La Mamounia: An idyllic Moroccan oasis in Marrakech
By LAURA TOOGOOD
As soon as we touched down in Marrakech Airport, The Sloaney Travel Team was encased in luxury. Shortly after we stepped off our plane, we were ushered by an escort from La Mamounia into the VIP arrivals lounge and presented with a delicious fresh mint tea.
Our passports and other necessary forms were quickly completed by officials before our escort guided us safely through the airport and into the comfort of the awaiting Daimler.
It was a beautiful hot afternoon and the cooling hand towels presented by our chauffeur were much appreciated. Soothing music was supplemented by a video introduction to Marrakech as we were whisked away from the airport towards the luxury oasis of La Mamounia.
Needless to say, the private transfer provided by the hotel certainly meant that our first visit to Morocco started on the right foot.
I was accompanied by the Editor of Sloaney TV and we were in search of some winter sun that is within easy reach of London. Marrakech came top of the wish list because it is only slightly longer than a three hour flight to March temperatures of 26°C (and such warmth is on the mild side for this part of the world!).
The drive from the airport to the hotel is relatively short and we passed a number of camels that were relaxing underneath palm trees on the side of the road.
La Mamounia is an idyllic oasis that is set within dry surroundings. Olive and orange trees line the dusty roads of Marrakesh with the latter giving off an incredible aroma that is instantly identifiable with Morocco.
However, when you arrive at La Mamounia there is a welcome burst of colour and greenery. The luxury five star hotel and vast gardens are surrounded by the impressive old walls of the city that date back to the 11th century.
The whole resort exudes opulence and from the moment you enter the main reception there is a sense of magnificence. The soft lighting, impressive chandeliers and ornate furniture all add to the atmosphere.
Each guest is traditionally welcomed with a glass of almond milk and fresh dates before venturing to their room.
We stayed in one of the stunning executive suites which boasts plush décor and every luxury amenity you could desire. There are 71 suites in total and six signature suites; the latter feature silk walls and hand-crafted, decorative art work, along with views of the Atlas Mountains.
We enjoyed a bottle of Ruinart and Afternoon Tea in our room while our luggage was delivered. This provided us with an early opportunity to sample some of the delicious treats that are Moroccan favourites. The almond sweets, date pastries and miniature cakes were beautifully presented.
The large double balcony in our suite meant that we could catch a first glimpse of the gardens and the view of the Atlas Mountains in the background. The gardens are very famous and actually existed before the hotel, which was built about 100 years ago. Some of the olive trees are over 700 years old and the orange blossom trees are nestled closely together, so their scent is very powerful.
The vegetable garden provides food for the three different restaurants at La Mamounia and the herbs grown are also incorporated into the bespoke cocktails.
The Churchill Bar is the main cocktail bar and the hotel is famous for welcoming the man himself on his frequent winter breaks. A whole host of high profile guests have visited this destination and a cocktail is named after a renowned visitor from each century.
There is a strong smell of cigar smoke in The Churchill bar, which has a distinctively intimate and lavish feel.
If you arrive at La Mamounia towards the end of the day, a cocktail in the Churchill Bar with the live pianist playing in the background will prove a real treat. You can then opt to dine at one of the three onsite restaurants. You can choose from Italian, French or Moroccan cuisine; we picked the traditional option.
The Moroccan restaurant is very authentic and presents guests with an array of local foods, such as variations of couscous and different tajine. Both the chicken and the lamb tajine are excellent choices. Live entertainment also helps you soak up the culture and the local wine, which is a mix of red and white blends, should definitely be sampled.
However, the highlight is the Moroccan Mint Tea and you simply must order this to complete your meal.
The gardens are equally as beautiful at night as during the daytime. It is well worth taking a stroll after dinner to admire the artistic lighting. The sound of running water is a theme throughout La Mamounia and there are 27 fountains in the hotel. The space is designed so that you can always hear a gentle flow and all viewpoints are extended so that you can see as far ahead of you as possible. This offers a feeling of openness that is supported by the calming sound of water.
As the sun rises, prayers can be heard in the distance and they welcome the dawn of a new day. The hotel is perfect for those looking to enjoy an idyllic break as everything is on your doorstep, including a huge outdoor swimming pool that features a decadent sparkling floor. Spending the day topping up your tan on the luxurious loungers underneath the bright white parasols is a popular choice for many guests.
Alternatively, the indoor spa provides plenty of progressive treatments and uses a combination of Moroccan and Shiseido products from Japan.
For those who want to stay active during their break, La Mamounia also boasts clay tennis courts, a boules area, a table tennis facility and two state-of-the-art gyms. One of the gyms is located within the gardens and the glass frontage means you can admire the bird life and flourishing plants during your workout. However, due to the amount of celebrity guests visiting the hotel, there is also a more private indoor gym to suit those wanting to exercise in a discreet area.
Although La Mamounia has absolutely everything you could wish for when enjoying a luxury getaway, exploring the streets of Marrakech should also be on your agenda. As you leave the hotel you are likely to pass the impressive mosque, especially if you are on your way to the souks.
At the souks you must be prepared to barter for your purchases but you can find some great bargains. I picked up a lovely turquoise mint tea pot, with matching glasses and we also admired plenty of traditional shawls and colourful lampshades.
The restaurants within the hotel offer plenty of choice for lunch and dinner, as well as an incredible spread for breakfast, but if you choose to dine off site we recommend visiting L’Avenue, which is a short taxi ride away (read our dining review here). This is an upmarket venue that combines the themes of ‘mood’ and ‘food’ to create an eclectic and sophisticated atmosphere.
In general, the residents in Marrakech are welcoming; however, it is important to acknowledge the Muslim principles when exploring the surroundings. Women should cover their shoulders also wear a skirt with a hemline that rests below the knee. The North African culture is a pleasing alternative to Southern Europe and Marrakesh is a great place to visit during spring or autumn, but you are likely to find the temperatures too hot in summer.
La Mamounia in particular is a luxury destination that should definitely feature in your top ten places to visit around the world. The standard of service, history, facilities and general ambience position this hotel at the very top of the luxury market. It provides guests with the ultimate idyllic escape.
La Mamounia is located at Arset El Maach, Marrakesh, Morocco. Reservations can be made by calling +212 5243-88600 or visiting the website: www.mamounia.com