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There’s more to Morocco than whatFirst meets the Eye

Emily Williams gets to know Marrakesh’s cool coastal alternative at the Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort, El Jadida

Soft billowing swells of Sahara sands, sun-baked terracotta streets and bustling city souks filled my mind as I wondered what to expect of Morocco.But after spending a few days on itslush green stretch of coastline, I began to seea whole new side to this beguiling North African destination.

My first revelation was the ease of getting there: just a swift three-hour flight from London Heathrow to Casa Blancaand a 50-minute drive felt as though no time had passed at all. Even prior tostepping foot in the resort, I could see why it provides the ideal long weekend getaway for any European visitor.

A Mesmerizing Arrival

Suspended orb lamps lining a manicured driveway led us towards the majestic ochre-toned property. As it rose out of the dunes like a titanic sand palace, its sheer magnitudewas my first impression. The 250acres offarmland and verdant18-hole golf course make it a destination of its own – it’s no wonder why the hotel is named ‘Mazagan’,after the former title of the nearby township.

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We pull up at the striking vaulted porch, where a picturesque rickshawis parked beneath akey lock cutarchway; and beyond, a contemporarywater feature reflects theintricately carved doorsthat open into thecentral atrium. Once inside, gleaming marble floors, towering regal pillars and giant chandeliers shapedlike spinning tops catch my eye amongst the attractive blend of contemporary and traditional Moroccandécor.

Refined Design

Once I had absorbed the impressive foyerinterior, I followed the concierge through a labyrinthof cavernous hallways and quaint open-air courtyardstowards the accommodation wings.Along the way I noticedattractive mosaic murals and flickering antique lanterns in wall recesses, eachserving to retain the huge hotel’s sense of place.At the property’s epicentre lies theGrand Riad, an expansive pool plazadotted withcabanas for cooling off from the searing midsummer sun.

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Room with a View

The resort’s sleek sense of symmetry is both beautiful and baffling. During the shuttle to and from my room, I sometimes found myself lost in a jigsaw of identical hallways. But as long as I was heading towards the sea, I was going in the right direction – my ocean view room had a panoramic vista of the crashing waves contrasting against a calming horizon. From the balcony, it was a real treatto watch the fiery African sunset over the Atlantic.The room itself wasequipped with an array of creature comforts: soft cotton sheets on the more-than-double bed,towel robes and a selection of orange-scented bathroom miniatures for a restful and sophisticated stay.

Divine Dining

In the region of El Jadida, the locals are affectionately known as the ‘double people’, due to theabundance of vegetablesand fish allowing for second helpings. The resort serves true this nickname, as its 13 restaurants similarly allow endless culinary options. The Marketplace, its largest buffet style eatery, has an easy come-and-go feel, withinternational food offerings at all meal times. Guests can try outauthentic Moroccan dishes, pick a selection of hand rolled sushi, or dip into a bowl of fragrant hibiscus ice cream at the dessert bar to mention a few.

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Tantalising Tagine

For something wholly cultural, Morjana is the go-to restaurant. Rich fabrics drape from the ceiling in streams of burgundy and burnt orange, and the hypnotic sound of an oud player drones as a carousel of mezze starters are delivered to the table. I indulgedin the seafood tagine, adeliciousexplosion of slowly cooked marinated flavours in an earthy clay pot, whilst a belly dancer rhythmically snake-hipped her way around the room. For a similar open-air dining experience, Al Firma is open in the summer months, where guests can dineoutdoors in an ethnic Berber tent beneath the stars.

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Sensational Seafood

If fish is your favourite, The Mazagan’s Sal De Mer restaurant is the place to find the catch of the day. The slatted beam installation on the ceiling echoes the ripple of an ocean wave, beneath which guests are submerged in an underwater world. Even the atmospheric blue lighting adds to the aquatic effect. Straight from the ocean, I relished thesalacious oyster-sharingplatter and a creamy lobster risotto, garnished with a tasty parmesan crisp.

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Take a Trip to Town

Whilst the resort can entertain families for days on end, the excursion to El Jadida was worthwhile. Mohammed, our charismatic tour guide, was a fountain of historical knowledge.Inside the Portuguese fort, he showed us the ancient water cistern,which was sealed for hundreds of years, only to be rediscovered by a Jewish merchantattempting to expand his shop walls. Sounds now reverberate around hollow chamber, and the oculus above casts a beam of light on the lingering puddles.

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Nearby, the old medina market was a humming hive of activity and an eruption of the senses. I watched haggling souk sellers neatly pot piles of vibrant spices and shift pungent crates of salted sardines. All around them, a kaleidoscope of fruit and vegetables seemed to swell from the nourishment of the Moroccan sun.

Adventure Time

With a grin tucked beneath my helmet, I zoomedthroughthe resort’severgreen forest andsweeping 7km of deserteddunes by quad bike – if one thing’s for sure,this resort sets the bar when it comes to activities. There is something for all ages, from horse riding along the foam-fringed shore to a calming sunrise yoga class tailored specifically to your desired style and pace.

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Relax and Rejuvenate

To round off the stay, the Mazagan spa provides a zone of complete tranquillity. Withspecialised treatments suited to fit all needs, I opted for a tension relievingfull-body massage. With all muscles soothed and set to rest, I felt pleasantly lighter entering theairy relaxation room, where a steaming pot of Moroccan mint tea was waiting to be poured. Thisblissful spaceallows gueststo quietly contemplate, whilst enjoying theocean air’s ceaseless caress.

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BOOK IT

 

Prices start from 2200MAD (£180)per night for a double room on a B&B basis.Prices start from 1800MAD (£140) per room for 2 adults and 2 children on a B&B basis.

*Please note prices can vary from those shown

www.mazaganbeachresort.com