New Marrakech resort

The only problem I had with Amanjena, the new Amanresort that's just opened here, was its location, 4.5 miles outside the city. For even with the resort's regular shuttle service, I found the property too distant to savor Marrakech. You can't just walk out into the great main square, Djemaa el Fna, at dawn or dusk or make an impromptu foray into the bazaar. Which is too bad, since the city is perfect for that now that the government has cracked down on the would-be guides, insistent carpet sellers, and other assorted touts and peddlers who made exploring the souk a trying experience.

On the other hand, taken on its own merits as an Arabic-themed luxury enclave, Amanjena succeeds brilliantly. The resort is a walled hamlet of seven two-story "maisons"—each with a private swimming pool—and 34 pavilions (the actual guestrooms), centered on an enormous central basin and crisscrossed by canals.

The pavilions have large domed bedrooms; small walled gardens planted with bougainvillea, orange trees, palms, and ivy; a gazebo furnished with a pillowed daybed for two; and beautiful wrought-iron chaise longues for sunbathing. The bedrooms have extra-large beds, a large leather-covered desk in a niche, a chaise longue upholstered in velvet, and a suede-covered armchair. Nonetheless, they feel a bit spare, lacking the lushness and sensuality of the city. That's odd, because the designers clearly have an eye for such things, as evidenced by the walls, which are finished in tadlakt (a pale terra-cotta-colored substance compounded of wax and marble dust), and the floors of handmade, olive-glazed tile set in a diamond pattern. Otherwise, the best features of the rooms are the brilliant lighting—the lights around the inner rim of the beveled dome are on a dimmer switch, as are most others—and the fireplace, where a fire can be freshly laid every morning. My only other quibble was that the little windows in the dome over the bed let in the diamond-bright early morning sun, which is fine if you've forgotten an alarm clock, problematic if you want to sleep late.

This is a fine place for pampering, as there's a huge, cerulean-tiled swimming pool, a gym, and a spa with hammam. The staff is on the ball: When you come to the pool, a waitress immediately arrives to pour a glass of water. There are two good restaurants, one serving international dishes, the other slightly tamed-down Moroccan fare.

The best way to play Marrakech is to do what we did: Spend a couple of days at Amanjena, basking in the resort and taking advantage of the adjacent 18-hole golf course, then move into town to La Mamounia .
There you can dip in and out of the city as you please. $600-$1,500. Reservations: 800-637-7200. Route de Ouarzazate; 212-4-40-3353; fax 212-4-40-3477.

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