Contributed by Jens Hoffmann
I am in love with the red city.
We stayed in the La Mamounia. No need to introduce the legend, one of the most famous hotels in the world. It is located in the legendary city Marrakesh.
In the red city the sky is a Wagnerian celebration: indigo with pinpricks of starlight, deep sapphire, cerulean, its colors are funneling down through the horizon in the wake of the setting sun.
The vivid sounds of the medina are borne towards me, dramatic cried, metallic clashes. The fairy-tale buildings seem to float above the feathery tops of the palm trees in stark but serene radiance.” (Anthony Gladstone-Thompson, ‘Morocco in the 1960s”).
It was a great invitation to return to the legendary La Mamounia hotel, the favorite winter digs of Winston Churchill.
La Mamounia is a kind of paradise, with walls of filigreed stucco, colors Matisse loved, hand-carved and gilded cedar doors and ceilings, and slightly decadent silken aromas that waft through the air.
From each terrace and doorway are sun-struck visions of orange blossom and flickering palm trees.
The hotel has certain perfection because of the great Jacques Garcia.
The place is perfect organized guests enjoy calm, unruffled moments. Classic hotel service is anticipatory. Dusty medina shoes are cleaned overnight. Baggage comes and goes invisibly. Reservations are made. Cars, drivers and expert guides are at hand. Imagine a hotel suite designed by the great French decorator Jacques Garcia. It’s in legendary Marrakech, with rich centuries of history, French associations, migratory cultures, virtuoso craftsmanship, and intensely authentic life. Garcia, his dreams at their most voluptuous, looked to Orientalist paintings to find red silk velvet Empire-style chairs and odalisque-ready sofas. He layered walls with wainscots of incantatory tiles, and then turned up the volume with carved plaster so intricate and endlessly serpentine that the effect is sheer magic, a solid material turned into light and vapor. Arches frame the bed, the shower is a luxe temple with domed ceiling and tiny pearlescent tiles. A clawfoot tub balances an array of loofahs and toiletries, from fragrant soaps to gels and potions and creams. “Marrakech stands on the great fertile plain of Haouz, seventeen hundred feet above sea level. Some eight miles of timeworn ramparts enclose the thronging hive of people. Dynasty after dynasty of Sultans enriched Marrakech with the finest architecture of their epoch; it became a royal city, the capital of the South. And it became the market for camel caravans from all the remote oases of North Africa, with their walnuts and oranges, gold and silk and hides, spices, dates, and precious metals. And so it has been for centuries.” (Gavin Maxwell, Lords of the Atlas)
Green tiles glimmer as a border for a hand-woven wool carpet. Ceilings of carved and gilded cedar, utterly traditional, gleam and shimmer in the soft light of evening. Just beautiful.
The air is always a mysterious fragrance of roses and cedar and palm leaves. Soaps and toiletries, lavish, offer scents of mint and palm and dry desert air, designed by Olivia Giacobetti, Parisian perfumeur.
Elevators, with their low light, hand-tooled leather, and prismatic mirrored walls, offer a whiff of tobacco and a tantalizing hint of Scheherazade. Closets in suites overlooking the palms and the Koutoubia mosque are furnished with Hermes orange leather boxes and cabinets.
Twenty-four acres of historic gardens allow guests to wander in perfect peace.