If La Mamounia was a drink, it would be a gin fizz rather than a staid G&T. Opened in 1922, the combination of Moroccan architecture and Art Deco gives this grand hotel an exotic effervescence.

If La Mamounia was a drink, it would be a gin fizz rather than a staid G&T. Opened in 1922, the combination of Moroccan architecture and Art Deco gives this grand hotel an exotic effervescence.

At the entrance, two be-fezzed doormen, in white pantaloons and pointy slippers, look as though they've stepped straight out of The Arabian Nights. Inside, the cool foyer is ornate, with marble pillars, chandeliers, enormous vases overflowing with roses, and rugs scattered across the marble floor. Running water tinkles softly from a fountain sprinkled with rose petals.

The hotel takes its name from Prince Moulay Mamoun, and was built on the 20-acre park given to him as a wedding present in the 18th century. Orange and lemon trees, jacarandas, rose bushes and mimosa scent the air. The garden walls are draped with bougainvillea while scarlet hibiscus provides a splash of colour beside the swimming-pool.

Sitting with a glass of wine beneath the palm trees outside the Churchill Piano Bar, a man in a linen suit lounged smoking a cigar. At any moment I expected to see Hercule Poirot waft by, or the ghost of Churchill, who spent each winter here. Today, however, you're more likely to see a film or pop star.

La Mamounia is an enclave of old-world civilisation, but with ultra-modern facilities. There are five restaurants, four bars and a casino. At the Marrakech l'Impériale, men don DJs, while ladies waft by in evening dresses.

Location, location, location

La Mamounia is just inside the 12th-century ramparts of Marrakesh, on Avenue Bab Jdid, 40 000 Marrakesh, Morocco. Contact the hotel direct (00 212 4 43 88600; www.mamounia.com) or through Leading Hotels of the World (0800 181 123).

Transport: The famous Djemaa el-Fna square and the vibrant souks are within walking distance, but if you're feeling the heat, take a horse-drawn carriage.

Time to International Airport: La Mamounia is 4km from both the railway station and Marrakesh Menara airport. The hotel supplies a free bus from the airport but a taxi costs about £7.

Are you lying comfortably?

There are 171 rooms, 57 suites and three villas to choose from. Some overlook the gardens and pool, others have views of the mosque or courtyard.

If you want something really special, opt for a suite. The Churchill Suite is English in inspiration, with Chesterfield furniture, a Regency desk, old leather sofas and wood panelling. Churchill's old trilby still hangs jauntily on a hatstand, and one of his unfinished paintings (of La Mamounia's gardens) rests on an easel.

Freebies: Just the usual shampoo and body lotion, but pot-pourri and candles are a nice touch.

Keeping in touch: All rooms have direct-dial telephones, radios and televisions.

The bottom line

Double rooms from £160, while the Churchill Suite is £830 a night

I'm not paying that: Try the Ibis Moussafir (00 212 4 44 35933). A chain hotel it may be, but with its tiled floors, and rooms facing inwards onto a pool and lush garden, it is a bargain, at about £30 per double, including a great breakfast.

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