Anonymous review of La Mamounia
Sitting pretty upon grand leather sofas in Mamounia’s candlelit Jacques Garcia-designed lobby, sipping cool glasses of almond milk and nibbling dates, I rather wished all hotel check-in experiences could be so otherworldly. As Mr Smith passed on details about how I, Mrs Smith, would like the next morning’s Royal Hamman spa treatment, my suitcases vamooshed by a troop of robed fez-wearing bellboys, I lounged in a pleasant fug (Mamounia’s signature scent was created by world-renowned perfumier, Olivia Giacobetti), watching European high-society meander past and idly speculating whether the bijoux Gucci outlet did those pumps in their size.
Marble pillars, bold red and white lanterns, vases laden with fresh flowers and a water fountain sprinkled with petals… A weekend spent in the lobby with just a Moroccan throw to snuggle, waiter-service Moroccan-rose deliveries from the nearby Churchill Bar would have been a sublime holiday on its own. Mr Smith, ever orthodox, insisted we explore the rooms.
In the Moorish-style boudoirs, you can't help but want to touch the furnishings: studded leather headboards in orange, purple and beige, hand-painted wooden doors, thick rugs and throws from the Atlas Mountains. We stayed on Mamounia’s first floor in a room luxurious, ornate and passionately Moroccan, hand-crafted mashrabiya shutters, cool white linen, stucco’d bathroom, vivid, lovingly laid tilework.
As Mr Smith ran a deep bath, availing himself of the sumptuous booty of Mamounia toiletries, I dealt with the diligent squad of housekeeping staff determined to bring gifts. My first instinct was to flip the Do Not Disturb sign, but after the fresh cherries, the still-warm cupcakes and the windblown peaches, I made an executive decision that being ‘bothered’ was rather lovely.
Now, as Mr Smith bathed, I retired to our large balcony overlooking neatly pruned gardens with a copy of Vogue and a large G&T. Distant call-to-prayer cries and the whispery buzz mopeds reminded me that Friday night medina in Marrakech was within strolling distance. After darkness we drifted down to Le Bar Italien and installed ourselves on the decadent saffron-velvet chairs, squeaking with delight that not only were we allowed to smoke a cigarette indoors, like back in the olden days when the pair of us met, but the staff were delighted to fetch packets on a silver tray.
Several wholly elegant flutes of champagne and half a dozen lobby-pianist cover-songs later, we slinked into Mamounia’s Baroque interior Italian restaurant for a pricey yet perfect feast of spaghetti don alfonso, langoustines, zucchini ravioli and slices of sweet chocolate pizza. A word of warning: don’t visit Mamounia with someone you’re ‘quite fond of’ if you don’t want to fall in love. There’s something in the signature scented air here that makes it rather unavoidable…
Do, however, go with someone who loves you for your curves – the poolside breakfast buffet is dreamlike in its scope and setting. We took a table at 9am, surrounded by resting European footballers and WAGs, plump diplomats and well-heeled families, then let the squadron of staff bring coffee, newspapers and iced water. We ate porridge with fresh pomegranate, freshly cooked eggs Florentine from the walk-up kitchen, too many pastries and fruit from the gardens near to where we sat.
After breakfast, Mr Smith and I made a half-hearted nod towards exercise by wandering in the grounds through orange trees, watching tennis matches being elegantly slugged out by residents far more energetic than us. We also got to the bottom of where our vegetables had been sourced from the night before, with a whirl around Mamounia’s private gardens. Jannah, the Islamic concept of paradise, starts with a garden, and so did La Mamounia, which began life as royal flower-filled grounds; a gorgeous gift from a sultan to his son. Today this eight-hectare haven is planted with 700-year-old olive and fruit trees and vivid, perfumed blooms, tended to daily by 30 gardeners.
Fringed by palm trees, the turquoise pool is as regal as the rest, decorated with shimmering fish-scale tiles, surrounded by a neat cavalry of spotless white sun loungers. Exquisitely kept, the pool area is soothingly silent with a discreet army of staff who will check your expression for evidence of ‘want’. While Mr Smith front-crawled off some of the past-24 hours excesses, I curled up on a white lounger with a novel, preparing myself for my afternoon hamman purge in the world-class spa.
Mr Smith and I signed up to take our steam-and-scrub together, fighting off fits of giggles as we were handed small paper pants and each enlisted a masseur and whisked off to separate saunas. My masseuse was a glorious small, squashy Moroccan lady clad in an all in one black swimming costume and flip flops then scrubbed every inch of me, forehead to toes, then moisturised before returning me to Mr Smith for massages.
Giddy and slightly reborn post-hammam, Mr Smith and I left Mamounia for a whirlwind Saturday night in the ancient medina featuring strong coffee, snakes, some dancing and meetings with various local eccentrics, with the obligatory Cafe Arabe stop-off. Our final day was spent restoratively by the pool, drinking mint tea and eating baklava waiting for one of Mamounia’s Jaguars to take us to Menara airport. Mamounia has its own private room in Menara, for those who find meeting the public frightful. It certainly was a drag leaving Marrakech, but this Mr and Mrs Smith know that one day they’ll be back. After all, after opening in 1923, it was soon Churchill’s stay of choice; he called it ‘the most beautiful place in the world’. Who are we to argue?