Welcome to Checking In, a new review series in which our editors and contributors rate the best new (and revamped) luxury hotels based on a rigorous—and occasionally tongue-in-cheek—10-point system: Each question answered “yes” gets one point. Will room service bring you caviar? Does your suite have its own butler? Does the bathroom have a bidet? Find out below.
Describe the hotel in three words: The sexiest centenarian.
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What’s the deal?
La Mamounia just celebrated its 100th anniversary with a splashy bash that showed it’s still one of the world’s best hotels, even as it enters its second century. The property, a short walk from the main souk in Marrakech, was carved out of a vast garden space once gifted by the local Sultan to his son. The walled complex—its name translates to “safe haven”—is fittingly palatial and has been stardust-sprinkled since it opened. Paul McCartney dreamed up “Mamunia” while staying here, and Alfred Hitchcock reportedly wrote the first draft of The Birds during his stay. When Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé took a staycation from their second home in Marrakech, they chose a suite at this hotel. It’s no wonder then that at the height of her chicanery, Anna Delvey also opted to come here to prove her jet-set-chic credentials.
The hotel underwent a major renovation during the pandemic, and then an additional makeover to prime it for that big birthday under the auspices of Franco-Canadian firm Jouin Manku, which included adding a show-stopping chandelier sculpture at the heart of the lobby.
The best room
There are 200 rooms and suites here plus six signature suites and three standalone riads, but the best rooms aren’t simply the largest or most expensive. In fact, we’d recommend opting for any of the pool-facing suites in the main building—–the pool at the property is a buzzy hub, and overlooking it adds a spritz of cachet to any stay. Sure, these suites are also great for the views over the city and the gardens, but what’s more appealing is the sense of privacy. There are 46 units, which face the pool; book one of the Agdal Deluxe rooms, Agdal Suites, or Agdal Executive Suites.
Room rates start at $900 per night and rise to $13,000.
Did they greet you by name at check-in?
Whisked through the arrivals at RAK airport—a natty, neo-futuristic place to touch down, for sure—and then to the entrance gateway, I was greeted by name by every staffer I encountered.
Was a welcome drink ready and waiting when you arrived? (Bonus points if it wasn’t just fruit juice).
Most check-ins at the property take place on one of the overstuffed red sofas lining the souk-like lobby, and mine was no different. It was accompanied by a delicious platter of dates and a milky chaser. The bottle of Taittinger in the room was a bonus, too.
Is there a private butler for every room?
There is no dedicated butler for the standard rooms, but prestige and signature suites, as well as the standalone riads, are rostered with one.
Is the sheet thread count higher than 300?
The bedding is from Garnier-Thiebaut, the almost two-century-old firm from France, and the thread count’s a generous 600.
Is there a heated floor in the bathroom? What about a bidet?
The bathrooms are sumptuous—think deep baths and marble-clad sinks and showers, all trimmed with ornate Moroccan metalworks. The floors are standard issue, but yes, there’s a bidet in every single room.
Are the toiletries full-sized?
Generously sized hotel-branded toiletries are everywhere, all made by Grasse-based Fragonard. The supersized 200 ml bottles are reserved for the suites.
Is there a private pool for the room’s exclusive use? How are the spa and gym?
If you want an option other than the oversize pool that acts as a catwalk and chill-out area in the hotel’s 20-acre gardens—this is the place to rock a kaftan with swagger—you’ll need to book one of the three private, standalone riads ranged around those natural havens rather than a room in the main hotel. Those 7,500-square-foot spaces each have a heated outdoor pool for your sole use. The spa and gym are impressive—almost 27,000 square feet—but no one’s focused on sweat boxes here. Rather, the indulgent elements stand out: a glittering, tiled indoor pool that’s as good for a quick selfie as for a lap or two, plus three hammams. (Book the private one for an extended, jet-lag-besting treat.)
Do you want to spend Friday night in the lobby bar?
Yes, especially in the newly spiffed-up Bar Majorelle, named after and inspired by the paintings of Jacques. (The heavy yellow and green shades are a nod to his favorite colors.) It’s a sceney space that spills out onto the patio on a warm summer night, the vibe reassuringly louche. Perhaps the best place for a drink, though, is the tiny, jewel box-sized Le Churchill, named after Winston who was a regular guest here; it was his de facto winter home. Sidle up to the giant slab of black marble at the center and order some caviar and a snifter of Champagne.
Is there caviar on the room service menu? If so, what kind?
Mais oui. It’s from Paris-based Maison Kaviari: Osciètre Gros Grain, served with blinis and cream. It’s listed not once, but three times, nudging guests to order it from breakfast-time to late-night snacking. The room service menu in general is sumptuously indulgent: There’s a half-sized bottle of Taittinger in every mini bar, but you can also summon a variety of vintages, from Ruinart to Veuve Clicquot. The rest of the property’s F&B is equally OTT: patissier Pierre Hermé is the partner for all its cakes and has not just a namesake tea room in the main hotel but also his own standalone store tucked away in the middle of the gardens. The rest of the food is under the palate purview of Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Would you buy the hotel if you could?
Indeed, it was up for sale, when the Moroccan Railways agency said it would offload its 60 percent stake in the property four years ago, though the hotel won’t confirm what happened around that deal (or if it went through). Still, snapping up this palatial estate in the heart of town would be the ultimate coup.
The biggest critique of a stay at La Mamounia is that it’s hard to justify exploring much else in Marrakech once cocooned inside its grounds. Yes, it’s suffused with glamour—every surface seems to glisten or gleam, and the clientele’s just as glossy—but it’s the sense of place it offers that makes a stay so welcoming, the essence of Marrakech distilled into a single place. Come here ready to indulge, and don’t feel guilty if you never set foot outside the walls.
What Our Score Means:
1-3: Fire your travel agent if they suggest you stay here.
4-6: Solid if you’re in a pinch—but only if you’re in a pinch.
7-8: Very good. We’d stay here again and recommend it without qualms.
9-10: Forget booking a week. When can we move in permanently?
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