One of World's Best Resorts: Best Beach, Golf and Casino in Morocco
>Developmental background of Mazagan Beach Resort
>Plans for the future
October 31, 2009, was a major event in the Moroccan social calendar: Mazagan Beach Resort was celebrating its Grand Opening. Ten thousand candles shining on more than 100,000 roses greeted the 1,500 Moroccan and international VIPs—including movies stars and celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Naomi Campbell, Gerard Butler, Kelly Slater, Naomi Watts, Guy Ritchie, and Liv Schreiber—who were invited to celebrate the gala event.
Entertainment through the weekend was provided by 50 horsemen from El Jadida dressed in traditional tbourida costume, more than 300 traditional folk dancers, belly dancers, snake charmers, fire breathers, and a spectacular fireworks display—all at a cost of US$15m.
Fifteen million dollars—that's US$10,000 per guest—for a single party?
Yes, but it was worth it; for it established Mazagan Beach Resort as a preferred destination for precisely the kind of clientele the resort hopes to attract. The numbers prove it: the resort recorded 50% occupancy in its first year, a remarkable accomplishment in itself—and even more so in the face of the world financial crisis occurring at that time that sent international tourism figures elsewhere into a tailspin.
But even more than its public relations and marketing value, such an elaborate grand opening was also to celebrate Morocco's entry into the international tourism market in a big way. Mazagan Beach Resort (hereafter referred to as MBR) is the first of five new seaside resorts that Morocco plans to build along its Atlantic coast, and in this respect it is specifically designed as the flagship resort development presenting the essence of Morocco's hospitality, culture, and architecture—a signal of the nation's identity in the field of tourism, as a well as the standard bearer of the development to follow.
Exquisite Elegance: The Grand Riad
To describe MBR as spectacular, elegant, and luxurious is an understatement. It is a delight to all the senses—sight, sound, scent, touch, and taste. To stand before the main structure, the Grand Riad (or Grand Hotel) is an experience fit for kings or Caliphs. It comes into view after the last turn of a winding road through a gorgeously landscaped hillside when one glances up to see its ochre walls and green-tiled roof. Exquisite fountains dot the courtyard and grounds among areas of lush grass and stone paths. Overlooking the lagoon, golf course, and spa and plunging down to the sea from terraces, one will get a 180-degree view over the Atlantic Ocean that will take your breath away.
Entering the Grand Riad, one comes upon the astonishingly ornate atrium graced with a huge goblet-like fountain. From there one can reach ten bars and restaurants, the large thousand-person capacity ballroom, upscale retail shops, the spa, the "Sanctuary" Night Club, one of the largest conference centers in the region, the only casino within 200 km., and the 18-hole golf course designed by Gary Player.
MBR's restaurants offer a taste-treat sensation featuring cuisines from every part of the world including Europe, Asia, South America, and of course North Africa. Down a set of stairs from the atrium one comes to the central courtyard with a very large pool surrounded by 150 or so loungers. From the central atrium one can follow two corridors through small internal gardens that lead to the hotel's rooms. The décor features 150 types of Moroccan mosaics, along with hundreds of Morocan lamps and fresh flowers growing out of the wall lattices.
The Grand Riad features 500 rooms and 32 suites, all of which are spacious and have views either the ocean or the central pool area. All the rooms are deluxe with an en-suite bathroom, and range from the Mazagan (BR+lounge+bath) to the Executive (BR+larger lounge+bath), to the 372 sq. meter Royal (12 BR+lounge+kitchen+bath+large balcony). The décor of the rooms is dark wood and mosaics.
The Gary Player-designed golf course along the beach
The resort's major sports features are a stunning 18-hole golf course running along the beach for 7 kilometers, designed by world renowned South African golfer, Gary Player. Player is considered one of the greatest golfers of all time, and in 2000 received the "Sportsman of the Century" award. He is also renowned for designing golf courses around the world. On visits to the resort, Player also teaches golfing at the golf clinic on the site. Since opening, the golf course has received fulsome praise as a championship-designed course located on a stunningly beautiful site along the sand dunes of the beaches.
MBR's Spa and Nautical Activities
A short walk from the Grand Riad through gardens dotted with palm and orange trees is the Mazagan spa, which features 12 treatment rooms with a view of the ocean, including two couples rooms and a VIP two-person; an authentic Moroccan hamman. Specially popular are facial and body treatments.
Nearby is also the fitness center featuring daily pilates and yoga classes. One can also keep in shape with water sports including surfing, windsurfing, fishing, and jet skiing. Nordic walking, tennis, horse-riding, cookery, and handicraft classes are also offered.
Families and Children
Every kind of facility and activity is also provided for children, teens, and youth. Among these are the Baby Club, Club Rush, and Kidz Club. Says Marie-Beatrice Lallemand, general manager of MBR:
"We have kids clubs for all ages from babies through teens and cater to each specific age group. In the club we have and are developing outdoor activities for the kids to keep them active. Everything is a la carte to accommodate families and allow freedom to both parents and children. Many of our clientele are international and we have been popular with families all over."
Adults and Night Owls
For adult night owls there is the Sancturary night club, and for those who like to bet on chance there is the casino with 3,500 sq. meters containing 414 slot machines, 50 gaming tables, and a salon privee.
But this set of activities is not at all static or fixed. Adds Lallemand: "I think we can develop a lot more activities to make us more attractive, and I have a new idea every ten seconds."
Enjoying the Dunes
The seven kilometers of beach along shore are reserved for "virgin" beach. But during the summer months waiters from the Grand Riad will set out deck chairs and serve drinks.
In addition to the nearly 500 rooms of the Grand Riad, 67 villas are interspersed among the dunes and foliage along the 7-kilometer-long golf course.
Each spacious five-bedroom villa has more than 700 sq. meters of floor space, and offers the pinnacle of luxurious living. The villas also exist in 4 and 3 bedrooms.
Three levels of outdoor space provide for a personal swimming pool, terrace, and space for three automobiles. Situated in a low density executive estate, each villa enjoys a superb location within landscape gardens overlooking the golf course. Stunning views of the fairways, greens, and Atlantic Ocean complete the site's breathtaking beauty.
Cultural and historical jaunts
The attractions of MBR are not limited, however, to its on-site facilities. Among its pri me cultural and historical attractions are visiting the nearby cultural sites of El Jadida and Azemmour.
El Jadida is a charming town that was originally established as a fortified Portuguese colony in the early 16th century. The Portuguese name of this town was Mazagan. It served as one of the first stops established by the Portuguese on their route around the horn of Africa to India, Its fortifications, ramparts, and bastions and remaining buildings, such as the remains of the Church of the Assumption built on earlier Roman ruins, merit its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town of Azemmour dates from before the 15th century. Located on the left bank of the Oum-Er-Rbia River, its medina—market area and souks—provide an authentic Moroccan setting, and great opportunities to shop for local handicrafts and agricultural products. Ferdinand Magellan—the Portuguese navigator who first circumnavigated the globe—once lost his horse in a battle outside Azemmour.
Located on the Atlantic shore at the same latitude as San Diego, California, MBR has a delightful climate and temperature 365 days of the year, ranging from an average temperature of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15-17 Celsius) in April and October to a high of about 75 F (24 C) in July. While the ocean water is cool, there are two major pools for swimming at the Grand Riad, plus the personal pools of each villa.
Developmental background of Mazagan Beach Resort
Then the new King of Morocco crowned in 1999 had a dream of making the beauty of his country one of the top tourist destinations in the world. In 2001 he set forth his dream in a plan—called "Plan Azur"—according to which Morocco was to more than double the number of tourists coming to Morocco, from 4m in 2001, to 10m in 2010.
A major part of his plan was to develop six new resort communities along the coasts of Morocco—one on the Mediterranean and five on the Atlantic. Over the next few years, sites were explored, lands acquired, experts in resort planning consulted, concepts generated, teams of architects and engineers recruited, and the best resort development firms in the world canvased for interest.
Mazagan is a new destination offering the taste and experience of authentic Morocco
The first resort along the Atlantic coast was chosen to be located at Mazagan, a deserted stretch of coastline not far from the Medieval Portuguese fort at El Jadida—a World Heritage site—and close by the markets and souks of the colorful town of Azemmour.
By 2005, it was ready to be offered. A consortium led by the South African company Kerzner International, Ltd., was selected to lead the 3.1b MAD (approx. US$275m) project. Kerzner already had a long track record of high-profile successful projects, such as Sun City in South Africa, Atlantis on the Palm, Atlantis Bahamas and the One and Only Royal Mirage in Dubai.
Construction was begun in 2007 and continued for 21 months, employing over 3,800 artists and workmen to construct the first 247 hectare phase of the planned 514 hectare project. This led to the gala grand opening described at the beginning of this article. When fully complete, MBR will employ more than 1,200 employees and staff.
According to General Manager Lallemand,
"Mazagan is a new destination offering the taste and experience of authentic Morocco…Tourism is the future of our country, and we need to focus on this because we have a beautiful coastline and a rich culture to offer. We have all the ingredients to become a prime destination for both the leisure and business traveler. People just have to come here to see this."
Plans for the future
Plans for Phase 2 of MBR include a sports academy and separate retail area, together with additional sporting facilities, hotel room, and villas. Much depends on marketing and gaining obtaining more airline flights, routes, and carriers to Morocco.
According to Lallemand, "we have been very successful with the UK market, and now the Germans have started to discover Morocco, too. Russian tourists have become much more prevalent. Morocco is an ideal destination for them, and Morocco offers an excellent all-inclusive atmosphere for them to vacation in. … The surroundings give the resort an incredible effect and the beach has been rated one of the most beautiful on the Atlantic Ocean."