Moroccan Spa Cuisine: Eating for Health & Wellness

Moroccan Spa Cuisine: Eating for Health & Wellness

As someone who is deeply attached to their creature comforts, the notion of a wellness retreat has always seemed a little too austere for my liking. Conjuring images of too-pale, wisp-thin women shuffling around some gloomy Alpine resort in white robes and shower slides, the idea of an IV vitamin drip dangling from my arm has never exactly filled me with excitement. But take that concept somewhere warmer, somewhere rich with culture—somewhere like Morocco—and you just might be able to convince me otherwise.

That’s precisely what the recently launched wellness retreat at the Royal Mansour Marrakech did. Tucked away in a citrus grove with a lofty birdcage-style atrium, this palatial spa is the first of its kind in North Africa, and it does a remarkable job of shaking up those Eurocentric wellness clichés. From the moment I stepped foot inside, I knew I was in for something truly special.

As I learned from Vogue, the property itself is like a very luxurious medina all of its own, with individual riads in place of traditional hotel suites. But the spa is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown here, and I was eager to experience it for myself.

Surrendering to the Moroccan Spa Experience

I opted for the three-day “immunity boost” retreat, figuring my system could use a bit of a tune-up after all those months of self-isolating. From the moment I arrived, I was treated like absolute royalty. After a thorough consultation with the in-house nutritionist to assess my daily eating habits (spoiler alert: my sweet tooth is alive and well), I was whisked away to the hammam for a truly transformative experience.

As I stepped into the marble-lined bathing rooms, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pure luxury and relaxation. Being alone in this space felt especially indulgent, and I eagerly shed my robe and disposable undies in preparation for the pampering to come.

First, I was lathered with a natural exfoliant called black soap, then gently scrubbed from head to toe with a kessa, or exfoliating glove. Laying on a heated marble surface and being bathed with pails of warm water, I felt myself melt into a state of pure bliss. It took everything in my power not to drift off to sleep right then and there.

Next, a custom-mixed body mask of honey, saffron, and argan shell powder was applied, along with an exfoliating face treatment. As I submerged myself in the cold plunge pool, I could feel the stress and tension of everyday life sloughing off my body, leaving me feeling lighter and more refreshed than I had in ages.

Exploring the Spa’s Holistic Offerings

But the hammam was just the beginning of my wellness journey at the Royal Mansour. Over the next two days, I experienced an array of treatments and activities designed to nourish both my body and mind.

On day two, I was introduced to watsu, a form of aquatic bodywork that involves stretches, massages, and acupressure in water. Doing this in the spa’s pool, with its atrium windows overlooking the lush gardens, was a particularly soothing experience. That same afternoon, I also had my first chi nei tsang massage – a centuries-old abdominal technique that, despite my delicate tummy, proved to be surprisingly calming.

By the time I made it to the Tibetan singing bowl session, I was completely blissed out. But it was the quintessentially Moroccan aspects of the retreat that continued to set it apart. On day three, I had the opportunity to try my hand at pottery with two local artisans in the Atelier d’Artiste, a glass-paneled greenhouse on the property.

As Vogue noted, the distinctive terracotta ceramics of Morocco are everywhere in Marrakech, and I was eager to learn more about the craft. Though I quickly discovered that I’m a much less skilled ceramicist than I had imagined, the patient guidance of the teachers allowed me to form a small, if slightly lopsided, bowl that now proudly sits on my kitchen counter.

Nourishing the Body with Moroccan Cuisine

But the wellness experience at the Royal Mansour didn’t stop at the spa. Cooking lessons were also on the agenda, and as someone who is admittedly better at eating than cooking, I approached this activity with a touch of trepidation.

However, my fears were quickly assuaged when I found myself in the kitchens of the hotel’s Moroccan restaurant, La Grande Table Marocaine, with Zahira Lasri, the sous chef, as my guide. Leading a one-on-one session, Zahira patiently walked me through the process of preparing one of my favorite Moroccan dishes: chicken tagine.

By the end of the lesson, I was armed with an arsenal of delicious and perfectly packaged herbs and spices that, while I’ll probably never use them, do look incredibly chic sitting on my kitchen counter. More importantly, I left with a newfound appreciation for the complexity and nuance of Moroccan cuisine, and a deep respect for the skilled chefs who bring it to life.

Throughout my stay, the culinary offerings at the Royal Mansour consistently impressed and delighted me. Whether I was indulging in a seafood and watercress salad for lunch or savoring a decadent chocolate banana mousse, the attention to detail and commitment to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients was evident in every bite.

A Wellness Retreat Unlike Any Other

By the end of my three-day stay, I felt completely pampered, well-rested, and well-fed. But more than that, I realized I had barely had any time to check social media, the internet, or even my emails. In a world that is constantly demanding our attention, this digital detox was exactly the kind of retreat I didn’t know I needed.

As I reluctantly bid farewell to the Royal Mansour and its oasis of tranquility, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude for the unique experience I had just had. Elbahia, the Moroccan restaurant in New York City, may not have the same palatial setting, but I’m confident that their commitment to serving up authentic, health-conscious cuisine and creating a true sanctuary for the senses will provide a similarly transformative experience.

So, the next time you find yourself in need of a wellness reset, I highly recommend exploring the rich cultural heritage and holistic offerings of Moroccan spa cuisine. Your mind, body, and taste buds will thank you.

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