Six of the Best: Exotic Moroccan hotels


"My problem is that the peacocks eat all my flowers," says Villa Mandarine owner Claudy Imbert, chic right down to her French fingernails. "They spoil the garden furniture with their scratching." This is surely the only negative at this former family home turned hotel, which retains a cosy atmosphere and spectacular, citrus-shaded gardens. Its restaurant has excellent French and Moroccan food (the fish tagine is lip-smacking) and, though guests are mostly Western tourists, it's agreeable to find locals tucked into garden terraces over after-work drinks. The hotel nestles in a well-heeled Rabat residential suburb. Doubles from $280 including breakfast. See


Owner Michel Trezzy used two donkeys called George and Bush to bring materials through the alleys of Fes' millennia-old medina to restore this traditional courtyard house. ("One had a single ear, so I got a discount, but it was very stubborn.") Moroccan carved wood, stained glass and ceramic decor combine with African masks and European antique furniture. The ryad is a welcome retreat in the chaotic old town, with just seven rooms overlooking a tranquil, tiled courtyard where birds cheep and a fountain bubbles. Dinner comes with good wine, since Michel is a former wine trader. Doubles from $145, including breakfast. See


This is another ryad-style hotel, once the home of a Marrakesh judge, but offers several steps up in size and luxury. Amusingly, the hotel's tiny entranceway is lodged between tyre and toilet shops, but leads into a hidden world of high walls, sun-dappled courtyards and splashing fountains. The Arab-style plasterwork is magnificent. The villa has an impressive spa and (unusually for a ryad) a large swimming pool. The restaurant features Mediterranean cuisine of the high standard you'd expect of a Relais & Chateaux hotel; a second Moroccan restaurant should open by year's end. Doubles from $590 including breakfast, lunch and non-alcoholic drinks. See


If you've been in dusty, chaotic, freewheeling Morocco for a while, this hotel-tower will make your head spin: its suited staff are acolytes in a temple dedicated to calm, chic and a certain French je ne sais quoi. You could indulge half the day in the two-storey spa and its wallow-worthy hammam. The hotel rises conveniently between the business district and medina; many of the surprisingly large and oh-so-elegant guestrooms, with their resolutely contemporary furnishings, have sundrenched morning views across cubic old-town roofs to the stunning Hassan II Mosque and ocean. Doubles from $295. See


Abundant fresh oysters, flamingo-waded lagoons and a charming fishing town should be enough to entice anyone off the beaten tourist trail to Oualidia, but Morocco's best-run and surely most magical hotel is a considerable added enticement. It sits in splendid isolation in a palm grove, with raised gardens overlooking beautiful landscapes. An enticing infinity pool appears to merge with the lagoon, where sunsets provide the perfect outlook from terraces as you tuck into your seafood dinner. Service is stately, unobtrusive and near flawless, and you just won't want to leave. Doubles from $415. See


Perched on the highest point of the old town, this hotel has views over Tangier's teeming port and the Straits of Gibraltar as far as Spain: soak up the views from a rooftop terrace that seems to sit in the sky. The 18th-century residence has been wonderfully restored and mixes North African antiques and textiles with contemporary European furnishings. A kaleidoscope of patterned tiling contrasts with whitewashed walls and marble floors. Don't miss a meal at the restaurant, which serves delicious Moroccan classics to encourage you to gluttony, including tagines cooked over an open fire. Doubles from $275 including breakfast. See

Brian Johnston travelled as a guest of By Prior Arrangement.