MARRAKECH EXPRESS

Written by Diane Dorrans Saeks

Dazzling Marrakech was the chic escape route for The Rolling Stones, Yves Saint Laurent and style-setters like the Gettys in the sixties and seventies. Now once more, after a long sleep, Morocco is on the map for style-conscious travelers. The next chapter is being written.

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Royal Mansour and La Mamounia are the two super-luxe Marrakech hotels to visit. Offering glamorous traditional Moroccan style, and situated within the ancient city walls, they are now two of the most memorable travel destinations in the world. In each hotel, all is calm, private, ethereal, fragrant and truly luxurious. A guest is taken back in time to a more mythical and romantic era, the mysterious Moroccan past, idealized, French influenced, and entirely captivating. It’s a dream of Morocco.

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The Royal Mansour hotel offers traditional Moroccan architecture, with sculpted arched doorways, lavish plasterwork, embroidered silk curtains, handcrafted bronze torcheres and sunny roof gardens. The finest Moroccan craftsmanship and a legacy of traditional styles and materials have been deployed to dramatic and thrilling effect. At the Royal Mansour, suites with painted ceilings, intricate tiled floors, and incised plaster walls, have a luxurious tranquility and elegance.
The King of Morocco owns the Royal Mansour. It’s clear he wants to welcome guests there with lavish Moroccan style and opulent hospitality. The grand gateway studded with bronze insignia opens to the inner courtyard entrance, discreet and hidden from public view. Surrounded by the high terra-cotta stucco medina walls and palm-shaded gardens, the hotel feels apart from the bustle of the souks, the clang of traffic.

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With its shimmering pools, private dining rooms, mysterious enclosed balconies, decorative marble floors, and discreet service, the Royal Mansour feels like a Moroccan palace. Guest accommodations are in individual riads. Riads are traditional enclosed residences surrounded by high walls, where Moroccan families live in great comfort. At Royal Mansour, a riad surrounded by high walls opens to a lovely garden and the sunny residence within. A one-bedroom riad has two sitting rooms with tiled fireplaces, a study, a bedroom suite on the second level, and an open terrace with a pool on the roof.

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Interiors are ornamented with exquisite handiwork, painted silk fabrics, hand-woven Moroccan carpets, intricate tiled walls, and painted cedar beams, gold arabesques of decoration, and lavish silk- embroidered divans. Morocco loves ornamentation. Tile work and mosaics cover courtyard floors and riad walls while interiors are furnished with fascinating French and Moroccan antique furniture. Top local craftsmen were recruited, and their level of skill and attention to detail has created rooms of unusual splendor.

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In 1922, the French architects Henri Prost and Antoine Marchisio created La Mamounia to combine traditional Moroccan themes with a light touch of Art Deco and French Empire. And today, still, La Mamounia has a mysterious, glamorous and highly seductive air, the ideal sense of ‘otherness’ that makes a visit so extraordinary.
The utterly romantic La Mamounia hotel, designed by Jacques Garcia, recently reopened after a multi-year renovation. French designer Garcia, was commissioned to re-imagine centuries of Marrakech glamour at La Mamounia, splashed the color red on silk velvet sofas, shimmering curtains, and seductive chaises lounges. In Morocco, this royal color symbolizes life, love and joy, so his choice is particularly apt.

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A luscious suite with hand-painted cedar doors, honed white marble bath- rooms, lavish Moroccan tiles patterning the wainscot, and flickering lights from Moroccan lanterns all make La Mamounia a constant pleasure for the eye. Guests enjoy a swim, a spa treatment, and later, dinner at Les Marocains restaurant with the sound of Andalusian music played on traditional lutes. Dinner to the sound of a lute. I cannot think of anything more wonderful.
In the morning, at La Mamounia, a butler (in a traditional gold-braided jacket) arrives with the spa breakfast displaying an array of fresh cut mango, plum, apple, pear and papaya. It’s a vivid Matisse painting come to life. He opens silken curtains to reveal the full force of the Moroccan day, the sun exploding from flickering palm trees. In the distance, a light dusting of snow is visible along the peaks of the Atlas Mountains.

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For pampered guests at Royal Mansour and La Mamounia, every moment is rich with delight and surprise. And beyond the walls, there are historic Marrakech palaces to visit, folkloric jewels to buy, feasts, and the bountiful glories of Moroccan culture.

 


www.mamounia.com | www.royalmansour.com