As far as introductions to Marrakech go it wasn’t the best start.
We had just been dumped in the middle of the chaotic medina by a taxi driver more interested in a few quick dirhams than telling us where our hotel was.
There can be few places in the world which seem as far away from home as the bustling heart of this old imperial city at the foot of the Atlas Mountains.
Locals stared at these two holidaymakers as we were ushered in the direction of a grubby alleyway where we were told we would find La Sultana, the first of our two bases for our city visit.
Trepidation reigned as we weaved in and out of the mopeds, chickens and locals selling their wares in this historic Islamic capital which dates back to the 11th century.
Then, just as the thought reared its head that our break was heading rapidly downhill, the golden entrance door to our 28-room base appeared.
Seconds later, the frenetic, bustling outside world was a distant memory, replaced instead by the oasis of calm that is La Sultana.
The entrance hall for the five-star hotel sets the tone for the experience it offers.
Lavish chandeliers, ornate carvings and intricate decor tell of the attention to detail which lies within.
And the further you step into the five riads which make up one of SLH’s Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the more the serene air that is the trademark of this perfect sanctuary is felt.
Each themed room is an opulent world apart, fit for the royalty who still occupy the nearby palace.
Terraces have a major role in everyday life in Marrakech, and La Sultana’s 1,500m square rooftop is a special example of why.
Whether it’s tucking into a meal of lamb and seven vegetable cous cous, listening to traditional Moroccan music or admiring the 360 degree views as the call to prayer drifts in on the southern winds, there’s an experience to savour.
To appreciate the sanctuary La Sultana brings, though, you need to see all the sights, smells and tastes Marrakech has to offer.
Just a 10-minute stroll from the hotel lies Jemaa el-Fnaa, one of the busiest squares in the world. A sensory explosion lies in wait for tourists as they take in the snake charmers, performing monkeys, dancers and food stalls.
The Cafe du France is one of the many ideal vantage points to cool down and watch the hubbub below.
The thriving souks surrounding the square have to be experienced for a bout of retail therapy – Marrakech-style. The up-front style here is not to everyone’s tastes but is all part of the experience in this unique corner of Morrocco’s third largest city.
Solace is offered in the shape of a cool bottle of Casablanca lager, on offer at La Sultana and presented by one of the hotel’s exemplary staff. The perfect way to unwind at the end of a long day’s sightseeing.
Those looking for more of the same should take in the Riu Tikida Palmeraie, 15 minutes outside of Marrakech. The welcome here is more European, but you can still find good food, drink and impressive pool facilities on a reasonable budget.
The real Morocco lies elsewhere, however, but nothing a free shuttle bus back within the walls of the city cannot quickly sort.
And that’s where the magic of Marrakech lies. In the tradition and majesty of La Sultana and unique experiences of a special city’s medina.
A prestige room at La Sultana costs from £205 to £305 per night including full breakfast, non-alcoholic mini-bar and free access to the hotel spa. Packages also available.
For more details visit lasultanamarrakech.com email email@example.com or telephone (+212) 44 38 80 08
All inclusive accommodation at the Riu Tikida Palmeraie is available from £57 per person, per night.
For more details visit riu.com email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (+212) 524 327 400
British Airways fly to Marrakech from London Gatwick and Heathrow
For more details visit britishairways.com