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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Enlightened Traveler: Affordable Luxury In Morocco

The Saudi royal family notwithstanding, most of us want a first-class travel experience and wouldn't mind saving a few $$, to boot.

The spectacular Palais Namaskar, run by the same folks who own the Hotel du Cap
London's great Financial Times – a must read for savvy travelers and shoppers – reports that there are high-end bargains to be had in exotic Marrakesh, the result of a surprising luxury hotel building boom.

Five new hotels open this year, with more to come.

"Whether there will be sufficient guests to fill them, however, remains to be seen," the FT hypothesizes.

That is because tourism is already down in Morocco, a drop of about 20% in the last two years. Half of the country's visitors come from France. The Eurozone financial crisis isn't going away anytime soon.

Small is also beautiful. The 28-room Mosaic Palais Aziza.

The country's top five-star hotels – the fabled La Mamounia included – are already discounting, even before the addition of the new luxury properties.

Here's a quick rundown, according to the FT, on what's just opened or coming shortly:

The Palais Namaskar is noteworthy because (1) a third of the 12-acre grounds is under water, thanks to the 28 swimming pools, multiple ponds and the great reflective sheet of cooling water that bisects the property, and (2) it is run by the Oetker Collection, owner of the super deluxe Hotel Du Cap in Antibes and Le Bristol in Paris.

The Taj Palace, from India's Taj hotel group, opens in the Fall with Indian chefs in its restaurant and Indian ayurvedic doctors in its spa.

The 28-room Mosaic Palais Aziza stands opposite the ritzy palace of its owner, Saudi Prince Bandar.

La Mamounia: Grande Dame of Marrakesh hotels since 1922 and still fabulous
The FT describes The Selman as having"the most opulent, most technologically advanced spa in the city, an 80m swimming pool, a water garden redolent of the Generalife in Granada, as well as a stable of Arabian thoroughbreds." The traditional (but plush) Moroccan interiors are the work of Jacques Garcia, the architect behind the extensive renovations at La Mamounia a few years ago.

Garcia is also designing The Delano, the first Moroccan property from New York's Morgans Group. It opens in September.

At least six more deluxe properties are planned through 2014, including a Mandarin Oriental, a hotel from Monaco's casino operator, Societe des Bains des Mer, and a second inn from Morgans.

Competition is already fierce – all the better for you, dear Enlightened Traveler. Now's the time to do your  research and snap up a dream Maghreb vacation at a favorable price.

The full FT post, with links to the hotels mentioned, is right here.

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