It is hard to remember the wet grey chill of Gatwick as I step off the airplane just three hours later to clear blue skies and 43 degree heat in Marrakech.
Morocco now rivals Dubai for short breaks with virtually guaranteed sunshine, and it is easy to see why. Numerous airlines, including Easyjet and Ryanair, offer an inexpensive 3 hour flight to Marrakech, there is no time difference, and for those looking for a romantic break, unlike Dubai it is still a fairly unspoiled and adult place to visit.
Resorts are springing up in the desert surrounding Marrakech city, but we opted for a 40km drive to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains to stay at The Capaldi, a beautiful new hotel sprawling over 6 acres of olive groves.
In addition to its two pools, renowned restaurant and many shaded and sunny lounging areas, the hotel boasts a spa offering the traditional Moroccan hamman – a ritual cleaning and exfoliation – plus massage and reflexology, all cheerfully and professionally delivered by skilled therapists.
After an exquisite lunch of beef carpaccio I settled onto a sofa in the air conditioned private cinema to watch one of over 2000 DVDs during the heat of the day. By early evening it was cool enough to explore the surroundings; the hotel can arrange for this to be done on horseback or by camel, but to see a larger area of desert, local villages and the huge nearby lake I opted for a dune buggy, racing at over 50mph along dusty desert tracks behind a guide.
The restaurant serves primarily traditional french cuisine and I enjoyed an exquisite dinner of quail, beef fillet and poached peaches served on the candlelit terrace. The restaurant has a great reputation and at weekends it fills with locals from Marrakech, but for tonight there is just a handful of other guests and owners Ed and Tara, enjoying the cool of the evening.