Despite being in the heart of Marrakech near the busy Medina, luxe boutique hotel El Fenn offers a calming retreat tucked away from the hustle and bustle. The brainchild of Vanessa Branson (of the Bransons) and Howell James, the riad houses seven traditional courtyards, three pools, a spa/hammam, a bar and restaurant and plenty of beautiful terraces in which to relax and lounge. During an inspiration trip to Morocco, Travel Editor Emily Cater went to check it out – here’s three reasons she loved it…
Where: El Fenn, Derb Moulay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, 2, Marrakesh 40000 / 212 5244 41210
1. The Design
An obvious highlight of El Fenn is its rich, creative design aesthetic and contemporary art collection. Every room, courtyard and space has a different colour scheme and feel, with riotous colour and stylish decor at every turn, as well as a combination of contemporary and retro elements. The renovation and interior design was carried out by general manager Willem Smit, with features including spacious courtyard seating in bright fuchsia, purple and sunshine yellow, while rooms feature marble baths, dual sinks, monsoon showers, open wood fireplaces, plunge pools and private terraces. Meanwhile, Branson’s private collection of art work can be seen all around the hotel, with pieces including a chandelier by Francis Upritchard and a painting by Antony Gormley. Rooms are spacious, yet homely and comfortable, allowing for total relaxation.
2. The Roof Terrace
One of the stand out spaces within the hotel is its 7,000 sq ft roof terrace housing a bar, restaurant and beautiful plunge pool and sunbed area. Expect panoramic views stretching out across the Koutoubia mosque and the Atlas mountains, making it a breathtaking spot to watch the sunset – a real must in the evenings. The hotel restaurant, meanwhile, serves delicious fresh fish and meat options, based on a combination of Moroccan and European influences, but it’s the breakfast that’s the real winner. Enjoy freshly baked bread, pastries, fresh fruit, homemade granola and yoghurt, and eggs done any way you fancy, all washed down with freshly brewed coffee – perfectly setting you up for the day.
3. The Concept Store and Local Shopping
If in search of local trinkets and design, look no further than El Fenn’s in-house concept store and boutique, co-curated by general manager Willem Smith and model Paul Rowland. The store stocks a range of carefully sourced items including vintage-style clothes in a range of print and patterns, plus bags, accessories, jewellery, coffee table books, perfumes and home accessories like Fez pottery. If haggling is more your scene though, simply head right out of the hotel and into the souks where you’ll find everything and anything you can imagine, in a true assault of the senses. We’d highly recommend organising a tour with Mustapha Chouquir to get a sense of the local culture and history, as well as finding the best stalls for bargains. We were led to some great hidden spots for shopping leather sandals, rugs, berber baskets and lamps.