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Couples looking for a change-up from the usual romantic sojourn should set their sights on Africa, where luxurious new resorts and over-the-top renovations are adding sensuous suites, top-notch spas, and sophisticated dining to destinations stretching from Morocco to South Africa to Tanzania.
So much is happening in this ocean-meets-desert North African nation that romantics can pick from a smorgasbord of suites so special that they could make Morocco a hotbed for honeymooners in late 2010. First to debut was the legendary La Mamounia, which reopened in September 2009 after a multimillion-dollar makeover that gave its labyrinth of mosaic-tiled rooms and suites a jewel-box glow. Set amid 20 acres of gardens at the edge of the walled old city of Marrakech, the palace resort’s 777 employees pamper a maximum of 432 guests, who can dine in six restaurants and choose from 80 treatments at the 27,000-square-foot Mamounia Spa (from $775).
Next up: Set to debut this summer is Mandarin Oriental Jnan Rahma, a lavish palace and four riads in the Palmeraie area of Marrakech offering 161 richly-hued rooms and suites, three restaurants, and a spa with two hammams, all set against a backdrop of the Atlas Mountains; Four Seasons Hotel Marrakech is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of 2010 with 140 rooms and suites, two heated pools, and a stand-alone Moroccan-style spa featuring two VIP couples suites; and Raffles Resort Marrakech is expected to debut in early 2011, with 150 rooms and suites offering residential ambience (they are also expected to be the largest in the city), plus an Amrita Spa.
The continent’s most cosmopolitan (and photogenic) city, Cape Town, is even more inviting after the opening of one resort, One&Only Cape Town, and the jazzy revitalization of another, Cape Grace. One&Only’s April 2009 debut added 131 contemporary-chic rooms and suites as well as Africa’s first Nobu (by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa) and Maze (by Gordon Ramsay) restaurants, plus a sprawling Spa Island with 12 treatment villas (from $680). Meanwhile, a bold “refashioning” at 14-year-old Cape Grace in January 2009 turned the 121-room waterfront property from English-floral sweet to elegant-meets-quirky unique, with rooms featuring original hand-painted fabrics and local artwork and Signal restaurant serving innovative dishes that give a nod to the region’s French, British, Dutch and Asian heritage (from $603).
Located in the heart of Serengeti National Park, Bilila Lodge Kempinski opened in July 2009 bringing Kempinski’s Tanzania total to three (joining properties in Dar es Salaam and on Zanzibar). With 74 rooms and suites, the latter with private plunge pools, Bilila is more boutique hotel than safari camp—which may suit couples looking for a more resort-like experience. In addition to 4WD game drives (nearby rather than on property), the lodge offers a large infinity pool, an Anantara Spa, The Dining Room restaurant and a traditional Masai-inspired Boma (from $1,140).