If what you’re looking for when you travel is relaxation under a warming sun, activities, great food and to experience other cultures, Mazagan ticks every box. I’m lying on a sun lounger outside the relaxation area of the spa having enjoyed the most divine argan and vetiver oil massage, cocooned in a white towelling robe with just the beach, palm trees and the Atlantic ocean to contemplate. In this almost trance-like state, all I can think about is how chilled I am and how exclusive it feels to be here.
So it might come as a surprise to learn that while multi-award-winning, five-star-luxury Mazagan feels indulgent and exclusive, it is, in fact, one of the largest resorts in Morocco with 462 rooms and 30 suites, 11 restaurants, an ice-cream bar, two nightclubs and 7km of private beach. Tom Bangay has already written about Mazagan for The Arbuturian from a male point of view – the quad biking on the beach, the jet-skiing, go-karting, watersports, football, archery, bike trails, paintballing, North Africa’s largest casino with more than 450 slot machines open 23 hours a day, as well as 40 gaming tables, and a par 17 18-hole beach-side golf course designed by Gary Player (Morocco’s longest at 6,885 yards), all of which you can, of course, also play with if you are female (let’s not be too gender specific), but I’m here to talk about the hotel’s pampering, female side. Having said that, there are massages designed especially for men, just as everything I describe in this piece can be enjoyed by everyone. It’s just that I happen to love a massage (who doesn’t?) and a yoga class.
Indeed, before the massage I enjoyed an excellent yin with vinyasa flow class, the ideal stretch after the previous afternoon’s flight. Our teacher, the svelte and beautiful Saloua Acharki, really knows her stuff and her classes are a mix of precise positioning of the asanas and spirituality, as a great class should be. Saloua told me she would be taking another class the following afternoon and I couldn’t resist a return visit – the second was more of a power hatha flow class that left me feeling stretched, toned and centred.
Since horse riding appeals to men and women alike, a mixed group of us decided to go for a ride along the beach. We could have asked for camels, but horses it was and mine, a gentle grey stallion named Akram, carried me calmly along the beach, meandering in and out of the water as we listened to the waves, seagulls and the occasional flick of the horses’ tails. What a pleasant way to spend an hour.
All this sea air and exercise builds up an appetite and there is plenty of choice at Mazagan. Enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail (one of our party asked for a kir royal, which wasn’t on the menu but appeared anyway) in the large, elegant bar next to the entrance hall. If you’re a smoker, good news – you can puff away in the bar area; if you’re not you’ll be pleased to learn that it is large and airy enough not to feel smoky. After your drink, you can choose from 11 restaurants for dining.
Sel de Mer is the hotel’s flagship seafood restaurant where the catch of the day includes sea bream and lobster, and the hot chocolate fondant pudding is a real winner. Carnivores will like meat-focused George restaurant (be warned: the steaks are huge), where you can also order freshly caught seafood and enjoy a sea view whether you sit inside or out.
Morjana, meanwhile, offers fine Moroccan cuisine – the plenteous entrees, including pumpkin soup with argan oil, are delicious, and the chicken and preserved lemon tagine, if you have room, is superb. For lunch, don’t miss Beach Barbecue for alfresco seafood, again straight from the Atlantic, and pizzas baked to perfection in the pizza oven by a Sardinian chef. An ice-cold Casablanca lager makes a perfect match. There’s a happy family vibe here, with kids and teenagers in swimsuits after a sea dip ordering pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, salads and ice cream to share.
There’s also a choice for buffet breakfast, either at Mediterranean-themed Olives, where you can sit outside, or Market Place. And I mean choice: cereals, yogurt, labneh, whole fruit and fruit salads, fresh fruit juices, just-baked bread, cakes and pastries, plus noodles, rice dishes, hams, cheeses and more. There’s even an omelette bar. You won’t leave hungry.
Everything here is on a grand scale but there’s still a strong sense of place, from the Middle Eastern flora and tiles in the huge entrance hall to Moroccan touches in the rooms. Mine was spacious, with a large bed, welcome fruit and baklava, a bath and shower, and a balcony overlooking the beach and ocean. Bath gels and soaps are scented with orange blossom, the same fragrance that wafts through the vast foyer. As for space, there’s enough for everybody with numerous sun loungers around the Grand Riad pool (there is also a children’s pool with a slide and waterfalls) and, when we visited in May, the hotel never felt crowded (except perhaps at Market Place at breakfast time – get there early for a quieter start to the day).
Everything you need is here, but you can also venture out. Casablanca is an hour away and the nearby town of El Jadida is worth a visit. It’s not touristy, more of a working town, with a bustling medina and souk for bejewelled dresses, pointed shoes, patterned crockery, and vegetables, fruit and spices including saffron and the ubiquitous ras al hanout. Be sure to visit the early 16th-century Portuguese walled town, a UNESCO site, and its atmospheric underground stone cistern, where an elderly man wearing a djallaba will explain the history and tell you that Mazagan is the old name for El Jadida, which means ‘the new’. Film buffs might recognise the underground cistern – it’s where Orson Welles filmed some of the scenes of his 1951 version of Shakespeare’s Othello.
The morning of our departure, I sat on my balcony overlooking the sea and the beach with the palm trees swaying in the Atlantic breeze. A group of silhouetted horses carrying their handlers cantered into view – Akram was probably among them – and I felt I wasn’t quite ready to leave. There’s still much to do here: another ride on the beach perhaps, a game of tennis, a third yoga class, another spa treatment, or even just to lie on the beach and listen to the waves. Whatever your favourite activity and whether you’re up for macho sports or gentle pampering, you’re sure to find it at Mazagan.
Rooms at Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort start from 2,200 MAD (approx. £180) for a Double Room on a B&B basis in low season. For more information and booking, please visit: www.mazaganbeachresort.