«When you see the brick vaults of one of the riads you learn about how long it takes to make one pillar and vault, it can take twenty days and up to a month». In conversation with Xavier Soundrom
The Hotel opened its doors to the public in the spring of 2004. Built in the shell of a Moroccan palace within the UNESCO World Heritage site, it transformed into a hotel while preserving architecture and incorporating ten centuries of history from the Almohad, Saadian and Alaouite dynasties. A Moroccan home is designed with a garden and fountains in the middle courtyard, staying at La Sultana Marrakech is about experiencing the atmosphere of the riad architecture. The hotel consists of five riads connected with each other. Stucco ornamentation to hand-carved woodwork and tadelakt (polished plaster) surfaces. Overlooking the city and the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, the twenty-eight bedrooms and suites at La Sultana create a fusion of styles and cultures. Boudoir bedrooms are sprinkled with artisanal pieces and antiquities, surrounded by balconies and patio views. In addition to the heritage of the property, the rooms come with high, vaulted ceilings, carved wood accents and marble bathrooms. fabrics made from silk, rugs that resemble the colors of Morocco, mirrors from an era long-gone and metal Moroccan lamps bring the suits alive. Stools made of rope and Laurel wood, plum upholstery and chairs covered in velvet blend into a pattern. During the refurbishment, La Sultana Marrakech established a partnership with the Ministry of Culture. «The partnership was to carry out the restoration of the property. The restoration took place fifteen years ago and there is no collaboration today». La Sultana Marrakech has been refurbished using techniques, to create a bygone era with the comforts of present day. The craftsmen, stone and plaster carvers and zellige makers use knowledge passed on from generation to generation preserving Morocco’s heritage. These techniques are evidence to tell stories through an ‘architectural heritage tour’ of the property. «Our Living Architectural & Heritage curators walks guests through the zellige, plaster, brick and tadelakt artistry, allowing them to gaze through the steps of its creation until the final result is visible. When you see the brick vaults of one of the riads you learn about how they make the bricks, how long it takes to make one pillar and vault, it can take twenty days and up to a month, there are fifteen vaults, it puts perspective on the architecture».
The Spa was designed with pink marble pillars. The hammam massage uses argan oil: it is produced in Morocco. «We use argan oil as a base and add essential oils. We add lemon and grapefruit for blood-circulation and verbena for calming anti-anxiety properties». The hammam is part of the healthcare routine. Moroccans go to the hammam every week. There is a hammam for women and for men which by custom is visited with relatives. The tradition of the hammam, a body care ritual performed in humid rooms at medium and low temperatures, prepares the skin for exfoliation and moisturization. The Moroccan hammam differs from the Turkish bath. «In the latter you have a room with hot steam. The former has no steam. The Turkish bath requires an immersion in solitude for ten to fifteen minutes as it is hot, but the Moroccan hammam requires you to spend time as one is being attended to you». La Sultana offers Terroir Cuisine, «a few years ago, we used to serve salmon as guests demanded salmon with eggs. Since salmon it is not locally obtained; guests wouldn’t remember this dish as reminiscent of our culture. Today, our breakfast menu has dry meat, Tajine and seasonal fruits. The cuisine is part of the journey and part of the reason our guests visit us in the future. The idea of botanical options is to make it available to everyone. It is a way to decrease our carbon footprint. It does not have to be a conviction we impose to our guests. On Mondays we have vegetarian options. If guests want to partake in ‘Botanical Monday’, they can. For the last three years, to celebrate New Year’s Eve dinner, we proposed botanical menus, which is not vegan or vegetarian». La Sultana’s Terroir Cuisine philosophy believes that the flavors and ingredients are attributed to the climate, geography and farming practices native to Morocco.
«This year, we had time to gather the information from our providers and the people we know in Marrakech to build a brochure with twenty-one experiences. There are the classics because people visiting Marrakech want to visit the Souk and the Majorelle Garden. Side cars in the palm groves, mountain biking in the Atlas and air ballooning are alternate experiences provided». Says Soundrom. «We propose cooking classes, musical dinners, stargazing nights, walking tours that begins with restaurants and visits to the Souk where you get to taste desserts, street food, shop and learn about the culture and city of Marrakech». La Sultana guests are foreigners, local guests come to the restaurant ‘La table du Souk’ and at ‘La table de La Sultana’ for Moroccan and French cuisine and to visit our rooftop restaurant, the ‘Odette Restaurant’. They employ local staff, provide in-house training and encourage international promotion. La Sultana Marrakech supports a charity called ‘Les enfants de Dar Bouidar’ which helps orphans in Morocco. «We host events that take place at La Sultana Marrakech in which we sell their products at our boutique. A gift box is displayed at the Front Desk of our hotel for guests who want to participate. If they want, they can contribute with a donation. Sometimes our team sets up picnics with the children».
As for 2020, due to the pandemic caused by Covid-19, the hotel has suffered the consequences but has come up with ideas. «They closed the borders in March until mid-October. That is why we decided to close our property and will re-open in December. We have begun discussions on topics pertaining to the safety of our property, issuing a report to know what excursions will be suitable to have at the re-opening. From the introduction of experiences to the rediscovering of Marrakech for those who have visited. We are putting in place health and safety procedures with touch-less devices for guests and flash codes for the menus for when they want to pick up a car. We have a procedure to clean the menus each time it is handed to guests. For the spa we reviewed protocols to adapt to the current situation and social distancing per guest. We will limit the number of guests for treatments. It has never been a crowded spa, but we will have a duration of time between each guest to clean the spa. Procedures have been reviewed considering the pandemic for the rooms and the kitchen». Each year La Sultana finds ways of reducing its carbon footprint produced by performing a carbon footprint calculation. «Our vision for the next five years is to consider sustainability in our daily decision making and set challenges to improve the impact of our businesses on the environment. If we have to choose between two producers, we will pay to have the one that resides locally versus the one that is economical but further away».
«We are going to produce still and sparkling water at the property in glass bottles to cut on transportation and plastic. Where we are today in the Medina of Marrakech, we cannot have trucks delivering glass bottles on a daily basis as we require volumes of it. We will transform an area on the property into a bottling room with the machines and the equipment. This project was validated in March 2020 but came to a halt when the borders were closed». As economies continue to grow and waste is an environmental cause of concern, La Sultana Hotels is working on a sustainable tourism project that will be introduced in the year 2021.
403 Rue De La Kasbah
63-67 rue Boutouille