Stay the night: La Mamounia, Marrakech
This famous hotel is more Moroccan than ever after a £100m facelift. Adrian Mourby tested the water
Sunday 18 April 2010
The Mamounia is the Dorchester of North Africa, not just a hotel but a one-man-brand standing for service, style and celebrities.
Its guest list goes back to Roosevelt and Churchill, Hitchcock and Eric von Stroheim. More recent celebrity guests include Omar Sharif and Elton John as well as Sarah Jessica Parker who stayed here during the filming of Sex and the City 2. But visitors in 2010 are seeing a very different Mamounia from the Art Deco palace where Winston propped his easel after the Second World War. In 2006, the Grand Dame of Marrakech closed for a three-year refurbishment, only reopening, £100m later, last September.
The French designer Jacques Garcia oversaw an overhaul that has left the new Mamounia something much more Moroccan than before. While its low wide corridors and intersecting lobbies remain Art Deco, the décor itself is inspired by the great dynasties that once ruled here: Almoravid horseshoe arches, chiselled Almohad stucco, delicate Merenid tilework and carved Saadian corbels. It retains its signature pink-and-green façade, but there has been an explosion of colour within. Big reds, yellows and blacks make the public areas dramatic. A new subterranean spa has walls of deep blue contrasted with bright orange leather upholstery. The one area that has not been given a vibrant makeover is Le Bar Churchill, which remains dark, intimate and smoky.
The rooms and suites have been cut to 207 but still seem small by today's standards. The décor is a triumph of traditional Moroccan woodwork, stucco and tiling. Guests might think each room is elaborately restored but this faux-riad style is wholly new, sweeping away the last remnants of the old angularity. The beds have Sealy mattresses and the linen is by Garnier-Thiebaut. Bath products are made especially for La Mamounia using a special fragrance created for the hotel by Olivia Giacobetti, one of the world's great perfumers.
The food and drink
You need a lot of time – and money – to take advantage of all the places to eat. A new restaurant alongside the pool (Pavillon de la Piscine) has breakfast and a superb Mediterranean buffet lunch. An old house in the grounds has been converted into Le Marocain, a traditional riad restaurant, and there are also Italian and French options. Just lunch at the Pavillon is £47 a head without wine.
The Mamounia Spa has many ways to pamper you and slim your wallet. MarocMaroc skin care treatments, Glassoul for "capillary and body care", La Ric for nails and Majestic Rose for "infinite body softness". There is a gym in the beautiful gardens and free WiFi for the less active.
Children and small dogs are welcome. There is good access for those with disabilities, although the gravel garden paths may be a challenge.
Double rooms cost from 6,050 MAD (£489) per room per night. Elegant Resorts (01244 897538; elegantresorts .co.uk) has five nights at La Mamounia from £1,455 room only, based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow and private transfers.
La Mamounia, Avenue Bab Jdid, 40 040 Marrakech, Morocco (00 212 5 24 38 86 00; mamounia.com).
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