Star travel review: we visited Ben Miller's magical Morocco
Follow the Death in Paradise star to the magical country of Morocco
While he might be best known for solving crimes in the Caribbean on the hit show Death in Paradise, Ben Miller's favourite holiday destination, as he told HELLO! in late 2021, was the magical country of Morocco. Ahead of filming season two of his crime drama, Professor T, he revealed that his post-COVID plans included taking a long trip to the amazing destination.
So, as any normal functioning person would, I found out some of the beloved actor's all-time favourite things in Marrakech, and went on a 'Ben Miller-approved' weekend to explore some of his top recommendations.
Now that the borders have reopened for the most gorgeous bit of sunshine a mere three hours flight from the UK, here are some of the luscious must-visit spots as recommended by the Bridgerton patriarch himself…
Telling Ben that I planned to stay at the five-star luxury hotel Selman, his face lit up. "The Selman is beautiful," he said. "It’s a beautiful hotel! It’s on the Route d'Amizmiz road, which is a great road. Selman is so chilled and relaxed as well. The disadvantage of being in the Souk is the pollution, the cars and the Tuk-tuks but Selman will be lovely."
He wasn't wrong. Selman is the sort of hotel that photos just don't do justice to, the sort of place you'll want to visit over and over again because every part of it – from the traditional music to the perfumed air – has been done with meticulous attention to every elegant detail.
Why visit Selman
The pool, the longest in Africa, is the distinctive main feature of the hotel, perfectly idiosyncratic between the hotel's main lobby and the restaurant – and being both pleasantly symmetrical and an Instagrammer's dream location for some glorious snaps.
For horse lovers, the Selman is also immensely proud of their stables, where they house thoroughbred Arabian horses, who take part in equestrian shows every few days, which we were lucky enough to see! Spend a spare few minutes looking in on the stables, the horses are magnificent.
During our stay, we enjoyed plenty of what the hotel had to offer, including the fabulous breakfasts offering everything from traditional Kefta Mkaouara to fruit and cereal, to luncheons of chilled oysters and succulent lobster linguine – not to mention the assorted bar snacks of everything from tuna sashimi to fresh guacamole. In fact, when chatting about the hotel, Ben called the food there "fantastic". Agreed!
The Hammam experience
During our stay at Selman, we visited The Spa Chenot for a Hammam. Having never tried one, I had no idea of what to expect, but soon realised why it is a must-do during a trip to Morocco. The spa experts pour buckets of hot water on you before scrubbing your skin and leaving you to steam in one of the lavish spa rooms before leading you for a cool shower and a chilly plunge pool, leaving your skin feeling gorgeous!
Upon leaving the experience, we found out just how huge Selman is upon discovering a hydro-massage pool, two heated outdoor pools, a jacuzzi and a sauna.
While discussing the hotel, Ben also explained: "It’s a fantastic hotel and you’re outside the Souk, which is where I would be. Stay in Selman by the lovely pool, then go to the Souk for the afternoon. It’s 15 minutes." Which leads us to…
Scams to watch out for
I was warned by plenty of my friends - and indeed by Ben - about wandering around the Souk as a tourist. Ben said: "Get the hotel to take a guide, and he will save you however much they try and charge you." Unfortunately, I thought we could visit the rabbit's warren of markets, tanneries, and cafes without running into any problems. As it turns out, we should have listened to Ben and organised a guide!
Two minutes into our excursion, we were approached by someone who claimed to work at the Selman, and we believed him. He knew our hotel, so he must recognise us, right? Wrong. Turns out this is a classic hustle, but fortunately we clicked that we were being misled after a few minutes of walking and turned back (though not without getting lost in the maze of the Souks, which took us a long time to find our way out again)!
Finding the right markets
Ben inadvertently saved the day by recommending the rooftop of Café Des Épices as a place to visit for lunch, which overlooks the Souk with views of the Mosque. A little jaded and shell-shocked from finding our way out of the woods like Hansel and Gretal, we instead discovered some gorgeous market streets full of Moroccan tea pots, tagines, clothing, rugs and cushions, with the sellers giving you minimum bother but having some cheeky fun with you instead (we were called 'Fish and chips' on several occasions).
I even gathered the courage to barter for a little pair of leather shoes for my niece, and while I'm sure I overpaid (the concierge at Selman had a giggle with me over my efforts), it felt lovely to be part of things, rather than anxiously tiptoeing past the hustle and bustle, for better or for worse.
A note on the markets
Ben has his own thoughts on tackling the markets. When listening to my concerns about what I'd heard from friends receiving a lot of unwanted attention as tourists, he said: "I think you should lean into that, just have spare cash, 20 Dirham notes, very handy. The culture there is very different.
"It’s like America where you constantly tip. Just constantly tip and you’ll have the most fantastic time. And the Moroccans do it themselves, they give each other money. Just treat it like that tipping culture, and you won’t go far wrong. Pay for a guide, they’re exceptionally high standard, and of course the guide will take you to a carpet store - just don’t buy a frickin’ carpet!"
Speaking about how his love for the country began, he added: "I took a train ride across North Africa in my twenties, and when I arrived in Morocco, I felt like I had come home. It’s such a breathtakingly beautiful country, and the people are so warm and friendly, with a mischievous sense of humour. And the food! Moroccan cuisine is the best, full of theatre and flavour." So where else did Ben suggest we go to dine? Check out what we made of his top dining recommendations…
Dining Recommendations in Marrakech
Beldi Country Club
"You're very close to a great place called Beldi Country Club where they have the most beautiful rose garden," Ben explained. "It's a fascinating place to go. It's a very cool French restaurant with open plains, it’s beautiful."
The Beldi Country Club was indeed unlike anywhere I've ever visited before. If you're thinking of neatly trimmed lawns and a golf course, think again. The Beldi balances the wildness of nature with luxury dining, and made me feel like I was settling into the secret garden for a spot of dinner. There were stretches of wild flowers and pathways lined with succulents, with lamps leading the way to the restaurants.
We enjoyed some truly gorgeous grub, including honeyed chicken, carpaccio tomato with pesto, and perhaps the most deliciously garlic-infused bruschetta I've ever had in my life. Chef's kiss!
La Maison Arabe
Ben suggested we ask for a table in the courtyard by the pool, which was the perfect location for this famous dinery just a few minutes from Jemaa el-Fna, the famous square. The restaurant, we learned, was once a favourite of Winston Churchill, and had the most melt in the mouth delicious tagines (we particularly loved the mutton, as recommended by our waiter) as well as some tasty Moroccan wines.
If you want a little break from Moroccan cuisine, the restaurant has a range of cuisine options on the menu, with everything from Vietnamese dumplings to salmon noodles with sesame seeds.
Based in the heart of the medina, El Fenn is a breathtakingly gorgeous restaurant with stunning views of the nightlife in the heart of Marrakech. Owned by Vanessa Branson, there is a vibrant energy to the place, which also has delightfully friendly staff and well thought out cocktail creations. The menu offerings are also very well thought of and consist of everything from harissa chicken piri piri to Atlas trout. There is also a daily Moroccan special, which in our case was a delectable buttery chicken tagine, mmm.
©Igor Demba El Fenn
When is a good time to go to Morocco?
Ben is all about that October sunshine. He said: "I’ve been going for years, I’ve spent as much time as I can out there, I just love it, and you couldn’t pick a better time to go." During the trip, we also quizzed our taxi driver on when we should visit next. He agreed that October is gorgeous, with the weather being around the 30-degree Celsius mark, with March and May also at the top of his list.
Why visit Morocco: a note from Ben
"For a start, from the UK you are flying due south, not sideways as you are to mainland Europe. So it’s the most sun you can get per air mile. Marrakech, with its date palms back-dropped by the snow-covered Atlas Mountains, has some fabulous riad (courtyard) hotels close to the storytellers and snake charmers in Jena El Fna square.
"I’m a fan of Dar Jaguar. Or if you’d prefer the peace of an olive grove, stay at a boutique staffed villa like Dar Zitouna. It’s like a mini hotel, with a delicious menu and its own two-acre garden. That way you can spend your afternoons by the pool and pop into the city at night."
Like this story? Sign up to our newsletter to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.