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City guide to Marrakech

Marrakech - Sam's City Guide

We are happy to introduce Sam’s City Guide to Marrakech. This is the first in a series of luxurious e-guides produced by

We hand-pick the best hotels, recommend hip restaurants and lounge bars, guide you to excellent shopping and important sightseeing. This is what we call “Excellence at your fingertips”.

Click here to download the free e-guide (pdf)

3 lounge bars you have to visit in Marrakech

On our visit to Marrakech earlier this year we stayed in the Hivernage area outside of the medina. The first evening we were up for a drink and felt like visiting a nice bar but we just didn’t have the slightest idea where to go. By chance we were passing by Palais Jad Mahal close to our hotel. It was just a small sign next to a discrete wooden door but we gave it a shot. We hit jackpot! Wow, what a place. This is a truly upscale establishment looking like a palace inside. We started out in the bar and had a drink before we moved on to the dining area. They had an extensive menu leaning towards Asian-Moroccan fusion and everything we tried was excellent. We also got to see a belly dancing show and ladies doing amazing moves with tea trays (full of candles!!) on top of their heads and listened to a great cover band until late in the evening.

In the end we decided to check with the bartender what other places he would recommend us to visit. Except for Jad Mahal (of course) he gave us the names of two other must-see-bars in the Hivernage area – Le Comptoir Darna and SO Night Lounge. We visited both of them and couldn’t agree more.

Le Comptoir Darnais a landmark in the Marrakech nightlife scene. It’s fun, loud, crowded and just plain cool. Here you can have dinner (the menu is Frensh-Moroccan) in an exotic, lounge-style setting and enjoy a cocktail (or two) while watching the spectacular belly dancing show. It’s simply a must to visit Le Comptoir Darna next time you go to Marrakech.

Just like Jad Mahal, Le Comptoir Darna has a great evening show

SO Night Lounge is located in the Sofitel hotel and has more of a night club feeling. As in Jad Mahal and Le Comptoir Darna, it is packed with party people, all enjoying some entertainment over a few drinks. Nice place but (according to us) not up to the level of Jad Mahal and Le Comtoir.

Have you been to Marrakech and found some other great places to lounge around at night? Share them with us. 

Hivernage: festive but don’t expect fireworks

Hivernage***** is a nice and cozy hotel and spa in Marrakech that strives for more but is not always up to the plate. It has a fantastic restaurant downstairs, “La Table du Marché” (where we had a grand time celebrating the arrival of 2012), an excellently equipped gym and a pool that for some reason (“thank you”, architects!) is located in the courtyard that never, never gets any sunshine during the winter months when you actually need it the most.

The rooms and the suites are well designed and some even have a jacuzzi and a sauna. The service is amiable if sometimes slow-ish. The location of Hivernage, though, is something to write home about. It is situated in one of the nicest areas of the city with top restaurants, bars and night clubs just a stumble away. A couple of minutes walk and you are in the Medina, the old town famous for its souks and snake charmers.

It’s a 5-star establishment that on close inspection (at least when we were there) does not deserve more than four. However, if you don’t want to spend a fortune and still enjoy certain luxuries, Hivernage will not let you down. And the money you save can easily be parted with next door in the just recently opened Louis Vuitton store where the service is a few notches higher, as well as the prices.

More reviews from Marrakech: 3 lounge bars you have to visit in Marrakech

Rating: 4/5

Munching on a $40 hamburger in Fort Knox

“I think Woody Allen is calling”

Have you ever tried getting into Fort Knox? No? Well, neither have we. That is why we were absolutely perplexed when we came across its twin brother in Marrakech – the legendary hotel La Mamounia. Called by Winston Churchill “the most beautiful place on earth”, it is heavily guarded to stop any onlookers from taking a glimpse inside. However, the samandthedunes team couldn’t just take no for an answer. We had long  wanted to see the famous hotel bar where Churchill and Hitchcock hanged out and where Sarah Jessica Parker probably had a few Cosmos while filming Sex and the City 2. So, our team in the best traditions of Ocean’s Eleven decided to develop a full-proof plan to get in. Everything had to be meticulously taken into account, nothing left to chance.

Attempt #1: Look as relaxed as possible, avoid eye contact, talk jovially and briskly try to pass the guards as if we owned the place. FAILURE. Face control figured us out faster then Sir Winston can down a cognac (back to the drawing board).

Attempt #2: To book one night at La Mamounia at very, we mean very short notice. This way we could easily squeeze in a dinner at the restaurant and a drink at the Churchill Bar. FAILURE. Hotel was fully booked (we hear that after this story was posted, Woody Allen was looking for our phone number).

Attempt #3: Ask the concierge at our hotel to book us a table at the bar. FAILURE. She called back in 2-3 seconds: “sorry (losers) it’s fully booked”.

Attempt #4: (last try before Sir Winston starts giggling in his grave) To attach ourselves to a group of hotel guests, mingling, laughing at their jokes while trying to sneak by the Fort Knox honchos once again. The group we leeched unto eyed us as if we were Freddy Krueger and Morticia Addams (an interesting pair, we have to admit) but BINGO, we were in!

Once we found the restaurant “Pavillon de la Piscine” we were told rather sternly (pupils rolling, how did these bozos get in!) that guests from outside were not served either lunch or dinner and that if we wanted something nourishing we should proceed to the terrace “snack bar”. Now, a snack bar usually is associated with a sandwich or two, maybe a pizza. This one had waiters that would easily fit in the Buckingham Palace and a menu that would shame most bistros on Champs Elysées. We can honestly say, hand on heart, that for the first time we have eaten a hamburger for 40 dollars.

On the way out (snickering how we outdid the security detail, heh, heh), we were passing by THE legendary bar. Unfortunately, it was not open. But we saw the closed doors. They looked heavy. Very heavy.

Sir Winston, Cheers! Have a drink for us upstairs, since we seem to fail down here.

Last check

Finishing packing before we’re off to Agadir and Marrakech for the holidays.

– Food? –Woof

– Water bowl? –Woof

– Dog shampoo? –Grrrrrrr!!

– OK, OK! Badminton racket? –Woof

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