A wilderness playground with a tree house, an old, bright yellow Mercedes, goats and donkeys and as eye-catcher in the lobby a shrine consisting of kitschy statues and images around a vintage poster of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not your typical hotel description, is it?
Then again, the Fellah Hotel – a 30-minute ride from the centre of Marrakesh – is not your average hotel. In the middle of the countryside, a group of buildings most closely resembling a Mexican hacienda seem to appear out of nowhere. Yet here, the perennial snow on the Atlas Mountains makes a beautiful backdrop. The broadly-smiling young man at the entrance who is dressed in a leather jacket and 70s shirt turns out to be the doorman. Our luggage is loaded onto a heavily-used handcart and we goose step across the hotel grounds before checking in under the watchful eye of the former bodybuilder, action hero and politician. It is best to describe this hip design paradise as gypsy/bohemian chic. The 5-star hotel oozes creativity.
While the luggage is taken to our room, we walk with the welcome drink in our hands through the lobby, the half open restaurant and on to the huge swimming pool. Again, a beautiful view that will stick with us for the next couple of days. The metres-high cactuses add to this picture-perfect setting. Ibiza meets Mexico meets vintage design meets Morocco. Even more, it is all imbued with a high level of comfort.
Let’s start with the swimming pool. Perfectly heated, so you can swim all year long. Comfortable lounge chairs, complete day beds and delicious dishes on the pool menu that can be ordered throughout the day. Seriously strong cocktails, freshly blended fruit and vegetable smoothies, brochettes of lamb, chicken and squid and all other sorts of tasty food. Everything served by the pool on extra large Moroccan platters. If you prefer to eat your meal seated at a table, the terrace is only ten steps away.
It is all so relaxed that it is only after a day or two that parents start to wonder where their kids are. It isn’t often that we visit a hotel where the kids can horse around like here. Either in the playground mentioned earlier or in the kids’ club during all sorts of creative activities. A new programme every week, a storyteller, painting lessons from artists-in-residence, soap and perfume making workshops, nature explorer tours or discover the flora and fauna in the hotel grounds and surrounding fields.
If you opt for a quiet read or need some serious gaming, you can visit the hotel’s library with game consoles. For kids who wish to let off some steam, there are boxing sessions in a real boxing ring for the future Schwarzenegger. Or grab some mountain bikes with your family and explore the hotel’s surroundings. It is impossible to get bored. Yet, doing nothing is perfectly acceptable as well. Guests can choose from a wide range of activities that are neither flashy nor compulsory, so hanging out in or by the swimming pool is just as fine.
Culture-minded families can indulge their passion at the Fellah Hotel as it is one of the main sponsors of the Dar al-Ma’mûn Foundation that promotes Moroccan culture and arts. On one of the evenings of our stay, a show is performed by local theatre makers on a stage which is surrounded by dozens of lights.
The creative style is also visible in the decoration of the rooms. You’ll find everything you need, but don’t expect any excessive luxury. Wooden floors, rough plastered walls in natural shades and locally made rugs complete the look. Most of the rooms have their own terrace or balcony to while away the evening. Some (junior) suites even have a fireplace and a beautiful egg-shaped bath. Extra mattresses for the children can be put up in all the rooms.
The rooms are located in a variety of buildings that can also be hired as a whole if you travel with a large family. If you do, you live in your own enormous villa with a great number of bathrooms, a large living room, a fully equipped kitchen and often a considerably sized swimming pool. If the rooms are hired separately, kitchen, lounge and swimming pool are for common use.
Not that you really need all this space, because the main building – besides the restaurant – also houses the TOUCO café which is entirely run by locals and where they serve authentic dishes or a glass of Moroccan mint tea. When the children are lying in bed after an action-packed day and with their bellies filled, it’s time to party in club ‘Salon Mahler’. There’s something for everyone’s liking: from a subdued piano concert to an uplifting DJ set.
Whatever party is celebrated at the Fellah Hotel at night, the mornings are quite mystical. As soon as the sun peeps over the mountains, the last wisps of night mist dissipate and the world slowly comes to life. A breakfast buffet is being prepared while early birds lean back on the freshly made lounge sofas with a hot mug of strong coffee. Although it is almost impossible, try not to eat too much before the massage at the hammam or spa as it is likely to do you not much good. That would be a shame as the massage is sure to make you feel like you are in paradise.
# The Fellah Hotel is the epitome of gipsy/bohemian chic. Creativity is in every detail. Clearly the work of stylists who love their job. If you are the type who loves classic and polished luxury, this is definitely not the place to be. However, if you’re in for an authentic experience, then don’t look any further.
# This hotel feels like it is part of the local community. One evening during our stay, prior to a theatrical performance, locals mix with hotel guests outside on the terrace. Meanwhile, a live musician plays Malian hit songs.
# The perfect combination of a relaxing holiday and the hubbub of the city of Marrakesh nearby. In an informal atmosphere where it’s up to you to do something active or do nothing at all.