La Mamounia, Marrakech, Morocco **

Q: What is it? A: The Grand Dame of Marrakech. A few years ago, this old lady had a nose job.
Through the facelift he sadly lost much of her genuine grandeur. For that, I’m genuinely sorry.

Three years of renovation created this.

Three years of renovation created this entrance. It's big as an airport terminal.

The lobby. James Bond could fly a plane through it.

The lobby. James Bond could fly a plane through it. Note the funky sculpture in the center, where a camel rider is being attacked by some kind of... carnivore animal.

One of the 210 rooms. My room. Pity it didn't really help the rating.

If reviewing a hotel was merely a question about rating the rooms,
La Mamounia would surely had received more than two stars.

The bathroom with tadelakt walls painted in saffron.

The bathroom. A dream in marble, complete with tadelakt walls painted in saffron.

The bathroom was so nice that I decided to show it from a reverse angle.

In fact, the bathroom was so nice that I decided to show it from a reverse angle as well. The space to the right is the shower room.

Having breakfast by the pool is a good idea, especially when it's almost +30° C in the morning.

Breakfast by the pool is a good idea, especially in August, when temperatures may reach +30° C.

How about “glittering”, “opulent” and “immaculate”?
If you are looking for a hotel that seems to be permanently parked on the 100 Hotels and Gold Lists of the world, La Mamounia seems to be the place. There might be reasons for it. It certainly is the Grande Dame of Marrakech hotels and a three-year makeover has turned it into something even more grand, courtesy of Mr. Jacques Garcia. A pity that he made it grand in the Las Vegas-sense of the word.

Picture a reception area the size of a airplane hangar.
Or rather; picture a hangar where crystal chandeliers and camels crafted out of marble have been sprinkled out for effect. Uhu, we’re talking the Art & Antiques shop in Cæsar’s Palace-effect, (one of those few selected outlets where you could purchase a life-size statue of Michael Jackson AND Bubbles – think Jeff Koons minus the artistry). And the attention from the front desk is similar to the one you’ll get in such a gallery. It’s certainly not a “Welcome to our hotel!”-spirit. Being whisked away to a private area of puffy couches and stools is a nice trick to avoid having guests standing in a line, but at La Mamounia I feel more like being stowed away for later.

Most things seem to be designed to impress the jet set.
The gardens, from which the hotel got its name, are huge. The pool area is the size of a town square. There are five restaurants, two of them, Le Français and L’Italien, boast Michelin stars. In fact, most public spaces looks like a hotel on steroids, which was probably also the purpose of the designers.
Close the door behind you and you’re probably in a room that is more homey and more stylish. The moorish handcrafted details work better in the bathroom than elsewhere. The walk-in closet is a work of art. The balcony is the proper place for a nightcap and the bed linens are a tired traveller’s dream.

Cause first impressions last…
Handcrafted zellige and tadelakt aside, I’m not very pleased with La Mamounia. I find it surprisingly low on the warm and welcoming attitude that is embedded in the Moroccan DNA. I found the hotel staff being sometimes friendly and sometimes completely lacking interest in caring for the guests. The hotel feels like a Hollywood matte painting despite all the handmade details. On this level, I expect excellent service and an organization that works like clockwork. This is certainly not the case at La Mamounia. “…it has kept its Moroccan soul.” I read in an article about its renovation. I don’t agree. ”Why am I stuck in Belgium”, I asked myself while staying there. And that I certainly don’t mean in a good way.

La Mamounia
Avenue Bab Jdid
Marrakech 40040
Morocco

+212-524-388-600

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