There are design hotels that amaze with their delightful aesthetics and architectural class and bravery. Then there are luxury hotels that indulge with their elegance, decadence and knock-your-socks-off-then-pick-them-up-and-tidy-them-away excellent service.
Then there is the Selman in Marrakech, which has somehow managed to slot itself into both of these categories, all the while smiling and not offering even a hint of pretentiousness or overdoing the exclusivity.
Plus, they have horses.
I’ll get to the horses in a moment but let’s first enter the lobby, a lush, purple clad space dominated by a gigantic chandelier that was made especially for the Selman. Here is where guests are greeted, checked in and served mint tea and Moroccan pastries.
Walking out onto a vast terrace the space is overlooked by the view. In fact, almost every special detail in this Italy risks being overlooked by the perfectly symmetrical view on offer from this spot. I could try to put it into words but I would fail to do it justice. This photo even cuts the Wow factor a little short.
The swimming pool is 80 metres long and it is lined with sun beds that are softer than my mattress at home. One side of the pool area is flanked with the Selman’s 56 rooms and the other side leads up to the Pavillion restaurant (one of three on the resort), an open air colonial style building which looks out over a collection of paddocks that horses trot around in while you eat your lunch.
Oh, here come those horses again, galloping in to steal the show.
But hold your horses (geddit)! There’s something else special you should know about the Selman. It is home to an Espace Chenot spa, named after the famous pioneer of the detox treatment Henri Chenot. Considered one of the most beautiful spas in the world, all guests have access to the swimming pools (yes, plural), jacuzzi, sauna and hydrotherapy pools. We indulged in a hammam spa during our stay and a week later I’m still stroking my skin and marvelling at how soft it is.
And finally, those horses. They number fourteen in total and they are housed in two grand stables at the rear of the hotel, just beside that tower which watches over one end of the pool, a building that is actually home to the hotel’s signature Moroccan restaurant. There is a third restaurant Le Selman back in the main building where you can find a menu of pan-Asian and European treats. They are purebred Arabian horses and many of them compete around the world. They belong to the owner of the hotel, whose vision was that the guests of the Selman could share in his passion for the horses. Among his collection is Sandhiran, a prize-winning stallion who was sadly on his own holiday in Rabat, away from Marrakech’s early summer heat.
The horses are treated to their own version of five-star luxury; a shower and a sauna every morning and constant attention from guests who are welcome to visit whenever they please.
After I spent five weeks living in a beautiful Moroccan summer-house on the outskirts of Marrakesh last year, I was keen to return as a tourist and experience best things that Marrakesh can offer; good weather, good food and a good mix of old and new, chaotic and quiet, soft pastel shades and bright colourful scenes. You can find all of those things in the Medina, which is a ten minute drive away by taxi.
While others would rather be closer to the centre of town, staying away from town was what we wanted. We wanted to relax and to treat ourselves to something special, but still very Moroccan.
Most of our days at Selman were spent by the pool, moving from sun lounger to the water to a bed to the water and then back into a lounger.
Our evenings were spent in one of the hotel’s restaurants and at night we slept soundly in one of the best designed rooms I’ve enjoyed hanging out in, a sentiment that shouldn’t surprise considering how long it quite intentionally took for the hotel to be built and finished. By the time it opened in summer 2012, seven years of work had been completed, with the majority of the design features – mosaics, carvings, finishings – being made 100% by hand.
A small note about the interior of the hotel; the design of the corridor that the rooms opened off was quite special, giving the allusion of a mirror. Each and every time I went back to my hotel room I felt like I was walking into a glass image. It was puzzling and brilliant!
And in many ways those words go a long way to describe the Selman. It is brilliant in all ways. The service was exceptional, the thoughtful extras (a complimentary bottle of wine in our room on our first night, nuts and dried fruits topped up every day) make the high price tag feel like an investment not an expenditure and the beauty of the hotel, the pool, the spa and those elegant lean-legged, dark-eyed Arabian horses made this a unique place to retreat and relax for a few days.
What about the puzzling part? Well, it’s puzzling that I had to find out about the Selman via a Google search. I should have read about a hotel this beautiful already. But maybe my boyfriend said it best as we went to the stables to say goodbye to the horses.
“You’re going to blog about this place aren’t you?” he muttered.
“Of course, I am. It’s one of the best hotels we’ve stayed in…” I said. “Why?”
“Can’t we just keep it our little secret?” he said stroking the nose of Blondie, one of the Arabian horses with a hair do most women would want.
Sorry buster, I’m a Travelette and this is a place I know my fellow Travelettes would love to know about, even if it is just to dream about escaping to for a while. Just like I will be until I’m lucky enough to go back….