La Mamounia, the majestic mansion once owned by moroccan royalty, emulates the tantalizing and seductive beauty of ancient Marrakech with a modern twist, whilst remaining forever regal.
In the Islamic religion, paradise originates from a garden – the word “Jannah” refers to both. Such is the case at Hotel La Mamounia. In the eighteenth century, the sultan of Morocco, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah, offered one precious city garden in Marrakech to each of his four sons as wedding gifts. The most famous of them, named after Prince Mamoun, is where the hotel now stands. Covering 17 hectares and surrounded by twelfth-century walls, it is prominently located just a few minutes from the famous Koutoubia mosque and the Jemaa el-Fnaa square. Conceived in 1923 by architects Prost and Marchisio, the property combines the country’s traditional architecture with the Art Deco style. It has since been expanded and refurbished four times, between 1946 and 2006, increasing from 50 to 210 rooms, and re-designed by internationally acclaimed Jacques Garcia – but always maintaining the key features for which it has been admired since its construction. Four restaurants, four bars, an 800 square meters swimming pool and a 2.500 square meter spa now unfold the ultimate Moroccan travel experience.
A cool glass of almond milk and a platter of tender dates greet visitors that pull up in the hotel’s sleek Daimler Jaguars at the lobby of La Mamounia, where candlelight produces a gilded effect against the mahogany furniture and the hotel’s signature scent, a mixture of cedar trees and fresh citrus, created by world-renowned French perfumer Olivia Giacobetti, floats through the air. The treats continue to the rooms, where a welcoming cocktail, fresh fruit, and local delicacies await next to flowers, typical Moroccan slippers, and generously sized amenities abound. Rooms feature rich and shimmering tones, king size beds with studded leather headboards, thick rugs, and throws, intricately patterned wall tiles, internal lattice-wood screens, and colorful mosaic-tiled floors, as well as the latest in technology and white marble bathrooms.
They are divided into 135 rooms from 30 to 45 square meters, 71 suites from 55 to 212 square meters and 3 riads, with 700 square meters. The latter can accommodate up to six adults and provide three bedrooms, three bathrooms, Moroccan salons, and private swimming pools and terraces, as well as a 24-hour butler service. One of the hotel’s famed guests, Winston Churchill, who often established his winter quarters here – several of his paintings of the property’s garden hang in the Churchill Museum, in England –, gives name to a bar and a special suite, which displays a very British Chesterfield desk and a distressed leather sofa. The statesman is not, however, the only luminary to have stayed here – in fact, it seems almost easier to list who hasn’t stayed at La Mamounia than who has. French general Charles de Gaulle, for example, had a special bed made to accommodate his full 1.96 meters.
Cinema stars that have experimented with the hotel’s luxuries include Kirk Douglas, Richard Gere, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Winslet, Juliette Binoche, and Catherine Deneuve, while renowned filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock and Eric Von Stroheim actually filmed inside it. Even Charlie Chaplin has stayed here. Fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Balmain, and Christian Louboutin also visited, as did musicians Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, and The Rolling Stones. Not to mention royals and heads of state such as Franklin Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela and Princess Caroline of Monaco. The list is endless. Quite the celebrity is also chef Alfonso Iaccarino, a precursor of the Mediterranean cuisine in southern Italy and owner of 2 Michelin stars, who acts as a consultant for L’Italien, one of four superb restaurants onsite. With low lighting and vibrant hues of purple, it serves, of course, Italian contemporary cuisine. Don’t miss the mozzarella soufflé for starters, one of the chef’s signature dishes.
Each restaurant has an adjacent bar, and Le Bar Italien, with opulent velvet armchairs in orange and red, is quite the romantic choice. At Le Marocain, it is all about local cuisine. Try the lamb rack glazed with thyme honey and walnut with stewed pineapple and celeriac or the couscous with marinated tuna and vegetable emulsion. For dessert, the strawberry tagine with tomato masala offers an explosion of flavors. Live regional music is played at the restaurant and the bar, situated on the terrace. With stunning views over the garden, it is the perfect place to catch the sunset and watch the hotel transform itself as hundreds of lanterns are lit to create a dreamy nighttime environment.
Brasserie chic is the motto at Le Français, where special ingredients include Casablanca duck liver pate, locally sourced from Michlifen, succulent Dakhla, and Oualidia oysters, and fresh Agadir lobster and lamb reared in the Atlas mountains. Marble columns and oversized lampshades decorate the restaurant. At the Churchill Bar, leather and fine wood paneling prevail, with a 1930s jazz atmosphere reinforced by the singer piano duo performs almost every evening. The drink named after the politician mixes Tanqueray No. Ten gin seasoned with marjoram and champagne. At the poolside Pavillon de la Piscine, a lavish buffet breakfast is served, which is transformed into a scenic and extra luxurious brunch on Sundays, including fresh seasonal products, cured meats, and fish, lobsters, oysters, smoked salmon, salads, tagines and an excessive array of homemade jams and patisseries. And champagne, of course! For the sweet tooth, the Le Menzeh Glacier & Pâtissier, nestled in the gardens, serves unmissable macaroons and homemade ice-creams – the almond milk figures among the favorites. A small selection of games are available here for guest’s amusement.
To complete the gastronomic frenzy, the hotel’s wine cellar holds more than 3.500 bottles. As the food and drink, the 230 square meter marble and mosaic spa is also a highlight in La Mamounia: it has been voted best spa in Morocco for six years in a row by the respected Spafinder Wellness Institution. With ornate ceilings and arch columns, the area comprises three hammams, ten wellness rooms, a hairdressing salon, manicure and pedicure cabins, an indoor heated pool, a jacuzzi and a fitness studio equipped with Life Fitness machines. In addition to the lush native brand marocMaroc and German-based Amala, the spa uses exclusive products signed by the hotel that includes black soap, rich in vitamin E, and Rhassoul, a mineral clay extracted in the Atlas mountains rich in detergent properties, as well as argan oil, rose water and scented orange water.
One of the stellar treatments, called Light on Body, includes a hammam evasion, a black soap application, a body scrub with a kessa (special exfoliating glove), an orange infusion, an almond milk shampooing, an amber honey body scrub, and a light seeds face scrub, followed by an aromatic massage with argan oil and monoï butter, back scrub and a hot stone massage. Phew! Other facilities available for guests are specific areas for practicing pilates and yoga, two clay tennis courts, ping pong tables, a bowling court, a library, a tea room, a business center, and a 1500 square meter vegetable garden.
Last but not least, the swimming pool, remodeled in the style of the city’s Menara gardens and decorated with fish-scale tiles, is a silent glittering haven. Even if you do not have a reservation at La Mamounia, don’t leave the city without visiting for a replenishing dip in the pool or, at least, an afternoon mint tea.
Photos Courtesy of The Leading Hotels of the World part of La Mamonia.