BY Lisa Lindblad
November 22, 2013
Palais Selman, a new hotel in Marrakech, spoke to me. I am over Marrakech with its Disneyesque properties that all look vaguely the same – over the top glitz which, after you scratch the surface, looks decidedly less glam. Marrakech is an economic engine of the country and it has become a preeminent convention center. It works. The weather is marvelous, the properties are huge, and the possibilities to spin a “1001 nights” magic are endless. But, in my view, this has changed the character of the city, and I miss the old, pre-palatial days.
Palais Selman, though, has a soul to it that I liked. Located 7 minutes out of the city center on the non- Palmeraie – and therefore maybe not the preferred side of town – it is another huge palace recently constructed and decorated by Jacques Garcia who has put his stamp on the Mamounia and the Pearl among others. It is vintage Garcia – jewel colors, velvets, low, atmospheric light. But what I love about the property are two things: The brick facade (most hotels and mansions are plastered and painted red ochre) is earthy and tactile and beautiful; The horses; it is the horses that I loved and that I feel give the property its magic.
Palais Selman’s owner has a stable of 16 Arabian horses. They graze in individual paddocks around the swimming pool, in front of the hotel rooms, next door to the riads. They are magnificent and, I am told, worth more together than the entire property.
Their stables, perhaps the most beautiful building on the property, were also designed by Garcia. I have always loved the horizontal architecture of stables, and these 16 stalls, flanked by an area for horse massage, are divine. The horse theme is brought into the hotel itself with wonderful huge photographs lining the hallways, photographs of a whipped mane, a long lashed eye, a rippling muscle.
A sweet story.
As I wandered along the paddocks, a young employee came striding out from the stables followed by a small, wiry terrier. The white stallion who was grazing peacefully by the far fence looked up, cocked his ears and came trotting across, neighing delightedly. I asked the man who the horse was most fond of.
“The dog is his best friend,” he said.
Now that, in Morocco, is an unusual encounter…to find a pet dog, particularly on a hotel property…to find someone who, in a culture not prone to embracing its animals, understood and valued this relationship.
I enjoyed that and, along with its brick facades, it made this grand palace nicelydown to earth.