Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

La Mamounia

Morocco

Described by Winston Churchill as 'the loveliest place on earth'

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La Mamounia
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La Mamounia

Location

Set in beautiful tropical gardens in the old town, just outside the bustling Medina

Travel Information

Just 10 minutes from Marrakech's RAK international airport

Top Tips

Book a garden view room or suite! A visit to Le Spa is strongly recommended, as is the lunchtime buffet banquet by the huge pool

5-Star X-Factors

The Babylon-kissed gardens with views of the Atlas Mountains where Winston Churchill used to paint

A return to Eden

Winston Churchill described La Mamounia as ‘the loveliest place on earth’, inviting Franklin D Roosevelt to join him on one of his many visits. Alfred Hitchcock filmed ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ here; and Hollywood greats, from Marlene Dietrich to Charlie Chaplin visited to enjoy the exotic setting.

While that was many moons ago, La Mamounia’s most recent refurbishment has ensured that this former royal palace is even more spectacular today. The iconic, sunset-terracotta-hued, grand-luxe, super dame of Marrakech is just a ten minute ride from the airport, set outside the bustling Medina in many acres of Babylon-kissed gardens with views to the Atlas Mountains.

We stayed here on our honeymoon over twenty years ago and, though we have returned to Morocco several times since, we had not revisited La Mamounia. My impression in 1996, following a makeover in the ‘80’s, was one of an overblown and ostentatious Vegas palace. While certain aspects were, and still are (including the gardens), fabulous, it lacked the charm and authenticity of its legendary legacy.

However, in 2009 Jacques Garcia spearheaded the latest restoration and his ubiquitous eye-for-detail works quite resplendently. Garcia's vision is executed in its most voluptuous form for example, by taking inspiration from Oriental paintings which inspired the red silk and velvet Empire style chairs and chaise longue. He layered walls with incandescent tiles and intensified the hand carved plaster work with magical effect. 

Our Blissful Chamber

As the hotel was full we gladly took the last room - a Deluxe Room overlooking the gardens, facing the Koutoubia Mosque. Though the bedroom and bathroom were spotless to flawless, they are also exquisitely detailed, in keeping with the history of the palace while accommodating those 5-star luxury prerequisites that are necessary, but are best executed with a subtle hand. The bed was framed by a soft white leather arch with pristine bed linen while the bathroom was lavished in grey marble, with a domed temple-style shower all sparkling with tiny pearlescent tiles. The bathtub was surrounded by looftas, bath salts, fragrant soaps, gels, potions and creams.

The Adhan or call to prayer was my wake up call to sit on our exceptionally private terrace with a warm mint tea and watch the misty cloak of dawn rise above the famous Koutoubia mosque in the Medina. The dawn chorus of songbirds which followed was enchanting. The outline of the distant Atlas Mountains began to take shape as the sun shed its haze and its heat intensified. By 10.00am it was 22°C and this was on the 31st of October.

Breakfast on our terrace with our alluring vista included blueberries, pastries, oranges, yogurts, homespun jams, honey, omelettes, and some rather strange porridge. I really got it this time.

It was important to get our ‘fill’ of La Mamounia in 24hrs, so that meant garden strolls, Le Spa, a fresh orange cocktail and lunch beside that glorious pool with its palm tree island. Now that hadn’t changed, it was just far buzzier than I remember.

Babylon-styled gardens

The gardens are so extraordinary that you spend much of your time admiring their unbelievable beauty and quite exceptional stature.

The olive trees are the size of oak trees; the palms are neck breaking in their dizzying heights, while the orange groves were laden with plump, round scented fruit. The bougainvillea strikes an alluring pose against the terracotta orange walls and even the pines seem to defy the natural cut-off point in scale. Jasmine is wrapped around pillars and trunks, wafting its heady scent along the many pristine paths, while roses flourish in beds along with a flurry of ferns, hydrangea, and so it continues. While we sipped on Campari and fresh orange juice, in a very private courtyard beside a tinkling tiled fountain, we watched hoopoe fanning their head gear in the spray of the irrigation system, along with blackbirds, sparrows, turtle doves, robins, a tortoise and even frogs.

Le Spa

Le Spa is a vast 27,000 ft. underground complex of intense sensations. Aesthetically it is scintillating – a myriad of interconnecting pleasure suites with radiant ultramarine Majorelle Moroccan tiles on the floors and walls and a central ‘cooling’ pool lined with red-and-white glass lamps. It hits the sensual rather than the sedate mood, while they have teamed up with some of the biggest names in the business. You can design your own treatment, for example, by combining a bit of marocMaroc with a bit of Shiseido, while we would strongly recommend a trance-inducing treatment in the The Royal Hammam for the ultimate Le Spa experience.

Couture Cuisine

There are four different restaurants to choose from – all overseen by Michelin chefs - Moroccan, French, Italian and poolside. Le Pavilion de la Cuisine was an obvious choice for us, as the setting is one of the best in Marrakech. Built in the style of the Menara Pavilion, beside a lake-sized pool with 2011 Chateau Minuty rose, served from magnums, this is hard to beat. The buffet lunch was a spread like none other, with something to suit everyone or everything to suit a gourmandiser. It has a reputation as the best feast in town and with good reason: oven roasts, grills, pans, open-fires, chilled cabinets, central condiment tables – it’s all there for the picking – seafood, meats, salads, tagines, pizza, dips, oysters, lobster… fresh, fabulous and finger-licking-good. The service was excellent too.

So, there is a lot to do here, including shopping in the amazing boutiques, not to mention the super-slick gym, clay tennis courts, indoor pools, a fitness pavilion offering pilates and yoga classes, as well as table-tennis and boules. You could, however, just walk along the garden paths to the sound of songbirds and fountains, with a scent you would wish to bottle…

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer