Photo courtesy of La Mamounia
Marrakesh’s legendary La Mamounia, which dates back to the 12th century, reopened in 2009 after a meticulous three-year renovation by noted French architect and designer Jacques Garcia. Step behind its fabled doors and a sensory feast awaits, from the gentle tinkling of the numerous water fountains and basins; to the fragrant waft of jasmine, orange blossom, and cedar; to the lush Arab-Andalusian interiors, filled with traditional Zellige tilework, sculpted wood, and carved plaster. There are 209 rooms and suites, with the largest topping out at more than 1,000 square feet. Views range between Koutoubia Mosque, the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, and La Mamounia’s own legendary gardens, which abound with 2,000-year-old rose bushes, 700-year-old olive trees, and flowering bougainvillea and jacaranda. Three secluded, standalone riads each feature three bedrooms arranged around a central patio and private pool, though guests would be remiss not to hang around La Mamounia’s dreamy central pool, lined with palm trees, loungers, and lanterns.
By Ratha Tep, AFAR Local Expert
Star designer Jacques Garcia restored La Mamounia’s former grandeur, updating rooms with painted wooden doors, hand-carved ceilings, and a blend of Art Deco and Moorish antiques. In the surrounding park, bougainvillea and roses grow wild in a grove of olive trees.
By Robin Cherry, AFAR Contributor
A Little Bit of Fabulous
La Mamounia Hotel is a magnificent display of Moroccan luxury and grandeur. The ornate tiles, luscious gardens, and plush furnishings ooze romance. From the massive outdoor pool to the world-class spa, this oasis in Marrakech is so fabulous it almost feels like fiction. It's real-life guests have ranged from Winston Churchill to the Rolling Stones, and yes, it would be wonderful to join the list of pampered people who have stayed at this North African palace, but the nightly rates are formidable. On my solo journey through Marrakech, I discovered a great way to experience the lavish amenities without spending my savings: I sat by pool, ordered a cold glass of white wine, and was provided with three hours of complimentary internet connection. Sitting amid climbing bougainvilleas and listening to the giggles of carefree kids, I touched base with friends and relatives back home. Some day I intend to wheel my suitcase into La Mamounia and settle in for a good, long stay - but I can at least say I've tasted a bit of what Churchill called, "the most lovely spot in the whole world."
By Kiara Downey, AFAR Local Expert
Wander the luxurious gardens at La Mamounia
One of the most luxurious hotels in the world opens its bar and gardens to the public during particular hours of the day. A welcome respite from the frenetic pace of the medina, the lush and manicured gardens feature olive, palm and flowering bougainvillea trees. The air is filled with birdsong. Have a drink or a tea in the bar or terrace before wandering the 200-year-old gardens that were presented as a wedding gift to Prince Moulay Mamoun by his father, King Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah.
Drinks at the Churchill Bar
Initially skeptical of the costly renovation of La Mamounia I was delightfully surprised at the beautiful and elegant outcome. Truly an experience not to miss on a visit to Marrakech, an early evening drink at the Churchill Bar is a decadence to indulge in.
The Way To Mecca, In A Drawer
La Mamounia is a gorgeous hotel, filled with intricate mosaics and rich with history. When we got to our room, I opened every door and drawer. When I opened the bedside table drawer, I didn't really expect to see a Gideon Bible but I didn't expect to see an orange leather arrow glued to the drawer, pointing the way towards Mecca. I guess a hotel's bedside table drawer is where every culture leaves religious markings.
By Mari Tuttle
The great English garden designer, Russell Page, credited Islamic architects with establishing the idea of a garden as, “a place of rest… for listening to the song of birds and the plashing of water, and for enjoying the scents of jasmine and rose and orange.” When the staff at Marrakech’s La Mamounia light the hotel’s 1,200 red-and-white lanterns, his point becomes apparent. The crowds and camels of the city’s vast open-air market, the Jemaa el-Fnaa, begin to feel distant and it is possible to rediscover a sense of repose, increasingly rare when email follows you to even the most distant lands. As night descends on the courtyards and gardens of La Mamounia, return to a time when evenings provided a chance to rest and reflect on the day.
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El Moukef, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco