Morocco has a long history of catering to sophisticated tourists, beginning at least as early as the Second World War when Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart put the country on the world’s cultural map forever with the blockbuster film “Casablanca” in 1942. There is a great variety of fabulous five-star resorts in Morocco because the country has been home to the rich and famous on vacation for decades. You will not lack for choices in this tiny, beautiful gem of a kingdom.
A luxury destination that is especially delightful and one that consistently gets rave reviews from American visitors is called Amanjena, a cozy, secluded resort outside of Marrakech on the southern road to Ouuarzazate, which is Morocco’s gateway to the interior of the great interior sand ocean that is the Sahara. What makes Amanjena so special is the winning combination of its spectacular natural beauty (situated as it is in the shadow of the massive Atlas Mountains), outstanding facilities, consistently exceptional service, and the small number of villas available, ensuring privacy and special attention from the well-trained staff.
On a good day with no traffic, it is no more than twenty minutes from the airport, nestled in the foothills of the Atlas (so often snowcapped on days when the temperature at the resort is in the perfect mid-70s). The mountains are one of two reasons that many guests seem to keep coming back to Amanjena: they loom so large on the horizon that they put human concerns into perspective, and one will find guests just sitting for half an hour looking at the mountains from a chaise longue with a look of transfixed relaxation on their faces. It is a transformative experience for those who have never tried it.
A second reason that many people rave about the Amanjena is one you might never guess, and perhaps it is more than a little odd: It is the library, an amenity that one might not expect to find in a vacation resort nestled in the foothills of Morocco’s Rockies. The library is a delightful two-story structure with a fireplace and a 20-foot ceiling with the balcony of the sort one sometimes sees in the most elegant private libraries in English country houses. It runs right along the perimeter of the second floor. Light filters in from dozens of ogive windows cut on varying levels into the walls, which are faced with tadlekt (a kind of stucco often found in North Africa). Recessed glass shelves showcase hundreds of books and current magazines and newspapers from USA, the UK, and France.
Many guests spend hours here delving into the fine selection of magnificently bound travel books and memoirs by early visitors to Morocco, mainly French and British explorers and adventurers. Everything in this brilliant library (will other luxury resorts now copy this idea?) reflects Morocco, from the highly polished tables crafted from wild-cherry inlaid and stained to an ebony gloss, to the Moucharabieh-screened railing which encircles most of the room, and the comfortable masria (Moroccan lounging divans or day-beds) arranged in a semi-circle around the fireplace.
Dining at the Amanjena is always memorable, the talented chefs focusing on authentic and unforgettable Moroccan dishes and Mediterranean cuisine generally. The main restaurant is arranged around a central fountain and overhead skylight with banquettes and tables lining the walls. Weather permitting, dining is often moved outdoors. A Thai restaurant with lighter fare is found near the swimming pool. Breakfast and lunch are also available in the smaller Pool Terrace, and of course you can always opt to dine privately in your villa. With a little advance notice, the hotel staff will organize special meals for you in the Caidal Tent, a traditionally Moroccan setting on the edge of an olive grove.
Amanjena is the first resort to be developed on the African continent by the highly respected Singapore based Amanresorts International, which was founded by Adrian Zecha in 1988. Amanresorts owns and manages 25 small luxury resorts and hotels worldwide. Remarkably, booking a room, double occupancy, for four nights would cost you about $1,000, or $125 per person per night, an astonishing bargain given the quality of the amenities. Do take a long look at the Amanjena’s glossy website to check recent prices and book your stay there.