This time last week I should have been in Morocco. This time last year that’s where I was – no ‘should have been’ about it. Over the course of seven days I found myself hopping from the buzzing Place jamaa El fna amidst the toothpullers, orange juice sellers and the souks that smell of leather and spice; high up in the Atlas mountains staying in the most extraordinary of eco-lodges powered solely by gas and candlelight; and along the shores of blue and white Essaouira – Morocco’s answer to our own beloved Cornish coast.
Amongst meeting locals, expats, fellow travellers and a wealth of other interesting people, our week was topped off by being invited to a traditional Berber wedding where, amusingly for us (as three British young ladies), we donned traditional costume for the occasion. All this happened by happy coincidence of booking our first few nights’ stay at a place called Riad Splash, having asked Twitter – font of all knowledge – where to stay. This inexpensive, centrally located bolthole is a side spin-off of Scottish-run Morocco Adventure Tours that amongst all its added ‘insider access’ can take you white water rafting through this beautiful country’s impressive string of rivers and ravines.
Naturally, after such a great experience last time, I was eagerly anticipating another trip this year – albeit for ‘work’ reasons. Yet, with only three weeks to go before I was due to fly off to this nearby exotica (well, as nearby as you can get for somewhere so different to Europe), I was told the trip had been pulled. What does one do with such sad news? You find the nearest alternative.
Opened just a few weeks ago is the brand spanking new addition to London’s Dolphin Square. This majestic centre, a vast, hollow cluster of neat towering apartments, reminiscent of something from A Beautiful Mind, that overlook a pretty garden beneath, complete with fish pond, is where the bold, the beautiful and indeed the clever, flock to. And now there’s one more very good reason to follow suit: the Moroccan-themed Spa, SW1.
Bedecked in traditional attire, the friendly staff will gently welcome you in, allowing you to slow down and reach your inner, calmer senses after no doubt rushing through this still very temperate recent weather to get there. That’s when you know you’re elsewhere. No longer in a frantic mess at the end of a busy day. Instead, you’ve entered a microcosm of Morocco and its emblematic Red City.
The décor inside this modern mansion is unique and traditional. Huge wooden doors open into the main spa area, where outside the luxuriant changing rooms, you’ll find the peaceful waiting area. Here is where the experience begins. Dressed in a superbly soft and fluffy robe, you’ll wash your hands in the resident way with water being poured over them from a large silver-coloured jug. Take time to sip the sugary mint tea – just the way the locals like it – while nibbling on pistachios and heavenly-scented dates. Sit back against one of the brushed-silk colourful and iconic cushions and absorb the images of the capital that line the white-washed walls: pretty slippers; Moorish architecture, and colourful spice towers.
The pretty low-lit lamps will soothe your busy head and lend you a whole new mental list – for homeware shopping. The attention to detail in the furnishings is absolute. Even the teapot comes complete with the difficult-to-find cloth handle covers to stop you from burning your mitts (we hunted high and low for them at a good price, back in the real ’kech).
After some guilt-free down time, it’s time to start your treatment. I went for the Moroccan Rose Indulgence. And indulgent it certainly was. After being scrubbed all over with a rose-infused body scrub, and a quick rinse-off in the shower, I was then enveloped in a veil of rose-scented moisturiser. Rose is said to have good healing and anti-ageing properties making it the ideal treatment ingredient for therapies that relax but rejuvenate. A short head massage, and then a facial, and by the end of it all, not only was I mentally drifting off back into the souks of the medina through the scent that now clung to my every pore, but my body also came away feeling as if I had just had a mini-break. Even if it was only close to two hours long.
Last time I was in Morocco, I had an authentic spa-hammam experience at the somewhat less luxe centrally-located 1001 nuits. Dolphin Square proved to be equally authentic with a welcome more upmarket twist. Recommended for anyone needing an escape without the added pressure of time or budget for a flight, there are a whole 15 pages of just as satisfying treatments to choose from.