Hotels Bloom This Spring in Marrakech

MARRAKECH, Morocco ( MainStreet) -- Despite an established outpost of Aman Resorts, a Four Seasons resort that opened mid-2011 and a much ballyhooed remodel of the famed La Mamounia debuting in 2009, Marrakech's luxury hospitality market doesn't seem to be slowing down. There's yet another round of ambitious openings on the way, including some of its grandest properties to date.

Some include a roster of starry designers or world-famous architects, while others take an arty or eco-chic approach in their attempt to continue wooing Europe's most fashionable travelers to Marrakech in spite of economic uncertainty at home and lingering geopolitical concerns in the region.
Palais Namaskar, from the European luxury brand the Oetker Collection, is a showstopper resort property soon to join the ranks of Amanjena and La Mamounia as the chicest addresses in Marrakech.

One of Marrakech's most famous hotels even before it opened, the structure now home to Taj Palace Marrakech had its Hollywood close-up in Sex and the City 2, in which it doubled as a glitzy hotel in Abu Dhabi. It was one in a series of recent questionable decisions that included a short-lived management agreement with the Mandarin Oriental hotels group and an oft-delayed opening date. Owned by JK Hotels, a private Moroccan company, the property will operate under India's esteemed Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces, one of the expanding collection's 17 international properties, including San Francisco's Campton Place and The Pierre in New York.

With an unofficial opening date planned for the second quarter of 2012, the long-anticipated Taj Palace Marrakech will be home to 161 guest rooms with interiors by artist and designer Stuart Church, who mixes Ottoman and Oriental influences with the bohemian aesthetic of a Berber kasbah, making the property feel like a landmark palace far older and grander than its actual age. The hotel also finds a fitting marquee for its lavish spa -- at more than 35,000 square feet, one of the largest in the region -- operating under Taj's Jiva Grande Spa brand with two large hammam-style bathing facilities. Not only are those the largest in the region; they're attached to a full-service fitness club and 14 treatment rooms just a short drive from the historic medina.

Nearby between the Atlas Mountains and Djebilet Hills is where visitors will find the April debut of the Palais Namaskar, a showstopper resort property that could soon join the ranks of Amanjena and La Mamounia as the chicest addresses in Marrakech. It's from the European luxury brand the Oetker Collection, which operates such fashionable masterpieces as the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cap d'Antibes and Le Bristol in Paris. Oetker plans a regional expansion that includes Le Bristol Abu Dhabi in 2013.

Palais Namaskar seems fit for a king with its ethereal archways and swimming pools that seem almost too formal to brave a wake. The mostly single-story building is small when compared with the area's competition, but its mere 41 guest rooms and suites include an even higher room category of villas and private palaces fit for the most regal and wealthy guests. Interiors show inferior luxury brands how it's done with a sophisticated design aesthetic of spare lounges mixed with rich upholstered pieces, Italian-inspired furnishings and a pop of antique flair that will likely find its place atop the local hotel competition.

Parisian designer Jacques Garcia follows up his success at La Mamounia with the much-anticipated Selman Marrakech. A stately property far smaller and less historic than the iconic La Mamounia, it features a stately brick facade with palm tree colonnade and prominent swimming pool (and a stable of white Arabian horses more for looks than actual use). Interiors mix an aged glamour and gilded aesthetic ubiquitous on even new hotels by Garcia.

The 56 rooms and suites of Selman Marrakech have a one-of-a-kind feel, with hand-carved wood paneling and plush modern decor set against dark hardwood floors and hand-painted tile wainscoting. An upscale resort destination with a boutique feel, the property will also be home to a spa by Dominique Chenot and destination French eatery set to open in early May. There are special opening rates in place from $500 per night that grant entree into one of the top hotel openings of the spring season.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.