Route de Ouarzazate, km 12, Amelkis, Marrakech 40000, Morocco - ☏ +212 5243-99000 - www.aman.com
As a donkey lugging a tattered old cart pulls up beside Amanjena’s new BMW at a stoplight, the car’s driver explains, “Marrakesh is a city of contrasts; that’s what is unique here.” Unique indeed. Marrakesh is a city thick with spices and smells, souks and the hymns of prayer poured out over loudspeakers. At once inspiring and overwhelming, calming and unsettling, the maze of red sand walls constructing the city’s interior give no hint to the wonders of elaborate Riads tucked behind their unassuming facades. Yet the density of these experiences – the olives piled high, the endless barrage of cushions, rugs, and slippers – are quickly forgotten driving out of the city toward the more remote and unique Amanjena. Though pack mules and luxury cars coexist on the roadways there, beyond the gates of this palatial hotel the only contrast one is likely to find is the cool of the pool water against the extreme heat of their skin.
The hotel, centered around a massive green reflecting pond, feels more like a private palace than a commercial venture. Lining the pond, palms gaze at their lean reflections while endless Moorish arches stretch into long corridors intent on framing every view with an eye for the dramatic. Surrounding these surreal visions, individual houses provide each guests with private living quarters fit with outdoor daybeds, fountains, and private gardens where meals can be taken in the privacy of one’s borrowed home. Here, one whiles away days by the pool and each lounge is armed with an ice bucket for cool drinks and a wooden box of tissues in case one needs to blot one’s face. Venture into the water to chat with a fellow guests, and if the sun is high, a staff member will quickly deliver sunhats for you and your new acquaintances. At night, wander out of your pavilion to find blankets and cushions set up on the lawn, where guests are welcomed for cocktails and Moroccan folk music. A musician playing a homemade string instrument and whirling the black tassel on his Fez in delight could seem like a trite ploy but instead feels like a kind of velvety dream, only possible a certain distance from home.
Though many of the resorts guests may be basking in the 1%, the oddly low-key atmosphere makes sultan-worthy elegance feel both personal and down to earth. For example, the staff at Amanjena greet guests by putting their hand to their heart in a gesture that’s surprisingly moving, and almost overwhelmingly genuine. There are no crass signs pointing to pools or restaurants, letting one imagine that they are instead guests at a lucky acquaintance’s home rather than a hotel. Of course, it’s all in the details: don’t be surprised, if new leather baggage tags are put on your luggage when you’re out to lunch, or if you find a thoughtful gift from one of the staff members in your room. Aman hotels are a perfectly constructed dream about the way a life could be, but of course, what makes a dream so marvelous is that one has the contrast of waking up. JR