Hotel porn: I’m sorry, there’s no other way to describe the new La Mamounia. It is an absolute privilege to be able to test drive a hotel before it opens to the public – there are just 20 or 30 of us staying in this hotel of about 200 rooms.
The staff are there before you can say, “Can I have…” I have been spoilt rotten, test driving the three restaurants – French, Italian and last night, notably, the Moroccan, with its OTT entrée of Moroccan salads. Don’t be fooled, this is a 12-dish extravaganza. Who thought salads could run to so many dishes? Lamb brains, people, are back (tho they never went in Egypt).
The champagne is always on ice, the guest relations people appear to need no sleep, and the pool boys are constantly combing the 28x28m pool outside, seemingly day and night, waiting for me to swim up an appetite.
The signature scents drawn from cinnamon, cloves and dates steal through the hotel, the bar staff are playing with the same ingredients for a series of Marrakechi cocktails and orange blossom water is sprinkled about with gay abandon.
They’re still ironing out the minor details such as the music in the rooms, though the iPod docks are working fine, the spa has yet to open (yes, devastated, but I’m living with it) and Mssrs Gucci, Fendi and Chopard have yet to unpack their bags in the shopping gallery.
The only thing that hasn’t worked is the weather – at this time of year, apparently, it’s rare to see the High Atlas mountains without heavy cloud, and in fact this morning there was a rare glimpse of their outline but now, half an hour later, they’ve disappeared behind white cloud again, so that iconic Marrakech shot of palm trees and snow-capped peaks eludes me. But it’s sunny and a temperate mid-20s, and the best time to visit Marrakech.
This is not a hotel for everyone: to wit the E600 price tag, which peaks at E8000 a night for the self-contained three bedroom riads down the back of the gardens. But with a sensitive and lavish restoration that’s taken three years to get off the ground (do you really want to know how much it cost?), La Mamounia has been restored to iconic status.
PS Egyptians please note: the E600 is euros. Euros.
An update: here’s the piece in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Sunday papers