TRAVEL: A shortcut to Morocco

What better way to honor the New Year than by slipping away to the Moroccan-inspired 293 guestrooms InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa.

The Montelucia is a blend of Spain’s Andulusian artistry with an Italian flair and as close as you can get to a magic carpet ride for exotic spa treatments with splash of jasmine and orange blossom.

If it all sounds like a romantic fantasy, check out the Castillo Lucena wedding chapels inspired by the Hotel Cipriani in Venice.

The highlight for many guests is the two-level Joya Spa complete with an authentic hamman. The spacious entrance unveils breathtaking decor that envelopes guest from start to finish. A curving staircase takes guests to the second level where 19 treatment rooms reveal Moroccan-inspired choices from Berber clays to jewel infused facials. That’s just the beginning.

Moroccan fabrics draped along the second level corridor lead to an illuminated 55-pound crystal centered in the rotunda surrounded by sheer fabric, a scene right out of the “Arabian Nights.”

It reminded me for a moment of the exotic sets in a vintage film classic, “Morocco,” starring Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich.

For the ultimate royal treatment reserve the rather theatrical Grand Palace Suite replete with fireplace and So-sound therapy. For the uninitiated, this is a state of the massage table that vibrates in time with your music selection.

It’s all about rituals, fragrances, body wraps and specialized treatments such as Henna tattooing. The Diamond Magnetic Body Experience based on the ancient art of magnetic and gem therapies takes the Joya to a new level with a 110 minute treatment fusing genuine diamond powder with wild lavender with the intention of enhancing one’s skin (among other benefits) with restored elasticity. I am going to leave the other treatments using everything from lemon, paprika and poppy seed to your imagination. Suffice to say, this is one out of the world spa.

The journey takes time, so relish every moment. Don’t ignore Joya’s Pool and Terrace with a captivating view of Camelback Mountain. In other words, if you’re in a rush, book a quick massage elsewhere.

Between treatments, hiking and lounging by the Kasbah swimming pool we slipped out for lunch at Modern Steak, a restaurant at Scottsdale Fashion Square. The decor was an melange of mid century with the feeling the designer was fascinated by the sets from musicals such as the Fred Astaire films from the 1930s. This was a divine setting for old standards updated, with perfectly shaped caramelized onions and a seriously fresh mound of coleslaw that tripped a few taste buds. The buttermilk onion rings heightened with not too hot BBQ sauce was just one of several sides we ordered.

Back at the Montelucia we pounced on the bangles and beads at the Joya Spa Bazaar where the “hand of Fatma,” a gorgeous homage to Moroccan culture, was captivated in key chains to hand-sized works of art, all delicately jeweled.

If you happen to travel with your dog, the Crave Cafe has a Yappy Hour monthly at 4 p.m. where your canine companion is invited to sip purified ice water in Martini-shaped dog bowls with a side of Bentley’s Biscuits.

InterContinental Montelucia, Paradise Valley, AZ: reservations 888.627.3010 or www.icmontelucia.comModern Steak: 480.423.7000

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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