IT’s hot, it’s exotic and beautiful. No wonder Morocco, long on the traveller’s radar, is rapidly becoming the place that the beautiful people are going to buy their second homes. Says Alistair Emery, CEO of developer Ajensa, which is nearing completion of the Baglioni resort near Marrakech: “In the last few years as people have tightened their belts, Morocco has benefited because people have chosen not to go too far away. It’s on the doorstep of Europe, has constant climate and is the closest place that is something very different indeed.”
According to the Moroccan Tourist Board’s annual report, tourism numbers have risen 10 per cent in the last year. Inevitably, property investment follows tourism, both main objectives of the new king Mohammed VI when he took over at the end of the 1990s. Infrastructure, such as roads and sanitation, were improved, and effort was put into attracting top-level hotels. The reopenings of the super decadent La Mamounia, and the Royal Mansour, the king’s hotel, were felt round the world. “These two upped the level of the type of client going there,” says Emery. A Four Seasons with an epic spa and a Mandarin Oriental are due to open early next year, too.
Of course, staying in a hotel is different from owning your own slice of Morocco.
Most people choose to stay close to or in Marrakech, for its market, beautiful buildings, proximity to both the airport and the Atlas mountains, and golf courses. While there are plenty of stand-alone houses available – “a lot of people want riads in the medina and houses in the palmerie” according to Alex Peto of Aylesford International – developments are taking off, with hotels, restaurants, golf courses, spas as well as private residences. The Baglioni is one such example – with villas designed by Jade Jagger in conjunction with designers yoo, a Baglioni boutique hotel, and a spa by luxury brand Six Senses, it promises to be one of the most glamorous. Top-end hotel group Rocco Forte also have a luxurious development, with an enormous golf course (see right) and there are several more.
Buying in Morocco is relatively straightforward. “It uses the French system,” says Emery, “which is a system of notary, so you have a clean title deed. Everything is properly registered. From that point of view, it is very trustworthy.” The economy and property market in Morocco are also relatively steady so it runs little risk of being another Spain. Although many developments are now nearing completion, giving the impression of a sudden boom, Morocco has been more a slow burner, evenly heating up. “We’ve been underway for some years,” Emery points out.
“Morocco is a very stable country,” says Peto. “An investor who does his or her homework has nothing to risk. There are some people who might prefer Fes, Tangiers and Agadir perhaps. While they all have much to offer, Marrakech is really where there is the most going on, and is certainly the capital for tourists and consequently, rental demand.
BAGLIONI HOTEL AND RESIDENTIAL RESORT, MARRAKESH
Price: Four-bedroom properties from €1.96m
A five-star hotel and residential development set within a 34-acre parkland resort 10 minutes outside Marrakech. Due to open in 2011, the resort includes a 72-room Baglioni boutique hotel; 15 four and five bedroom residences designed by Jade Jagger (launched in October); a 1,500 sq m Six Senses spa and a top restaurant. Superluxe tourism meets managed property investment. Contact: www.thebaglionimarrakech.com.
L’AMANDIER, ATLAS MOUNTAINS
Price: £319,000 to £425,000
16 hilltop villas with stunning mountain views and a 360 degree vista of the Ouirgane valley, a large swimming pool, a tennis court, plunge pools, and gardens peppered with Bougainvillea, almond and citrus trees. An hour from Marrakech. Contact: Savills on 020 7016 3740.
Price: Villas from £2.31m
A completely unique development: a private 18-hole golf course accompanies a hotel and spa from the Rocco Forte Collection (which owns among many others, Brown’s Hotel and Spa in Mayfair), with 80 sumptuous villas spread over 222 hectares, each with views of the Atlas mountains and the lights of Marrakech. Contact: Aylesford on 020 7349 5100.
SALADIN FARM, OUIRKA VALLEY NR MARRAKECH
Saladin farm is a five-bedroom villa in a luxury development near the Atlas mountains, designed by Karim El Achak, a leading Marrakech architect. The Medina and the airport are 20-25 minutes away and there are two golf courses within a similar distance. Contact: Aylesford on 020 7349 5100.
SEE: Old favourites include the Djemaa El Fna – Marrakech’s famous market, a trek to the Atlas mountains, and a visit to the Koutoubia Mosque. To get away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s streets, visit the Marjorelle Gardens. It boasts a collection of plants from across the globe and has the Museum of Islamic Art nestled inside it.
EAT: Follow the locals and eat at the stalls in Djemaa El Fna. Adventurous choices include lamb’s head and local snails. For a quieter experience, visit the Riad Kniza restaurant where you can eat inside a Bedouin tent.
GETTING THERE: British Airways will be launching flights to Marrakech from Gatwick next year. The new route will operate three times a week from 27 March. Easyjet, Ryanair and Thomson also fly to Morocco.