Just fifteen minutes outside of Marrakech is an upscale district called the Palmeraie, a thousand-year-old palm-grove oasis in the midst of a dry desert landscape straight out of The Sheltering Sky. It is here that Marrakech's new breed of mini-palace hotels has sprung up — of which the most impressive example may be the intimate yet palatial thirteen-suite Ksar Char-Bagh.
The style is a blend of traditional opulence and sleek contemporary design, equal parts Moorish and minimalist, with plenty of open space — the suites are almost improbably roomy, with sparse modern furniture and a dizzying array of amenities, from fireplaces and home theater systems to private gardens or terraces (one with a pool of its own). It's hardly like being in a hotel at all — the suites are called Harims, meaning an apartment within a palace, which is quite an apt description.
The public spaces are no less impressive, and possibly even more audaciously modern — the courtyard with its fountains and pond makes a striking impression. There are a number of sitting rooms and a billiards room, for mixing with fellow travellers, and all come together under the high windows of the dining room. The French-trained chef is one of Morocco's finest, serving a mix of local and Continental cuisine, with the floodlit, palm-lined pool as a backdrop. And spa treatments are administered in the vault beneath the hotel, or in the open-air massage space behind the pool.
Private airport transfers are available in the hotel's own London cabs — yes, this is that sort of place. Every detail is accounted for, from custom bath amenities to the cigar selection and the extensive library. The feeling is very much like being a royal guest — and well worth the princely tariff.