The aura is pink, the aroma predominantly mint.
This is Marrakech - the pale rouge city of labyrinthine souks, fertile gardens and historic mosques where time stands still over an aromatic glass of mint tea.
For centuries it has been the beating, vibrant heart of Morocco.
Exploring the medina, bound by ancient red sandstone walls, is one of the highlights of a stay in Marrakech.
The approach is dominated by the landmark Koutoubia mosque, dating from the late 10th century with four golden orbs at the top of the square 69-metre minaret.
From there you can cross into the narrow alleys and passages that form the ancient medina, dating from the same period and created by Berber dynasties from the south of the country at a time that Marrakech was the country's capital and Africa's key trading hub.
Marrakech medina flea market
Mosque, market, bathhouse and tea-shop; these are the institutions of the souk but its social fabric too, where people meet, converse, wash, pray and while away the time.
The narrow maze-like alleys are lined with stalls selling lanterns and ironware, potteries, spices, leather goods, textiles, souvenirs and traditional Moroccan foods.
The medina has numerous exits but many empty out into the main square of Marrakech, Djemaa el F'na, which translates as Assembly of the dead. Once where executions occurred, today it is the domain of food stalls selling the most delicious cuisines, musicians, dancers and snake charmers.
Es Saadi terrace suite and Atlas Mountain view
And from there, it is a short journey back to the serenity of the Es Saadi, a palatial oasis of calm.
As a five-star hotel, the Es Saadi Palace is blissfully peaceful with its pools and restaurants, innovative artwork, a spa to be pampered in and a mesmerizing air of serenity.
A musician sits in the foyer, caressing the strings of an oud or sinter, with a fresh pot of mint tea, surrounded by glasses for anyone who cares to join.
The pace is slow, ambient, relaxed and fulfilling.
The Es Saadi, with its 84 exquisite suites, sits in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the 11th century medina's shops, eateries, mosques and hammams.
Should we be surprised at this contrast?
Perhaps not, as the Es Saadi name originates from the word “le bienheureux”, which translates as “the blissful one.”
The Palace oozes North African charm, and despite only being built in 2008, has the ambience of a much older structure.
Created by the craftsmen of Morocco with glazed tile floors, marbled inlay, fabulous artworks (collected by the owners) and a truly Saharan feel, it is a favorite with the Hollywood A-list when they are in town – usually for the International Film Festival every December.
Mint tea and glasses
Sir Ben Kingsley, Leonardo di Caprio, Martin Scorsese, Sigourney Weaver and Jason Statham have all signed the guest register and stayed in the luxurious rooms, or in the 10 themed villas in the 20 acres of grounds of the Es Saadi complex.
Family-owned, the Es Saadi Gardens & Resort has been passed down through three generations of the Bauchet family with the Es Saadi Palace the ‘younger sister' of the 152-room Es Saadi Hotel – built in 1966 – and the nearby casino which has been on the site since 1952.
The Palace's three restaurants offer a diverse dining experience – the Lagon & Jardin Brasserie has the al fresco appeal, with the Island Bar in the centre of the expansive lagoon pool, while the premier restaurant at Penthouse level, the Cour des Lion, champions Morocco's finest dishes with tagines, couscous and seven-hour lamb in oriental spices.
We enjoyed the harira marrakchia soup followed by tagines – the “Sardi” lamb was succulent and fruity with peppers and prunes, with a couscous of sultanas and almonds.
There is also the bistro-style L'Epicurien within the casino and the Restaurant Gastronomique at the hotel, with its menu of French classics.
Es Saadi cuisine
The Es Saadi Palace hosts the largest pool in Marrakech and is set in the extensive and tranquil gardens, beautifully landscaped with palm, banana and orange trees and with sun loungers surrounded by roses and bougainvilleas, it is perfect for relaxing by.
It also has two priceless gems: wonderful themed villas and the award-winning spa.
The themed villas are a popular choice of the rich and chic, and include the vibrant blue of Villa Persane with an aura of Iran to the magnificence of Villa Sultane. Six are single bedroom, four are double and there is also eight traditional Moroccan styled Ksars, Berber-influenced private duplex villas.
The state-of-the-art Es Saadi Palace Spa with a world-famous Dior Institute - one of only two in the world - offers treatments ranging from facials and massages through to specific, innovative and invigorating therapies that rejuvenate, revive or simply pamper.
Sublime, it cascades over three floors and 24 treatment rooms down to a pool, hammam area and reception and is built around an ancient eucalyptus tree which rises through the center of the complex.
Named winner of the World Luxury Spa Awards in 2014, the relaxation areas are an experience in themselves; a combination of mint teas and water beds where you can literally spend an hour or more after your treatment absorbing the experience and ambience.
Some of the treatment rooms have fabulous views over the ornate gardens and to the city – and on a clear day – to the Atlas Mountains and there is the “spa within a spa”, a private room with all the facilities including its own hammam, whirlpool bath, treatment tables and showers.
Es Saadi Palace Spa
The expertise of the therapists is high, regularly updated to take in the latest techniques, and offer the best treatments.
Marrakech lies before its visitors to explore, savoring the atmosphere and admiring its gardens such as the Jardin Majorelle – gifted to the city by Yves St Laurent – or enjoying the museums and monuments.
From a fascinating few hours absorbing the vibrancy of the city, and its medina as one of North Africa's great treasures, the poolside at the Es Saadi Palace is a wonder in its own right to retreat to…perfect to have a swim or a mojito on the island before dinner.
And to stay there is, as the name suggests…sheer bliss.
Visit website: http://www.essaadi.com/. For reservations contact email@example.com or call 00 (212) 5243-37400.