The Selman Marrakesh
Route d'Amizmiz, 40160; Marrakesh, Morocco; selman-marrakech.com/en/home; 61 rooms, suites and riads starting at $526 (€400).
Equine artistry is what sets the Selman Hotel apart from the pack of posh resorts that recently opened in Marrakesh. Co-owner Abdeslam Bennani Smires (educated at hotel school in Lausanne) has married his passion for horses and hospitality, sharing the otherwise closed equestrian world with his guests. There are seven purebred Arabian studs prancing about in the on-site paddocks (not to mention their designer stable) and you'll find floor-to-ceiling Gigi Grasso photography of gorgeous thoroughbreds dramatically adorning the Moorish design of this elegant five-star hotel.
Famed French architect and designer Jacques Garcia (Hôtel Costes and Hôtel Fouquet's Barrière in Paris, the NoMad in New York and La Mamounia in Marrakesh, to name a few) has put his mark on the Selman, which is regal and utterly opulent. (Abdeslam's enthusiasm and equine vision apparently got Garcia, who swore off Morocco after La Mamounia, to sign on.)
The furniture and finishings are quintessential Garcia, rich in colour from golds to greens and deep-eggplant purple, to the blood-red carpets en route to the rooms. The design may be downright decadent, but it's the architecture that really shines. The columns, archways and the Moorish grandeur that beckon a bygone Moroccan era give it an authentic and regal feel. Hand-painted and carved accents throughout make it feel as though it was meticulously restored, not recently built.
Set majestically at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, the Selman is a 10-minute ride from the airport and to the ancient Medina, and just five kilometres from city centre. The idyllic mountain backdrop, 80-metre pool (the longest in all of Morocco) and the sensuous setting make it a blissful sliver away from the Medina madness.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
If it's your first time, you don't want to be too far off from the excitement that is inherently Marrakesh. It's a quick ride in from the Selman, but it's not the same as the spontaneous meander into town that many riads, or holiday homes, offer.
The stunning stables. Guests cannot ride the purebred Arabians – they are considered a live art installation – but make sure to wander through their designer stables. Garcia's Moorish design includes red painted walls and dramatic rounded archways. The pampered purebreds are privy to a solarium, a shower, a stereo system and a full blown salon/spa to keep their manes and egos in tip-top form. Air conditioning keeps them cool and keeps the smell down.
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
French flair is everywhere in Morocco, especially in Marrakesh. Expect jet-setters from France and Europe alongside well-heeled Moroccans dining at the Selman restaurant. This is an authentic look into the local luxe life.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Eating outside at the Assil Pavilion, you may forget about the food as the real feast is in watching the horses in front of the terrace. If focused on the fork, the food is fresh, often locally sourced and lighter in nature with a more Mediterranean twist. French chef Ludovic Gomiero has mastered Moroccan cuisine after years spent at the nearby Amanjena resort. I indulged in the beef carpaccio with fried capers and Parmesan shaving to start, followed by seared sea bass with dried chili, black-olive emulsion and thyme zucchini. Be sure to sip and swirl one of their many Moroccan wines as they are far better than one would expect. I had several, and then some.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Opt for one on the first (not the ground) floor for views of the Atlas Mountains, the equine artistry in the nearby paddocks and the long pool, which looks quite theatrical at night.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.