To many, Marrakech’s La Mamounia is Africa’s most renowned hotel. Sir Winston Churchill spent much of his retirement time here and for decades it was an international “IN crowd” destination. The hotel re-opened in the fall of 2009 after a 3-year total makeover. Here is a first-hand account of our recent inspection.
The avenue in front of the hotel is now off limits to all traffic, a great thought to cut down on noise and provide a sense of privacy to rooms facing that side, though the security one now needs to pass just to get near the hotel is somewhat daunting. Upon entering, first impressions count and this one is very good: instead of facing a sober desk and concierge, you are now greeted by an impeccably dressed young staff, seemingly fluent in every language you can think of, who whisk you off to the foyer for a cup of mint tea while the “formalities” are taken care of. That foyer, a hallmark of the hotel, has lost none of its grandeur and is worthy of a king’s Moroccan palace. This airy space, large enough to fit an orchestra and audience, has been improved by adding bright screens between each sitting area to add privacy.
On to the rooms: The Mamounia suffered competition over the last dozen years from a number of deluxe small boutique hotels located within the old city, all converted from former palatial residences, with their opulent Moroccan wall and ceiling art. Thus, the Art Deco flourishes installed in the Mamounia’s 1986 remodeling are all gone, replaced by traditional Moroccan woodwork and decor. The rooms have lost nothing in their comfort or elegance, while a bed-side remote gadget allows you to control everything, from raising the window shades, adjusting temperature, to requesting maid or laundry service (just in case you never want to get out of bed!). A window with traditional Moroccan wood fretwork screen has been installed between the bedroom and bathroom, a nice decorative touch that allows natural light into the bathroom, but not so ingenious if you’d rather not be seen by your room-mate while taking a shower! The vast grounds sprinkled with bougainvillea and palms are as splendid as ever, with the outdoor breakfast nook now moved to the far side of the pool, so that clients in the prime pool-view rooms are no longer awakened by the clanging of dishes at 7am! That buffet breakfast is still one of the world’s most extravagant, a true jaw dropper (albeit at a hefty 35 Euro). And the hotel has retained its 3 Blue Ribbon signature restaurants: French, Italian and Moroccan. Overall, the 3-year effort is a great improvement to the look and ambiance of the hotel. If you’re looking to experience a legendary hotel, with its history, its full range of services, its utter comfort, the Mamounia will not disappoint.
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