Back from a long tour around Morocco and looking for somewhere romantic to pamper yourself and shed off the sand of the Sahara? Sharon Stone stayed here recently. And the Rolling Stones. Back in the day it was Winston Churchill's favorite hotel. There is harldy a more romantic site in Marrakech than these gardens when the afternoon turns to dusk, here, among the hundreds of well- manicured olive, lemon, pine and orange trees. In a way, being here, is like you have suddenly been sucked out from the white noise of the surrounding medina and its traffic madness and transported into an oasis without ever leaving the city. Even the nearby Jemaa El Fna and its permanent tumult become abstract. It is 4 PM and the only unpleasant part is having to leave. It has been a splendid day here at La Mamounia, that included swimming in the outdoors pool, having a fabulous lunch and enjoying a massage in what has been voted the ‘Best spa in the world’ by Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s readers.
|swear I could never make my way back by myself out of here. Hassan, my masseur, starts working his magic, not before asking me if the hand’s pressure is right. His less than excellent mastering of English is compensated by identifying every muscle in my body and putting it right into its place. After all, this is what I really care about. Back to the changing room, I am now headed to the Italian restaurant.|
|No sign of pizza on the menu here. Don Alfonso is a Michelin chef and the menu is imaginative to say the least. To start with, I am confronted with a choice of four different Italian bread types, that come with a little bowl of locally sourced olive oil. After the gnocchi and their cherry tomato crust, the lamb chops and their mustard sauce must be the most tender I’ve ever had. For desert, I decide to avoid the ubiquitous tiramisu|
|and settle for chocolate cake and Sicily – pistachio ice cream – quite the right marriage. The waiters are wearing impeccable aubergine uniforms and their service is professional yet not stiff. This must be among the best restaurants in Marrakech, and there are a few. I had so far I resist the temptation of another coffee and whisk off to the gardens, the major attraction of this place. Twice the size of Majorelle Gardens bar the tourist buses, they resemble closely to the Alcazar gardens in Seville. Then again, you could argue, the two cities share common past, the glorious 12th century.|
|and soon achieves international fame. Throughout the years, the hotel was never able to accommodate all the customers who desired to lodge here. Until the late 30s, the hotel housed fifty rooms, it was then enlarged in 1946 to reach a hundred units and refurbished successively in 1950, 1953, 1986 and finally in 2006 to reopen 29 September 2009 with 210 rooms and suites. Before the Second World War, Europeans and Americans were bringing their furniture for their long stays and each of them refurbished the apartments according to their taste and habits. We still speak wistfully of the time when men put on their tuxedos and where the ladies covered with in exquisite jewelry, wore long evening dresses. Winston Churchill had established his winter quarters at the hotel. He used to go from balcony to balcony to watch the sun trying to better capture and reproduce the colors on his canvases. He also told Franklin Roosevelt about Marrakech in 1943: "This is one of the most beautiful places in the world," and invited the American president to discover it for himself. It is also said that General de Gaulle also spent a night once and the hotel manager was forced to have a special bed made for the rather tall French man. Over the years, the reputation of La Mamounia attracted the attention of French and American filmmakers. Alfred Hitchcock reputedly filmed here ‘The man who knew too much’. The Rolling Stones stayed in 1968. Other guests included Jean Paul Gaulthier, Nelson Mandela, Tom Cruise or Elton John.|
Back to present, I’m currently walking past the hotel’s gate and five minutes later I embrace the anarchy, as someone eloquently once put it, as I walk on the Jemaa El Fna square. It's evening now and the place is bustling with acrobats, story tellers, witch doctors, musicians, food stalls, henna tattoo artists and the occasional charlatan. And then, behind me, La Grande Dame with its turn- of- the- century grandeur and reserved demeanor, reminding me once again that Morocco is a land of contrasts.
Sun Trails is proud to exclusively offer a day pass to the most iconic hotel in Marrakech. Holders of the pass will be able to enjoy the stunning facilities of the hotel, whether that is taking a dip into the indoor or outdoor swimming pool, playing a game of tennis, working out in the fitness pavilion or simply fall in love again in one of Morocco’s most romantic gardens.
The pass also includes the difficult choice between a luxurious ‘Hammam Evasion’ steam bath and body scrub treatment or the signature ‘Massage Mamounia’, each comprising one hour of unadulterated relaxation. To conclude, the pass also includes a a la carte lunch at either ‘Le Francais par Jean Pierre Vigato’ or ‘L’Italien par Don Alfonso’, both Michelin star restaurants.