Hotel Review: Les Borjs de la Kasbah, Marrakesh in Morocco
Marrakesh is a bustling, colourful storm of a city. Its central Djemaa-El-Fna square is filled with snake-charmers, story tellers, and bubbling cauldrons of food; the souk markets brim with intricate glassware, leather babouche slippers and earthenware tagine pots of every shape and hue; the narrow lanes of the medina are headspinningly impossible to navigate with laughing locals and stalls around every corner. In order to survive in this whirlwind to the senses, you will need a relaxing riad to which you can retreat and recuperate with sweet mint tea, a babbling fountain and a soft bed: welcome to Les Borjs de la Kasbah.
Les Borjs de la Kasbah is just one of over 1,000 converted riads in Morocco’s capital. These traditional Moroccan houses centred around a courtyard are now the accommodation of choice for most visitors to the city. Yet with an overwhelming number of riads in the walled medina of Marrakesh, it can be difficult to know where to choose. Having stayed in many a riad, I have found that a so-called peaceful place to stay can often be cramped and noisy at night.
That was before I stayed at Les Borjs de la Kasbah, one of the biggest riad hotels I have seen in Marrakesh with 18 spacious rooms and a huge central courtyard, swimming pool and restaurant. Having the space for a swimming pool is itself a luxury in such a central location and all rooms are sound-proofed so I sleep like a baby while buzzing medina life continues only a few feet away.
Even the smallest rooms at Les Borjs de la Kasbah are ample, and each is uniquely designed with traditional Moroccan furnishings and handcrafted zellige mosaic tilework. The owner describes how the entire riad has been constructed by hand and small tools, from the decorative archways to the hand-dug swimming pool, with the help of a trusty donkey of course.
Burnt ochre and peach feature heavily with brass trellis lanterns, dark wood four-poster beds and natural marble bathrooms. We are treated to a premium room with TV, living area, deep bath and a powerful AC cum heater. This is vital since our visit falls during Marrakesh’s short-lived but chilly winter season, where the fresh sunny days are perfect for sight-seeing but the nights drop down to single digits.
Another benefit of staying at Les Borjs de la Kasbah, which constantly scores highly on TripAdvisor ratings, is the attentive yet unobtrusive staff team. Whilst Marrakesh remains a firm favourite with tourists, customer service in even some of the nicest hotels and restaurants of the city can leave something to be desired. It was a pleasure to interact with the friendly and discreet staff at Les Borjs, some of whom have worked there since its opening 11 years ago.
If you have visited Marrakesh, you will know about the ubiquitous fresh mint tea poured from a silver pot and served with a plate of sugary patisseries. Having indulged in this delightful tradition in picturesque spots all over the medina, the serene courtyard of Les Borjs de la Kasbah is now one of my favourite settings for this afternoon tea break, accompanied by the twitter of migrating swallows and the trickling water feature. A dip in the heated pool is another way to wash away the dust and chaos of the medina; I was lucky enough to enjoy the pool to myself as the sun set over the city. A magical moment.
Breakfast at Les Borjs de la Kasbah is fit for a marathon runner with an extensive buffet of homemade cakes, jams, fruit, smoothies, bread and patisseries. I particularly enjoy the pancake station with its choice of six varieties of Moroccan and French crepes, warm and drizzled with honey.
The restaurant serves up the usual Moroccan favourites of tagine, couscous and pastilla (a sweet flaky pastry filled with vegetables or chicken) as well as meaty French classics like lamb cutlet and tender filet of beef. It also boasts an extensive wine list and a cosy bar area for cocktails or yet more mint tea.
No luxury riad in Marrakesh would be complete without a hammam spa. This one overlooks the pool and sun terrace with its wall of shocking pink bougainvillea. The spa is a marble and latticework affair with a range of traditional massages as well as the quintessential hammam experience. This involves a hot steam bath, a black soap scrub, several dousings with warm water and a gentle massage to finish. It really is quite an experience, leaving me cleaner than clean and my skin silky-soft.
I find Les Borjs de la Kasbah the perfect preparation and recuperation for making the most of what Marrakesh has to offer. After you have got truly lost in the winding alleys of the medina, my top recommendations are as follows… The intriguing Maison de la Photographie with its Orientalist documentation of Morocco and its stunning rooftop views, the newly opened city-centre oasis, the ‘Secret Garden’ and Yves Saint Laurent’s pristine gift to Marrakesh: Le Jardin Majorelle with its memorial, cacti and trendy tearoom.
For shopping, there are plenty of excellent boutique stores, from the centrally located Max&Jan with its keepsakes, kaftans and striped jumpsuits made in-store on a handloom to the furniture and linens inspired by local craft and designed by Martin Raffone at maisonLAB.
But the best way to discover the Moroccan capital is to stumble upon the gems it has to offer yourself. A particularly pleasant experience in the less busy cooler months when the weather is perfect for walking and there are fewer tourists crowding the major sites. And Les Borjs de la Kasbah is the perfect slice of tranquillity and luxury at the heart of this chaotic, dazzling medina.
Address: 200 Rue Du Mechouar -La Kasbah-, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco
Phone: +212 5243-81101