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Marrakech - a golfing oasis

Just over 3 hours from Gatwick Airport, Marrakech could be the ideal short haul destination for an idyllic break. And the prestigious Palmeraie Golf & Spa Palace Resort situated in the oasis of the ancient Palmeraie district, close to the town centre and the airport yet away from the hustle and bustle of the city, is certainly the ideal location in Marrakech.

The prestigious Palmeraie Golf & Spa Palace Resort
The prestigious Palmeraie Golf & Spa Palace Resort

Leave cold, damp Britain behind in the winter for a good dose of Moroccan sunshine. Here you can enjoy quiet, lush surroundings resplendent with palms, bougainvilleas, lantanas and tamarisks, make the most of the longer hours of daylight, appreciate the personal attention of the caring staff, indulge in the pampering of the hammam and have the golf course pretty much to yourself…

The Palmeraie luxury hotel has all the facilities you could wish for. There is something for all the family and new facilities have recently been added to offer even more choice.

The new, secluded 5 star Luxe Pavillon du Golf

For their accommodation, golfers may prefer to stay at the new, secluded 5 star Luxe ‘Pavillon du Golf’ where suites offer views over the gardens or over the golf course. Here you can get an idea of the challenges to come at the daunting 17th hole, and admire the snow-capped, majestic Atlas Mountains in the distance.

Before being accompanied to your luxury suite, you will be welcomed in the traditional manner with sweet mint tea and Feqqas, special Moroccan biscuits.

After settling into your superb suite and soaking up the traditional ambience created by the mosaic tiled floors and bathroom, carved cedar wood ceilings and local ornaments, you might feel like a taste of the delicious food served at the Dar Ennassim gourmet restaurant.

The Dar Ennassim Restaurant

Just walk the few steps past the swimming pool and the Hammam to the Dar Ennassim where two-star Michelin Chef Fabrice Vulin creates dishes deliciously inspired by Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisines. The striking but tasteful décor of contrasting black and red is softened by white and green painted wooden walls, with unforgettably stylish red chairs from Milan, some in the shape of a flower, and long, thick-piled rugs.

We were served the following tasting menu, composed of eight delicious dishes (see pictures in the image gallery right):

DAR ENNASSIM MENU VESTE BLANCHE - 850.00 DH (approx. £ 57)
Lobster soup with briouats
Jumbo shrimps from 'dakhla' with almond, fresh fruit, Argan oil vinaigrette
Scampi raviole with cep, fresh garden pea emulsion
Grilled scallop-shell with pistou
Turbot 'mitonnée', cauliflower and shrimp 'Mousseline'
Stuffed spicy artichokes with duck
 Fresh goat cheese, watermelon and dry fruit
Orange and grapefruit, lemon sorbet

LA PALMERAIE GOLF COURSE

When you’re ready to walk off some of the calories on the golf course, a buggy and smiling staff will be at the ready to take you the short distance to the Clubhouse, where you will be given the choice between one of an army of waiting caddies or a buggy. I chose the former and certainly didn’t regret the £5 tip I gave him, as a buggy doesn’t give you encouragement, help you with your alignment and read the greens for you!

It didn’t take Hassan long to understand which club I needed either. I soon learnt to trust his judgment when he advised me to do things I wouldn’t normally dare do on my own, and was surprised at what I was able to achieve on the day, much to his evident pleasure.

The  lake right of the dreaded Par 3 17th at La Palmeraie.
The lake right of the dreaded par 3 17th.

The Robert Trent Jones Snr designed course, par 72 and set in 77 magnificent hectares, is not as easy as suspect, after playing the relatively straightforward first two holes, the players taking part in the French PGA Pro-Am Championship found, to their cost. Their scores here are higher here than on the other local courses – appearances can be deceptive…..

The greens are very firm and undulating; do not overclub and listen to your caddy’s advice as regards slopes. The rough is not too punishing and the trees, mainly palms, are not too close together but there is a great deal of water and reeds, with seven lakes coming into play!

The 9th is the toughest hole on the course; a dogleg to the right, with water all down the right from tee to green. The highlight of your round however, and the “bête noire” of many, is sure to be the par 3 17th, only stroke index 8, but where you must carry over a lake while avoiding another one on the right and two bunkers left of the green.

Also outstanding are the long par 4 dogleg right 5th, a hard, well-protected hole, and the very tricky 10th with out of bounds left, practice ground and water right, plus bunkers left and the green protected by three more bunkers. You cannot afford to relax after negotiating the 9th!

The clubhouse with the stunning snow capped Atlas Mountains in the background

Opinions vary about the long par 5 12th, shaped like a Z, but it is a good hole tactically with a large bunker protecting the middle of the fairway and trees on the right after the bunker – try and stay left!

The easiest hole is the 11th, pleasant respite after the difficulties of the 9th and 10th. You’ll have a touch of déjà vu as it is very similar to the 8th, both short par 3s with a bunker in front. However the 8th, St. Andrews fashion, shares its green with the 10th.

The existing Palmeraie course is different from the much harder and longer courses being built today, but it is soon to be complemented by a new nine-hole course which will be more difficult and used for tournaments in combination with the harder back nine of the present course. It will feature four large lakes coming into play on six holes, but multiple tee boxes should make it playable by everybody; it is scheduled to open by 1st October 2008.

The air here is deliciously pure, the course being situated nearly 1500 feet above sea level. People from other Moroccan towns come here for their holiday, from Casablanca, for example, which has a more humid climate.

There is no strict dress code at La Palmeraie, no formality, no big machinery tending the course, but instead an army of friendly people who will always offer a smile and a greeting. There is a sense of relaxation and a feeling of peace after visiting the busy Medina; all you have to do is enjoy your round in beautiful surroundings amongst cypress, palms, olives and apricot trees and admire the distant Atlas Mountains, the highest range in North Africa.

The course was almost empty - we only met two other groups when we played - and apparently there are even fewer people in summer when the weather conditions improve elsewhere. Green fees are very cheap: £32 per day, with special packages available. If you’re staying more than a long weekend you might like to try out other courses; the owners of the resort plan to build three more courses, one in Marrakech, one in Casablanca and one in Ouarzazate, and there are already two other courses in Marrakech.

Click here for full details of La Palmeraie - Click here for details of other courses in Morocco.

MARRAKECH - THE RED CITY

Marrakech – the name alone sounds exotic and enticing. And rest assured, the ancient Red City at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, hidden behind its 12 kilometre-long, two metre-thick XIIth century red wall, will not disappoint you.

You are transported to a different world and will enjoy ambling through the bustling labyrinth of narrow alleys of the Medina (souk), where you can buy souvenirs, watch craftsmen at work in tiny shops, and soak up the exotic atmosphere. There will be plenty of tourists, of course, but the Medina is not just for tourists. The locals actually shop here, with some of them even fighting their way through the crowds on their smelly, fuming motorbikes.

Scenes from the Medina in Marrakech
The Medina (from l to r): A different world - Fragrant oriental spices - Craftsmen making wooden bellows in a tiny shop

Hiring a guide is highly recommended, as you soon lose your way, even with a map in hand. Your guide will take you wherever you want to try your hand at bartering, and he will be very disappointed, even angry-looking if you don’t buy anything. Presumably he’s on a share of the profits!

If you happen to show interest in something, be it traditional medicine, oriental spices, a brass coffee table, a carpet or a tajine dish, the vendor may offer you tea, which you are expected to accept, just as you are expected to bargain for the price of any item; so don’t feel embarrassed - the locals do it too!

The ancient Koutoubia mosque which is visible from anywhere in Marrakech

While there, make sure you go to the Djemaa el Fna square, the busiest square in Africa with its crowds of acrobats, storytellers, snake charmers, dancers and musicians. The Medina gets busier and more interesting as the day wears on, and this square transforms itself into a huge open-air restaurant at night.

But if you want to escape the hectic, noisy Medina, you can always find tranquility in one of the city’s lovely gardens: the AGuedal o Agdal, the garden of the Menara or the Majorelle gardens - the choice is yours.

Whatever you do, don't miss the beautiful El Bahia Palace and Koutoubia mosque (left), visible from anywhere in Marrakech. Be sure also to enjoy a traditional Moroccan dish on a restaurant patio and let yourself be pampered in one of the city’s many hammams.

WHEN BEST TO VISIT?

It is best to avoid the summer heat and crowds and visit Marrakech in the cooler months. Spring and autumn are the ideal times to visit, with pleasant temperatures and little rain.

WHERE TO STAY?

Traditional Moroccan welcome at 'Le Jardin d' Ines' lobby

You cannot do better than the five-star luxury Palmeraie Golf Palace Resort, a member of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide group, nestled in a peaceful oasis at the foot of the Atlas mountains just a ten minute drive from the heart of Marrakech, and awarded Africa’s Leading Resort and Morocco’s Leading Golf Resort at the 2006 World Travel Awards.

Comprising 312 rooms and suites, it has recently been refurbished to the highest specifications, and also boasts three new exclusive developments; the Pavillon du Golf, a 44 deluxe all-suite hotel overlooking the lakes and golf course, Les Jardins d’Ines, a luxury boutique hotel and spa with 26 suites, and the Palmeraie International Conference Centre, capable of accommodating groups of up to 1,500 and with a team of professionals to help ensure your event runs smoothly. The selection of 14 restaurants and bars at the Palmeraie ensure plenty of eating and drinking variety.

The resort is also home to Nikki Beach Marrakech a concept restaurant, bar and pool with live DJs, plus an equestrian centre, a spa with Moroccan hammam, children’s club facilities and a free shuttle service to the airport and city centre.

For more information visit www.pgpmarrakech.com or call +212 44 36 87 22/23


Cadogan Holidays / GB Airways

We travelled with award-winning Cadogan Holidays from Gatwick, using the scheduled services of British Airways operated by GB Airways, with accommodation at the five-star Palmeraie Golf Palace & Resort. Prices start from £422 per person for a three-night break and seven-nights from £699 on a bed and breakfast basis, including scheduled flights from Gatwick and return private transfers.

For nearly 60 years Cadogan Holidays have been creating and providing award-winning specialist luxury holidays in and around the Mediterranean, North Africa and beyond to the Canary Islands, the Azores, Cape Verde, Dubai & Oman. All their holidays are tailor-made to suit individual needs – you can choose your duration, combine resorts or book accommodation only if you prefer.

Cadogan offer luxury hand-picked hotels and destinations, often with exclusivity and a range of exciting activities in all the destinations. They also offer a full range of flying options from your choice of departure airport to your chosen destination, and all clients automatically receive private transfers to take them to their hotel.

For further information and reservations:
Tel: +44 (0)845 615 6793
Website:www.cadoganholidays.com

 Photo credits: © Palmeraie Golf Palace Resort - GolfToday

 



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