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“Been There, Done That”

Multiple Courses With Horses

Wherein our writer in Marrakesh feasted with some of the most beautiful animals on the planet

Fans have credited Madonna with many peak moments in their lives—and now, if they happen to be traveling to Marrakesh, they can add one more: dinner in a stable surrounded by ten of the most elegant horses in the world.

Back in 2018, the singer was staying at the Selman Marrakech, one of the poshest hotels in the city, for her 60th birthday. She happened to visit the Arabians, owned by hotelier Abdeslam Bennani Smires, in their stables. Presumably they vibed, and she wanted to spend more time with the animals. She asked to have dinner that night set up in the center of the stables. And since that time, the hotel has been offering guests the same equine opportunity

It’s not the most common thing to have horses and stables on property at luxury (or any) hotels, and even more rare that they’re Arabian thoroughbreds in stables meticulously designed by French architect Jacques Garcia, known for his voluptuous, Belle Epoch designs of Parisian and New York hotels. But the Bennani Smires family, who owns the hotel, have a penchant for Arabian thoroughbred breeding and built their private stud farm on site, at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The Selman Arabians, as they’re called, have won innumerable awards both nationally and internationally. 

Dining table in the stables, Selman Marrakech hotel, Morocco
Not your average restaurant decor: the table is set for dinner in the stables as the hotel’s Arabian thoroughbreds look on. Photo courtesy of Selman Marrakech

So the Selman Arabians are the equine equivalents of Madonna and Tom Cruise and Naomi Watts (who have also been hotel guests.) Their mane-styling sessions rival Beyoncé’s and their workout regimens include standing on their hind legs and intricate dressage training. Catherine Reda, the on-site horse whisperer, makes sure that they’re some of the world’s most well-groomed and pampered steeds. Which is good, because when I walked into those Jacques Garcia stables and saw a long dining table replete with Moroccan prints and tableware fit for royalty, my first thought was not, “What’s on the menu?” but “I hope we’re not pissing these horses off.”

A horse trainer with a Selman Arabian at the Selman Marrakech hotel, Morocco
The hotel doubles as a stud farm. The privately bred and owned Selman Arabians have won numerous prizes in international competitions. Photo courtesy of Selman Marrakech
Hotel guests watch Selman Arabian horses perform over breakfast at Selman Marrakech, Morocco
In addition to dinner in the stables, the hotel offers guests the opportunity to watch stallions perform over breakfast. Photo courtesy of Selman Marrakech

But the staff on duty that evening assured me that the horses would let us know if they were annoyed. If they were pacing about or making grunting noises, chances were they were not amused. But these regal beasts were as still as could be. There was only the sound of gentle nickering as you spooned your tagine. The hotel staff kept the lights low, supplementing with hundreds of candles, and the music coming from the Andalusian Duo that complemented the meal seemed to soothe both the quadrupeds and the dinner guests.

Since Madonna’s stay, the candlelit Moroccan feast (about $370 per person) has been a mainstay of the hotel. As heady as the aroma of hay and manure is for a horselover like me, though, you cannot bed down in the stables. I (almost) asked.

Hero photo courtesy of Selman Marrakech

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