by staff in royal red robes, who’ll offer you a sparkling lemon and mint welcome drink in the magnificent jasmine-scented lobby area while taking your bags to your private villa or suite.
The main entrance area pays tribute to first Oberoi property in New Delhi and most of the architecture is inspired by ancient Moroccan architecture, with colourful tiling, elegant Moroccan lamps and detailing in the ceilings so intricate it’s almost impossible to believe it’s been carved by hand.
A peaceful sense of space is the USP here, with sweet little birds hopping around the terrace at breakfast and gardeners in straw hats trimming and pruning the flower beds at either side of the grand canal. Expect fragrant citrus trees and cedar trees, centuries-old olive groves and dazzling water features dotted around the grounds.
Rooms feature a mixture of Andalusian and Indian decor in a nod to the Oberoi owners, with signature yellows, walk-in closets and the biggest hotel showers I’ve seen, with floor-to-ceiling window doors straight out onto the terrace.
If you’re wondering how staff keep track of where they are half the time, look up. Each cluster of villas is surrounded by a different variety of tree, so staff and guests won’t get lost.
There are 84 units in total, most of them being Deluxe Villas that come with their own 125 square-metre private terrace and pool. Four of them are Presidential Villas (two of them sit at the far end of the canal and offer the option of interconnecting if you want the feel of a private house) with their own kitchenette and room for two adults and a child, while the largest option is the Royal Villa, a 1,000 square-metre palace with a private 11-metre pool, two bedrooms, kitchen and separate living room with a fireplace.
If views are your priority, there are also six Deluxe Rooms upstairs in the main building. You won’t get a pool (unless you’re in the signature Royal Suite), but you will get a terrace with panoramic views over the Atlas Mountains and grounds.
Both villas and rooms come with the option of interconnecting units if you’re a big group or extended family. Just ask for that option when you book.
Food & drink
Olive oil and marmalade produced from the on-site gardens. Cocktails and tuna tartare with caviar next to the pool. Three-course candlelit Moroccan feasts in the courtyard under the stars.
Food here is Moroccan-inspired but impressively wide-ranging, much of it Indian in a nod to the Oberoi brand. There are four on-site dining and drinking options: Siniman (Moroccan fine dining), Tamimt (Mediterranean, Indian and International cuisine), Azur (light meals next to the pool) and Vue (a cocktail and wine bar).
Tamimt offers everything from Indian curries to Korean bibimbap alongside Mediterranean fare, and you should book in for at least one night at Siniman if you can (think pigeon pastillas, Moroccan soups and braised octopus tagine), though be wary that it’s closed during Ramadan and replaced with an Iftar-style feast in the hotel courtyard — arguably a reason to book during the holy month as you’ll find yourself dining under the stars alongside dozens of local families cheerily breaking their daily fast to the soundtrack of traditional musicians.
Breakfast is a buffet affair, with little afternoon tea-style stands of croissants and breads brought to your table before a glorious feast of international cuisines from fresh fruits and breads to eggs in every variety. There’s a personalised omlette stand outside on the terrace and all the western favourites like eggs benedict and avocado on toast, plus some Moroccan specialities such as harira soup and msemen pancakes, which you eat with almonds and honey. Make sure you leave room for a sweet and salted pain au chocolate at the end.
Clay tennis courts and games of petanque in the shade of centuries-old olive trees. Air-conditioned libraries. Sunrise yoga overlooking the lake. The Oberoi’s USP is space, so you can easily while away a good few days on site before braving the souks or any desert tours.
The whole place is set among 28 acres of Mediterranean orchards and filled with luscious, perfectly-manicured gardens, with water features and benches dotted all around if you fancy a peaceful moment. Oberoi donkeys Barney and Sugar are happy to be petted by passing visitors and there’s a highly Instagrammable pool area surrounding the main 30-metre swimming pool — perfect if you fancy some proper swimming, food from neighbouring Azur restaurant or some last-minute sunbathing after checking out of your room. There’s a nice mix of day beds, hammocks and more traditional sunloungers available with Moroccan yellow pool towels that give a fun pop of colour against the signature royal blue pool.
The other star of the show is the Oberoi’s spa: a 2,000 square-metre light-filled oasis set on a natural waterbody and surrounded by olive and citrus orchards on the other side of the grand canal to the main pool and restaurants. It’s been designed to look like an island surrounded by water and features everything from private therapy suites and spa shop to yoga rooms, an air-conditioned fitness centre and 20-metre indoor pool overlooking the gardens.
There’s an impressive range of spa treatments available, from the heavenly signature 60-minute massage using aromatherapy oils and beginning with a traditional Moroccan warming foot wash, to a volcanic hot stone massage or foot reflexology massage. Other treatments include a Himalayan singing bowl treatment for rebalancing your energy, a 90-minute Oasis of Serenity anti-stress facial and an Argan Chips Rejuvenatoin facial using plant hyaluronic acid and organic, anti-ageing products. More traditional Hammam rituals are available, too, while the hotel’s wellbeing programme, SAHA, offers everything from Qi Gong, star-gazing and sleep therapy sessions to guided morning runs, cardio boxing and circuit training and cycles through the on-site gardens. There are bikes available for getting around the resort if you don’t fancy waiting for a golf buggy.
Other experiences on offer include three-hour Moroccan cooking classes, private barbecues next to your private pool and a kids’ club, or off-site experiences from helicopter rides over the Sahara Desert to breakfast hot air balloon rides. There’s an ATM machine downstairs by the kids’ club if you need to grab some cash before you go.
What to Instagram
Your private candlelit dinner against the backdrop of the grand canal. Staff say there’s one booked in almost every evening, from proposals to anniversary dinners, so they’re well-practiced in getting you the perfect shot by now.
Couples and families looking for a peaceful break outside the madness of Marrakech. Staff say Brits are their most regular guests, then those from Europe and the US, but it’s nice to see local Moroccan guests staying too — especially during Ramadan.
How to get to The Oberoi
It’s a four hour flight from London to Marrakech, then a 25-minute taxi at the other end.
When should I go?
Whenever you can get a booking, but spring and autumn are popular among guests wanting to bookend summer and see Morocco in bearable temperatures (don’t worry, it’ll still be plenty hot enough for sunbathing). The hotel was at full capacity over Easter weekend, though do take note of when Ramadan falls each year. Our stay fell during Ramadan week, which added to the charm (taking part in Iftar next to local families was a highlight) but understandably made for slightly slower, sleepier service given that most staff were fasting.
Rooms from £665 per night for a Deluxe Room with Private Terrace, Route de Ouarzazate, 40 000 Marrakech, Morocco, oberoihotels.com