Fabled Mamounia Hotel presents her new face

Winston Churchill invited Franklin Roosevelt here to relax following talks during the Second World War and Alfred Hitchcock shot some of The Man Who Knew Too Much in the hotel’s lobby — which has also been a haunt of the Rolling Stones,

This photo taken recently shows a view of the Salon de The (Tea Room) of the legendary Marrakech hotel La Mamounia. The hotel reopened on Sept. 27

MARRAKECH, Morocco — Winston Churchill invited Franklin Roosevelt here to relax following talks during the Second World War and Alfred Hitchcock shot some of The Man Who Knew Too Much in the hotel’s lobby — which has also been a haunt of the Rolling Stones, Charlie Chaplin, and many other Hollywood stars for nearly a century.

Now, after a three-year, US$176 million makeover, the Mamounia is opening again for business in the oasis gardens of Marrakech in southern Morocco.

A top interior designer has refurbished its rooms in Art Deco and Arabo-Andalusian styles, star-studded chefs have opened restaurants, and a sprawling spa has been added to the eight-hectare gardens of palm and olive trees to lure once again the rich and the famous to this legendary hotel set inside the Medieval ramparts of a world heritage site.

“There is only three golden rules about a palace of this standing,” says Jacques Garcia, the star French decorator who led restoration efforts: “Elegance, elegance, and elegance.”

Built in 1923 when Morocco was a French protectorate, the Mamounia merges the sober lines of Art Deco architecture with the intricacies of traditional arabesque decorations. The hotel has long been considered the masterpiece of this fusion of styles, unique to a handful of Moroccan buildings.

Its great marble hall leads to shaded courtyards where the trickle of small fountains echoes amid multicoloured tiling of rare refinement.

The pool house copies a 17th-century princely pavilion. Here sculptures in the Moroccan Zellige mosaic style are carved all over the plaster walls, overlooking the pool. Colonnades and corridors reminiscent of the Alhambra palace in Spain lead to the Churchill bar, complete with black and white photos of jazzmen, a panther-dotted carpet and red leather seating.

“It’s a very rare balance,” Garcia said as he toured the hotel ahead of its reopening on Sept. 29. Restoring such a place is like touching a myth, he said.

Garcia relied on old photographs from the original buildings, and leaned heavily on Marrakech craftsmen, who have largely kept alive age-old painting, woodcarving and decoration techniques.

“Morocco is probably the only place in the world where artisans can still paint a ceiling exactly like the original 16th-century one,” said Garcia.

The Mamounia is so emblematic of Morocco that many people in the North African country and beyond consider the hotel a national heritage — one of the very finest examples of Arabic craftsmanship and an embodiment of Moroccan art.

Before the renovation, many tourists flocking to Marrakech would try to pop in for a cup of mint tea and a chance glimpse at the building, even if they couldn’t afford to rent a room. Now the hotel will be more tightly sealed, but Didier Piquot, the manager, says outsiders can still visit if they make a booking at the restaurants.

“The Mamounia is to Marrakech what the Louvre is to Paris, everybody comes to see it,” also Garcia said.

“Only here, some can stay. It’s like spending a night at the museum.”

Just Posted

Windows smashed at three Red Deer businesses

Red Deer RCMP arrest man after vandalism spree

Schizophrenia a misunderstood illness, an Alberta expert says

Schizophrenia Society of Alberta campaign kickoff features TSN’s Michael Landsberg in Central Alberta

WATCH: Collecting coats and donations from drivers in Red Deer

Central Albertans made donations to keep children warm and neighbourhoods safe from… Continue reading

PHOTO: Fall Harvest Festival in Red Deer’s West Park

The West Park Community Association hosted the Fall Harvest Festival near West… Continue reading

Man dies in Hwy 2 collision near Ponoka

A 46-year-old man is dead following a three-vehicle collision on Hwy 2… Continue reading

WATCH: Blackfalds Fire teaches families about fire safety

An open house was held Saturday in support of Fire Prevention Week

Canada gets into Women’s World Cup with 7-0 win over Panama

FRISCO, Texas — Christine Sinclair isn’t concerned about chasing records. She’s set… Continue reading

Baldwin urges ‘overthrow’ of Trump government via voting

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Actor Alec Baldwin followed up his latest parody portrayal… Continue reading

Prince Harry and Meghan expecting their 1st child in spring

CANBERRA, Australia — Prince Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex,… Continue reading

Sears files for Chapter 11 amid plunging sales, massive debt

NEW YORK — Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, buckling… Continue reading

Doctors to debate medical pot as more patients expected to ask for prescriptions

VANCOUVER — Doctors with opposing views on whether medical marijuana should be… Continue reading

Halifax smoking ban begins today; city announces several new smoking areas

Halifax’s sweeping smoking ban begins today, two days before recreational cannabis is… Continue reading

Canadians widely unaware of accomplishments of famous women, poll suggests

TORONTO — The organization behind Canada’s Heritage Minutes says provincial education systems… Continue reading

Five things about what’s legal and what’s not in Canada’s new pot law

OTTAWA — Canada’s new law legalizing recreational cannabis goes into force on… Continue reading

Most Read