There’s the type of chaos you seek to escape on holiday, and then there’s the type of chaos you seek on holiday – enter: Marrakesh. A trip to this vibrant, crowded, and endlessly charismatic city brings with it the dilemma of where to stay, especially as the sheer amount of riads to choose from is overwhelming. And that’s just one of the reasons Palais Khum Boutique Hôtel & Spa gets the Savoir Flair seal of approval. It isn’t a riad, for starters.
Need to Know
They say a stay within the labyrinth of a medina is a must, especially if it’s your first trip to Marrakesh, but Palais Khum manages to one-up with its location. It’s situated in one of the safest, most prestigious areas of the medina, owing to the proximity of the Dar el Bacha royal residence. Also easily accessible are must-see attractions, cultural institutions, trendy boutiques, and trendier eateries – but more on that later.
What sets this boutique hotel apart is its historical origins, having been fashioned from a former foundouk, or caravanserai. For the uninitiated, a caravanserai is a roadside inn that was often placed in or near a medina and common along the old trade routes of Morocco. Foudouks, although primarily designed for trading, offered accommodation to traveling merchants and their animals, and were therefore much larger in size than the typical riad.
With a grand total of only 11 rooms, junior suites, and suites, guests are guaranteed a level of privacy – a literal luxury after a day spent exploring the bustling medina outside. Each room is individually themed, so no two stays will be the same, but what they all have in common is plenty of space as well as distinct dressing and seating areas. Palais Khum is Italian-owned, hence the divine mash-up of Moroccan and European influences that result in earthy hues, hand-painted trunks, intricately carved furniture, artisanal objets d’art, and gorgeous carpeting in shades of red and rust. An added sense of place comes courtesy of the toiletries that are infused with argan oil, almond oil, and orange blossom.
The ‘Berbère’ junior suite – which feels more like a miniature museum – reflects the congregation of antique and jewelry stores in the neighborhood, while the ‘Cocteau’ junior suite is inspired by avant-garde artist Jean Cocteau, and therefore furnished with a half-canopied bed and an oversized Cocteau print. But if you prefer your hotel stays with a side of luxe, the ‘Dar el Bacha’ suite – a fireplace, contemporary artwork, a beautiful circular bathtub, and a private terrace are only some of the sumptuous extras – is the one to book.
Couscous, pastilla, harira soup, and all sorts of tagines – the beloved staples of Moroccan cuisine and more await alongside the likes of gnocchi and tagliatelle at the onsite restaurant, while the streetside Kremm Café does a wonderful job of reflecting Palais Khum’s ownership. Whether you end up in the scenic palm-filled patio or the expansive rooftop terrace, it’s the Italian coffee and homemade pasties here that are especially popular and come highly recommended by both, hotel guests and passersby who’ve stumbled in during a bout of shopping.
We’d be remiss to not take a moment to talk hammam. After all, this ancient ritual is as synonymous with Morocco as mint tea. Our neck of the woods is more than familiar with the various steps of this deep-cleansing process, but for those who are new to it, here’s what to expect. You’ll divide your time between a hot room, an exfoliation space, a shower, and a relaxation chamber. Modesty isn’t a part of this equation, but a therapist will help put you at ease and guide you every step of the way, much to the relief of first-timers.
In the silent glow of candlelight, far from the madding crowd outside the hotel walls, await two hammams at Palais Khum Spa, complete with dark-veined marble and mosaic tilework. The ‘Oriental Hamman’ features black soap and eucalyptus, with the Oriental foot reflexology making for a much-needed add-on. The ‘Royal Hammam’, meanwhile, incorporates a ghasoul or botanical wrap. And if time is on your side, we suggest rounding off your time at the spa with a 50-minute relaxing massage. You’ll be given a choice between several different oils, but when in Morocco, do as the Moroccans do – and by that we mean pick argan oil, of course.
Dining on a leisurely breakfast amidst the sound of birdsong, curling up with a book in one of the many alcoves, challenging your travel companion to a game of backgammon in the tranquil central courtyard, photographing the towering cacti that are unlike anything you’ve ever seen – it really is the simpler moments that will take up residence in your memory. However, they’ll all pale in comparison to taking in the panoramic views of the walled old city from the incredible rooftop terrace. Make time for a sundowner here and, when you do, be sure to keep an eye out for the Atlas Mountains in the distance.
However, the pièce de résistance at this property has to be the indoor pool that is perfectly heated to 28ºC and a rather unique offering in the hospitality scene of Marrakesh, considering most riads contain a central fountain, at best. It’s flanked by loungers, ornate lanterns, and original art, making guests want to linger – regardless of how lengthy their Marrakesh bucket list is.
It feels almost fated that kum in Arabic means ‘your’, and leaving your palace behind for the absurdly atmospheric medina feels daunting, yet exhilarating. Start by stocking up on stylish souvenirs with a pitstop at Souk Cherifia, which is a mere three-minute walk away and hosts the likes of sissimorocco (swoonworthy cushions, clutches, and T-shirts) and Arganino (100 percent natural argan oil, beldi soap with eucalyptus, and even the must-try amlou spread).
History buffs ought to visit the awe-striking Medersa Ben Youssef – the largest madrasa in Morocco and one of the most important in North Africa – for insights into 14th century architecture, while photography enthusiasts will relish exploring La Maison de la Photographie. Not only does it exhibit over 8,000 photos, but its rooftop café also boasts some of the best views in town. Even better? Both places are only ten minutes away by foot.
And because no trip to Marrakesh would be complete without an evening spent at Jardin Majorelle, you’ll be happy to hear that this luxurious garden lovingly restored by Yves Saint-Laurent is only a 10-minute taxi ride away. Come dinnertime, make a beeline for Terrasse des Épices for hearty Moroccan fare accented with dim lighting and a hip ambience before retiring to your palace. You’ll need a good night’s sleep before doing it all over the next day.
For more details or to book a stay at Palais Khum Boutique, click here.