This review was originally posted in the Marrakech Morocco section March 30, 2001. Now that this hotel has it's own section here, I've deleted the original review and updated and reposted it here.
Does anyone remember that old American Express commercial? The one with the Tom Hanks, Castaway type who's rescued. He shows up in the lobby of some swank hotel dressed in rags.
Just before they give him the boot, he pulls out his Amex card. Next thing you know he's got a suite, and is being pampered with room service, massage etc.. Later he's being fitted for a tailored suit and sitting down to a gourmet meal.
My first night in Marrakech was almost like that. I arrived in the lobby of the Atlas Ansi Hotel in the Ville Nouvelle in my normal travel worn state. There I stood dusty, grimy and tired with my pack slung over one shoulder.
I was dressed in dirty jeans and my battered leather jacket and my boots were literally covered in camel sh*t. I'm surprised the concierge didn't turf me on the spot. I did stick out among the suit and tie crowd.
At the very least I thought he was going to discretely shuffle me outside and into a waiting petit taxi. Then give the driver instructions to the driver to drop me off at the youth hostel. However I did have a reservation.
More importantly I had not one but two little pieces of gold plastic in my wallet. Just like the guy in the commercial. I checked in and as quickly ushered to my room.
It wasn't a suite, but it was nice. Spacious well furnished and with all the amenities. There was a mini bar, satellite TV and working plumbing. I shortly returned, cleaned, pressed and presentable to the lobby to explore my home away from home for the next couple of days.
I learned how to rough it a long time a go in the army. I also learned then that there was no need to go out of your way to be uncomfortable. If there is a chance to be living in the lap of luxury, take it.
Sure enough they'll come a time when you've got to rough it again, no need to go looking for it. I'd roughed it for a couple of days, and would be later in the week. Like the Arabs before me I was going to enjoy a little R&R in this oasis.
The Atlas Hotel is a four star property located in the Ville Nouvelle or European section of Marrakech. It is located on Avenue de France and is convenient to the convention centre and railway station. It is also only a short cab ride to either the cafes of Avenue Mohammed V or the Djemaa el Fna and the Medina, the original Arab part of the city.
The property has 304 rooms and 18 larger suites, all as I noted, well equipped and on par with what on would expect with a comparable European or North American property. The hotel seems to cater to both bus tour groups and conventions.
In fact during my three days stay, there were two convention groups, one arriving and one leaving. Incidentally the departing group were delayed as Royal Air Maroc went on strike. The hotel staff seemed to have no problems dealing with this unexpected emergency, although it did mean every room in the house was full.
The hotel has a beauty and health centre in the basement. There is a gym, sauna, beauty salon and a fairly good masseuse available during the day. The prices are more than reasonable, around 400 Dirhans, $40.00 US for a massage.
There is also an "authentic" hammam style steam bath. To be honest it is probably a little too modern and sanitised to be considered an authentic one especially when compared to those in the older part of the city. However for those who don't want to venture into the old city, it is an alternative.
There is a main dining room that offers both a buffet style continental breakfast and lunch and dinner. The dinner menu includes both Moroccan and French dishes and is a good value. There is also a small coffee shop.
Off the main lobby there are several small boutiques offering the normal collection of overpriced clothing and souvenirs. To be honest the selection and prices are not the best. One would be better off grabbing a $2.00 petit taxi to the shops and stalls of the Medina.
There are two main bars. One is in the front of the hotel to the right of the front desk, and the second behind the elevator banks. Both are cosy little places for an evening drink.
There is often live entertainment, usually a pianist. Both places and especially the second appear to be a popular spot for local Moroccan businessmen to stop by for an after work drink or two. Remember this is a Muslim country and consumption of alcohol is not in accordance with the teachings of the Koran.
Foreigners are of course not expected to adhere to these rules. Quick note, the charming local ladies who may be sitting in the back of the second bar are exactly what you think they are. Enough on that you've been warned.
There is a third small outside patio bar to the rear of the hotel. It is open during the day only, and is located beside the small swimming pool. The later is surrounded by a rather nice hedge to provide some degree of privacy and protection. There are also tennis courts on site.
In the basement is the hotel's cabaret. I'm not sure if it actually affiliated with the hotel or just located in the same building. The entrance is actually outside the main building. Admission is $10.00 US but this is waived for hotel guests. It opens around midnight and goes to the wee hours of the morning.
It supposedly offers an evening of traditional song and dance, but really appears to be boring evening of sipping overpriced drinks (two and three times the price of the upstairs bar) while waiting for the show to start. Most of the ladies of the evening move down here from the bar and are joined by several of their compatriots. Best to give it a miss there is much better entertainment available elsewhere.
The front desk offers safety deposit boxes for holding valuables. It is also an excellent resource for making restaurant reservations, booking day trips and all those other little things best left to professionals. There is a currency exchange desk, and there are several ATMs located nearby, including one across the street.
The Hotel Atlas Asni may be too modern, too "European" to be an authentic representation of Marrakech for some, but sometimes you just need a place to take a break.
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