Exotic, stylish, mysterious. Morocco’s “Red City” Marrakech has attracted foreign starlets and socialites, politicians and style makers for a century. The deeply saturated colors of the city have inspired Winston Churchill’s watercolors, the fashions of Yves Saint Laurent and America’s obsession with Arabian Nights-style outdoor design.
Even so, Marrakech is one of the world’s great family destinations, as well: the perfect combination of exotic and accessible (the flight from New York’s JFK airport, for example, is not much longer than a flight to London). The new Four Seasons Resort Marrakech is just minutes from Marrakech’s Menara airport and from the exciting human jumble of the medina: a serene, family-friendly counterpoint to the lively chaos outside its walls.
*The vast complex of guestrooms and residences is spread across 40 acres of Moorish gardens (one of the biggest spaces in the city), but is completely contained by walls to maintain its tranquility and safety.
*The light-filled property merges the design of a Moroccan medina and riad in a modern, open format.
*Activities for kids on- and off-property. The kids’ club (Kids For All Seasons*) caters to all ages. Four Seasons can arrange camel riding, climbing, hot air balloon rides and a multitude of other activities with its trusted partners.
*Lots of supervision; if Mom and Dad want to get away for private time, there’s plenty to keep kids happily occupied.
*A huge family pool with cabañas.
*Kids are treated like celebs here, with child-size bathrobes, their own amenities, menus and welcome gifts.
*A screening room, treasure hunts and fun activities like belly dancing lessons.
*For older kids (13 to 17), a chic lounge all their own for mingling, checking email on Macs and PCs, playing pool and foosball, and lounging on their own outdoor patio.
*A tennis academy on the resort’s clay courts; complimentary racquets, lessons with David Martin pros.
*Guided tours of Marrakech: the old Medina, Djemaa El Fna (snake charmers, dancers, picking your own food to be cooked from the steaming couscous tables).
*Day trips by car or bike into the Atlas Mountains or of historical landmarks around Marrakech.
*A hotel courtesy car will take you into town starting at 6 pm.
*One of the most tranquil spas in Marrakech. Try a Moroccan or Middle Eastern-style treatment, or an authentic hammam treatment. (The hammam experience—from being scrubbed with black soap and a rough kessa glove to pulling the toxins from your skin with a rhassoul clay mask—is a ritual all Moroccans regard as essential.)
*Flawless tech connectivity—even in a city notorious for WiFi slowdowns during certain times of day.
*An amazing platter of fresh and dried fruits and nuts, Moroccan pastries and water delivered to your room daily.
*The Maarifa cultural center next to the Kids For All Seasons* club: talks and live demos by Moroccan artists and artisans, a reference library, Internet access. Plus, incredible designs for purchase from the likes of sophisticated contemporary Moroccan clothing designer Noureddine Amir, organic textiles from La Maison Bahira and Moroccan cushioned kids’ animal toys handmade by Zid Zid.
*Traditional Moroccan hospitality in a modern setting (think: a greeting with traditional mint tea and dates as you check in). It’s like being welcomed into a home.
*The resort’s complimentary Kids For All Seasons (KFAS)* club. Programming on the hour, plus no need to reserve. This is no cookie-cutter kids’ club: it’s designed by a local Moroccan toymaker. Young kids will make crafts like traditional Moroccan slippers out of construction paper.
*Breathtaking floral designs by Jeff Leatham, artistic director of the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris (and whose clients also include Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, and the Chelsea Clinton wedding). Tightly sculptural works of dozens of fragrant, Technicolor roses (this is the City of Roses, after all) pack the resort’s public spaces.
(For kids) *Kids love Azzera Grill, the al fresco restaurant overlooking the pool, with a variety of Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Continental choices: grilled meat and fish, Andalusian gazpacho, a tangy Fattoush salad. Or just take a break from the hot sun with a poolside ice cream.
(For parents)*At least one night, let the kids have a movie night to order in-room dining while parents have an intimate dinner at Bleu d’Orange, the stand-alone Italian restaurant dramatically anchoring a walkway from the property. Standouts: perfectly light gnocchi in butter; a modern take on veal Milanese; to-die-for semifreddo Tiramisu.
*To your parents’ night out, tack on the newly opened Zest rooftop lounge atop Bleu d’Orange restaurant. It’s the perfect place for a cozy pre- or post-dinner cocktail aside a roaring outdoor fire. Sexy, low-slung seating and a 360-degree view, including an unparalleled look off to the Atlas Mountains in the distance.
Dine out –
*Whatever you do, don’t miss a night of eating in one of the many steaming couscous stalls in the world-famous (and world’s largest souk), Djemaa el Fna. Kids can pick the meats they’d like grilled right from a giant display. Sit at the communal tables covered with paper cloths and dig in.
*Al Fassia in the Gueliz neighborhood (about a 15-minute drive from Four Seasons) is undeniably popular with tourists, but just as popular with locals. What we loved: it’s completely run by women (you’re meant to feel as if your mother is cooking for you). Start with a selection of dozens of tiny salads samplings, followed by whatever the ladies recommend (don’t miss the traditional chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons).
*Azar is best reserved for parents’-night-out, but is definitely worth the trip. Lightened-up Lebanese specialties in a modern, witty space are livened up starting at 10 pm with jaw-dropping belly dancing to a modern beat.
1. Trip to the Atlas Mountains – Sign up for a trip into the verdant Ourika Valley where you can visit one of the women’s cooperatives and learn how they grind the dried seeds of the argan fruit to make the precious oil (both for dipping your bread—try a sample—and for curing nearly every malady of skin and hair).
2. Take a once-in-a-lifetime adventure – Sign up for a family camel ride, a hot air balloon ride or a bike adventure through the city or into the mountains. Ask the resort concierge for suggestions.
3. Hike into a Berber village – Drive into the high plateaus at the foothills of the Atlas, where the Berber people still live like they have for hundreds of years. Learn how to make traditional mint tea (pouring it from outlandish heights to get just the right amount of foam), and take a traditional Berber cooking class taught by local families.
4. Kids’ club – The resort’s colourful Kids For All Seasons (KFAS)* club is a huge hit for kids four to 12. The roster is full of storytelling and painting, making Moroccan crafts (like construction paper slippers), and is open all day long. Brightly hued toys and Moroccan floor cushions pack the room, and kids have their own secure outdoor place. Kids up to 17 get their own welcome kit with a schedule for the Young Adult Centre (they’ll get Wii and Xbox, Mac and PCs, foosball and pool, their own screening room and menu to order from).
5. Explore the city – Take the family on a self-directed wander through the souks of Marrakech (you might get lost for a bit, but all roads ultimately lead back to the main square.) Or ask the concierge to arrange a tour of the city’s historic attractions, such as the Mellah (the former Jewish Quarter where you can find all sorts of spices and teas), the opulent Bahia Palace and the exciting Djemaa al Fna souk at night.
*Babies: Lounging next to mom and dad in a shaded playpen on the beach. Pool time. Strolling the vast gardens with baby in a carrier. The resort’s babysitting services for your date night (or day) out.
*Toddlers: Pool time with Mom and Dad in the shaded cabañas. The KFAS* club for activities and fun (a parent or nanny must accompany children under five).
Kids 5-10: The KFAS* club: Drop in for an hour or two, or stay all day. Kids enjoy a packed schedule of arts and crafts, sports, swimming, games and even belly dancing (see No. 4, above).
*Tweens & teens: Their own screening room and menus, tennis lessons on the clay courts, a “grown up” lounge with foosball, pool table, computers, and accompanied adventures into the medina, Atlas Mountains, bike trips, camel rides (see details, above).
Read more on Marrakech in Four Seasons Magazine.
*Kids For All Seasons (KFAS) is a Four Seasons complimentary recreational and educational program for children of resort guests. Most KFAS clubs are designed for youth four to 12 years old, and open daily from 9 to 5. (Younger children can often join KFAS with a nanny or parent, or resorts can arrange for babysitting.) But details vary from property to property, so check the resort’s website for more information.
Kids can go all day or just for an hour or two. Activities inside and out include games, sports, music, treasure hunts, swimming, arts and crafts, cultural education, environmental preservation work and yoga. Not your average camp, the VIP offerings are pretty extraordinary—for example, at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, it’s like “holidaying in an aquarium,” as one blogger puts it. Kids get to meet with a marine biologist to learn about the exotic local sea creatures, such as flying fish and parrot fish.
Andrea Bennett is a contributing editor for Travel + Leisure whose work you can also find in T:The New York Times style magazine, Town & Country, and The New York Post. Andrea has also written for The Wall Street Journal (for whom she wrote the weekly "Takeoffs and Landings" column, Money, Fortune, Men’s Journal, Islands, Departures, Town & Country Travel, Business Traveler, and Southern Living. She currently consults with hotel companies and is a partner in Bespoke Content Studio. After years in New York City, South Carolina and Kuwait, she and three-year-old Emily (who has worked a passport since six months of age) now call Las Vegas home.
View all posts from Andrea
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