I am standing on the tiled edge of Marrakech's famed public square,
the crazy and chaotic Jemaa el-Fnaa amongst the hawkers and snake charmers trying to make a dirham or two. We have just spent a relatively comfortable 11 days on the dusty, black rock highways and back roads of Morocco and in need of a little pampering and lux life. The city feels like it belongs to another epoch, with its dusty souks and donkey carts plying their trade in the rowdy, crazy main square. Marrakech is a modern, forward-thinking metropolis with a burgeoning collection of world-class museums, galleries, and 5-Star hotels. This vibrant metropolis is a melting pot of European, African and Arabic influences, where visitors savour the food, observe the architecture and awake to the mournful call to prayer, as it echoes evocatively down narrow, winding streets and over rough and tumble tiled rooftops. Thankfully there is a luxurious side to Marrakech that followsummer was happy to experience.
La Mamounia: Luxury Reborn
Recently named to the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List as one of the 142 hotels that changed the way we see the world, La Mamounia symbolizes traditional Moroccan hospitality while epitomizing old world luxury. She is a classic example of the great age of grand hotels and trust me, they do lux well. After a three-year, $176 million makeover, helmed by internationally known interior designer Jacques Garcia, La Mamounia is reborn, more beautiful, more sumptuous, more sensual and more magical than ever before. La Mamounia takes its name from the surrounding 13-acre gardens, once called the Arset al Mamoun and named after Prince Moulay Mamoun, the son of the 18th-century ruler of Marrakech - Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah.
The gardens date back some 300 years and are surrounded by and built into the Medina's ancient red walls and whose upkeep is now the responsibility of 34 full-time gardeners. Every detail is covered: your initial check in, whisked away to a secluded seating area, a chilled Baccarat glass of almond milk and a sweet plate of dates discreetly served to you while your passports are processed. A personal suite walk through (a separate guest washroom and a leather finished dressing room!). And finally, your evening turn down which includes fresh linens at your bedside (slippers placed) and in your large beautifully appointed marble en suite. All the while gracious staff and your butler bring you gifts of Moroccan peaches, wine, chilled mineral water, beautiful monogrammed passport holders and your daily itinerary. The entire facility is redolent with La Mamounia’s sexy signature scent, emanating from glowing candles and combining Atlas Mountain Cedar, sweet dates and the brightness of fresh citrus. World-renowned perfumer and one of the ‘7 Noses of the World’, Olivia Giacobetti has truly created a luxury scent for all your senses.
Luxury With a Hint of the Past
La Mamounia is sophisticated in a big city way with grand public spaces that hint of the past, offering a strong nod to history and the protectorate where the allied leaders would meet in Marrakech to discuss the peace process during WWII. The Churchill Bar is bathed in history, (and the still-prevalent smell of cigars and whiskey) and is a must-stop for history buffs. As perhaps one of the best-known visitors to La Mamounia, Winston Churchill first visited the hotel in 1935. He wrote to his wife, Clementine: "I have found the most idyllic place on earth, and I hope that you will be with me the next time I come." Churchill was to frequent the hotel many more times until his death in 1965. Today, guests can stay in the two-level suite of rooms he took, now collectively known as the Winston Churchill Suite. Replicas of his famous hat and walking stick hang on a hat stand and in the middle of the living room stands his easel, palette, and canvas where he painted views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. The rooms are comfortable and while luxurious, are not ostentatious and point to the humble comfort that Churchill cherished.
An Invitation to Luxury
Heir to a rich tradition and located steps away from the glorious Koutoubia Mosque and the hawkish Jemaa el-Fnaa, La Mamounia delighted us as modern travelers, offering classic luxury with a nod to a glamorous past. We lingered in their lush and perfectly manicured gardens. Lounged by their pool area and private cabanas with breakfasts at the Pavilion de la Piscine. Savoured award-winning gastro experiences in their three on-site restaurants, Le Morocain, L’Italian or Le Français, and indulged in personalized Le Spa experiences. We tried our best James Bond doppelganger at the Black Jack and Roulette tables in their Grand Casino. And finally, enjoyed romantic, Moroccan moonlit drinks on the patio just off the Majorelle Gallery and the Bar Italien. One member of our 11 day Morrocan tour was quick to request a tour and cocktail on the patio of La Mamounia. He regaled us with stories of his personal invitation by Air France to one of its famous 4-Day VIP luxury weekend getaways in the 1970's to Marrakech and La Mamounia on the now infamous Concorde. Alas, he was already booked that weekend!
Add your name to the guest book that includes Roosevelt, the Aga Khan, Prince Charles, Sharon Stone, Salma Hayek, Orlando Bloom, Eva Mendes, Miranda Kerr, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Juliette Binoche and Hillary Clinton along with a posse of international fashion luminaries, style and jet-setters and enjoy the Luxurious Life that La Mamounia offers.
Simply wonderful. Simply Luxurious
La Mamounia is also featured in followsummer's destination guide A Thousand and One Nights of Luxury in Marrakech
Our stay at La Mamounia was a followsummer sponsored press visit with accommodations and restaurant visits featured in this guide complimentary. Many thanks to Executive Director Denys Courtier and Communications Coordinator Majdouline Ataallah for their luxurious assistance.