Morocco is a country of contrasts. Wealth and poverty, feminism and chauvinism, wet and dry.

Looking over the parapet of a five-star hotel at the heart of the Kasbah to see a weary man in a shabby brown jacket hawking three Winston fags from a tattered packet is sobering.

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I wonder what percentage of his monthly income is represented by the crisp gin and tonic I’m holding.

Morocco may be a sneeze from Spain, but even its most cosmopolitan cities are worlds away from western European standards of living.

Pop up the Jemaa el-Fnaa (the main square) and you’ll meet a host of individuals with deformities that both reveal a lack of universal healthcare and deliver an edge over other beggars.

Spices are everywhere on the streets of Marrakech, beautifully sculpted for the tourists with razor blades

To journey to Al Maghreb (Morocco is a corruption of the French name) is to step back to a world where artifice and artificers’ marks nick every facet of life.

The chief difference between La Sultana Marrakech and its five-star equivalents further north is the delicate crafts employed at every opportunity.

Free slippers are tanned leather, branded baboosh not sanitised white synthetics.

Everywhere intricate craftsmanship is on display such as this table at La Sultana Marrakech

The sink in my room is beaten, golden metal. Geometric designs painstakingly hammered by a master craftsman.

Everywhere the hand of man, not the machine of mass production, is evident.

And La Sultana prides itself on delivering the best of the best; gently sanitised into something any upmarket tourist would recognise and lap up.

Fancy a full-size bronze dromedary in your room? No problem. The table’s there sir.

How about a gigantic metal four-poster?

Bigger than you’ve ever seen, sir?

Yes. No problem. You’ll need a wooden step to mount, it though (I tripped over it four times).

In all seriousness, the hotel’s construction is a delight. For its price point you won’t find a place closer to the EU that offers this level of quality. It’s a rarefied bolthole. An oasis to escape to.

For some reason it sells itself on its central location. But, while its undeniably well placed, the pin-sharp range of services on offer should ensure there’s little reason to go outside the complex.

Sun worshippers can spend all day cooking themselves in oil on the plunge pool-equipped roof terrace.

Others can slip down into the labyrinth for luxurious spa treatments or simply enjoy the myriad delights afforded by their rooms.

Outside lives the dirty bustle of a city engaged in the grind of commerce. Sadly a trip around the edge reveals innumerable housing developments springing up with the inevitable shopping centres.

The vampires of Zara and H&M are poised to suck out the individuality of the place. Let’s hope it’s a slow process. Fortunately nothing moves that fast in the heat.

And La Sultana’s thought of that too. Like a rich Moroccan she has a place on the coast.

Hop in a swollen Merc, put your feet up and snooze your way across a desert landscape punctuated by poverty-stricken towns and, you’ll awake in a secure compound in Oualidia.

A saltwater lagoon separates La Sultana Oualidia from the fierce pounding of the ocean's waves

Set right on an ocean lagoon, which has its own oyster farm (a legacy of French protection), the hotel is a proper pleasure palace.

A dozen rooms get the benefit of facilities that could easily cater for double. Indoor and outdoor pools, a spa, seawater Jacuzzis for each room. The list goes on.

But this isn’t a brochure. Staying in a place like this is, despite its luxuries, is simplicity. The endlessly smiling staff do their best to think of everything before you ask.

La Sultana Oualidia is surrounded by grounds with an incalculable number of palm tree species

Mint tea by the pool. A beer, a glass of wine. A boat trip over the lagoon to your own private picnic by the 15ft smashers of the Atlantic coast. It all contributes to the slick experience you’d expect and are unlikely to forget.

And it’s all available for those who can pay, delivered with a smile. This is a discreet hideaway for the wealthy and, at that, it does very well indeed.

You don’t have to remain insulated, of course. But when there’s a beautiful beef dish from Tangiers served under a tent with the sunset in the background, why would you risk getting the grit of the street in your sandals?

Besides, there are tanks of fresh shellfish to distract you. Just one more prawn canape? Go on then.


■ Jon travelled as a guest of La Sultana and British Airways.

■ Rates at La Sultana Marrakech and La Sultana Oualidia start from 3100 MAD (approx £210) per room, per night based on two people sharing. Book via or call +212 5243-88008.

■ British Airways flies daily from London Gatwick to Marrakech with fares from £73 one-way or £134 return, including taxes and charges. Book via or call 0844 4930787