La Mamounia

After a three-year, $180 million renovation, Marrakech’s La Mamounia has finally swung open its ornate, heavily mosaicked doors to reveal a hotel that, despite dating to 1923, is almost entirely new. "Inside and out virtually everything has changed," says general manager Didier Picquot, himself new to the iconic Moroccan property. In the process, he says, the hotel that Winston Churchill once called "the most beautiful place in the whole world" has become more elegant, more comfortable, and a truer expression of Moroccan tradition.

Under the direction of French interior designer Jacques Garcia, the hotel’s Art Deco motif has given way to the opulent ambience of a North African palace. The lobby sets this regal tone with dramatic lighting, cream-white pillars that rise from floors of ink-black marble, and conversation areas with thickly cushioned seating and veils for privacy.

Among La Mamounia’s 210 guest rooms are three new riads, or small palaces, each with three bedrooms and a pool. The hotel’s former spa—what Picquot dismissed as "a pair of little cabins"—has been replaced by a 27,000-square-foot facility.

The hotel’s staff has also been restyled, with some 170 separate uniforms—some sporty with fezzes, others magisterial with black waistcoats—designed for the 777 employees. Past guests, however, might lament the absence of the belly dancers who were staples in the old La Mamounia’s dining room. La Mamounia, +212.524.388.600, www.mamounia.com

Photo by 2010 Hilton Worldwide
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