La Mamounia Love


I woke up on our second day in Marrakech having slept so soundly that it took me a few moments to remember where I was (and realise that it was somehow already 9.30am – I can’t fault the hotel’s blackout curtains). Still half asleep, Amah and I went in search of breakfast, where we found Antoine and Catherine had beaten us to it and were making the most of the buffet spread. Unfortunately my hunger put paid to my instinct to Instagram every single thing, so if you want to see how good the breakfast is you’ll just have to visit yourself …

Fed, watered and generally feeling pretty good, we decided we’d spend a few hours by the pool and do a little pre-wedding tanning. But it turns out that none of us can sit still for that long, even when we’re burning through a great book (The Kite Runner, in case you’re interested). So we had an impromptu photoshoot on the pool’s tropical island and drew some bemused looks from some of the other hotel guests.

Antoine poolside at the Kech Hotel & Spa, Marrakech

Amah poolside at the Kech Hotel & Spa, Marrakech

pinkschmink and Amah poolside at the Kech Hotel & Spa, Marrakech

Amah and Antoine poolside at Kech Hotel & Spa, Marrakech

Can we just take a second to talk about how fabulous this girl is? Her amazing retro bikini is from Asos (sold out) but there are some alternatives at Debenhams (top, bottoms) and Luisa Via Roma (top, bottoms). Amah’s dream is to have an apartment in Montmartre and work on the design team for Balenciaga – so if you happen to be friends with anyone in HR, let me know!

Eventually we’d had enough of clowning around so we girls donned our prettiest frocks and jumped in Mr Driss’s cab headed for the fanciest address in Marrakech. Antoine came too but he declined to wear a dress …

Main entrance of La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Before long, we were stepping through the gates to one of the city’s most famous landmarks. La Mamounia, more palace than hotel, opened its doors in 1923, and the great and the good have been flocking through its exquisite stained-glass doors ever since. But it closed down in 2006 for a three-year, €120million renovation to undo the excesses of the 80s and restore its original Art Deco beauty, and it reopened in 2009 as one of the world’s most glamorous destinations.

Once described by Winston Churchill as the most beautiful place on earth, and patronised by royalty, celebrity and wealth from all over the world, La Mamounia is a must-visit if you love gardens, architecture or just hanging out in awe-inspiring places. Perhaps some of you lucky people can even afford to stay there one day. As for us? We were heading for the shady courtyard for an iced tea – but not before a few photo opportunities …

Amah in the entrance courtyard at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

pinkschmink twirling in the entrance courtyard at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

As you can see, Amah and I both went to great lengths to blend in with our surroundings – me matching the colour of the walls and Amah camouflaged against the foliage. Her beautiful jungle-print dress was originally from Zara (I think), but Karen Millen, Sugarhill Boutique, Hobbs and The Limited have similar styles. Mine is from Boohoo and I will warn you (because they won’t, grr) that you’ll either need to buy a separate slip or have Rhianna-level DGAF attitude to wear this dress in public … (Alternatively you might prefer the fully lined See by Chloé version or this incredible Derek Lam dream dress.)

Meanwhile, back at La Mamounia, I’m getting distracted by all the beautiful #fromwhereistand and #ihavethisthingwithfloors moments – and there are many, many of them to be had here – and we haven’t even made it through the door yet.

Tiled floors at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Tiled floors at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

But when we eventually did make it inside, it was quite breathtaking.

Lobby of La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Lobby of La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Amah made herself at home on the giant velvet banquette while an epic battle raged above her head … before we followed the shafts of sunlight to our ultimate destination. Though not before glimpsing the majestic splendour of l’Italien restaurant as we passed through, not lingering too long for fear someone might recognise us for the tourist tresspassers we were and throw us out.

Walking through l'Italien restaurant at La Mamounia, Marrakech

L'Italien restaurant at La Mamounia, Marrakech

But of course they’re far too polite to do such a thing at La Mamounia, and so we stepped out onto the terrace and found ourselves a shady spot to take tea by the breathtakingly beautiful canopy. Just look at the incredible craftsmanship in that and imagine the hours it would have taken to create. It’s quite humbling.

Canopy at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Barely had we placed our order for iced mint tea and pastries before Amah was making a new friend. This little chap came shuffling under our feet and melted our hearts with his big brown eyes. We’d have smuggled him away with us if we’d thought no-one would notice …

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Making friends at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

But our new friend soon lost interest in us, and not a moment too soon, because the delectable scent of freshly-picked mint heralded the arrival of our tea. La Mamounia has an extensive kitchen garden in which it grows many of the herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables used in its food and drinks – but more on that later.

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And as we all know, if you don’t Instagram your tea, it never happened. So we posed for the obligatory social media check-in frenzy (before discovering the wifi is for hotel guests’ use only).

Photographing iced mint tea on the terrace at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

pinkschmink and friends enjoying iced mint tea on the terrace at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

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And at last we could enjoy a sip of tea. Was it good? Absolutely. Was it the best I had in Marrakech? {whispers} Probably not … But it did a great job of quenching my thirst while we sat back and took in the beauty of our surroundings. From our little perch I spied swathes of tumbling bougainvillea, towering limbs of lilac jacaranda waving softly above our heads and plump, juicy oranges hanging from the trees. The only sounds were the quiet murmurs of our fellow tea-takers, the distant splashing of the pool and beautiful birdsong. This little fella even ventured close enough to see if we would leave him any tasty morsels to peck at – sadly he was to be disappointed.

Bird on the terrace at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Soon the tea and pastries were all gone, and there was only one thing for it: a wander around the gardens to work off some of those sweet Moroccan treats. So we set off to see what we could find – some of us more energetically than others.

Art in the gardens at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Gardens of La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

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Exploring the gardens of La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Around each corner we discovered something new and beautiful, like the riad housing Le Marocain restaurant, which is essentially everyone’s Moroccan dream house.

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This exquisite courtyard was begging to be photographed. So of course we obliged.

Catherine at the riad at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

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pinkschmink in the Le Marocain restaurant riad at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

I mean, look at it. I could quite happily move in here – that red velvet couch has my name on it.

Riad at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Eager to see what else we could find, we stepped back out into the gardens. I don’t exaggerate when I say that Marrakech is absolutely full of flowers. It seems the Moroccans are proud gardeners – after all, if you’re a REN fan like me you’ll know that one of the most revered plant oils in the world is Moroccan rose oil. And of course the perfectly manicured grounds of La Mamounia are no exception to the floral abundance.

White bougainvillea at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

A wall of purple bougainvillea at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

pinkschmink in the grounds at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

At the bottom of the path we found ourselves in the kitchen garden, and couldn’t resist a sneaky pinch-and-sniff of some of the amazing herbs. At the front of this picture is orange mint – which really does smell exactly like orange and mint – and at the back, chocolate mint, like the healthiest After Eight in the world.

Orange mint and chocolate mint growing in the kitchen garden at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Vegetables growing in the kitchen garden at La Mamounia, Marrakech

The kitchen garden at La Mamounia, Marrakech

They grow all sorts here – from cabbage and courgettes to things I’ve not come across before, like red Chinese mustard. I’ve promised myself that one day I’ll come back here for dinner, if only so I can sample all the home-grown produce.

Meanwhile, Antoine was discovering that he, too, could blend in with his surroundings …

Antoine and a giant lantern at La Mamounia, Marrakech

I can’t even tell you how much I wanted to get him inside that lantern …

But instead of getting us all into trouble, I headed up to the pretty pavillion in the middle of the gardens and used my powers of camouflage to play hide-and-seek. Sort of.

Bar Pavillion at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

pinkschmink at Bar Pavillion at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

pinkschmink at Bar Pavillion at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

pinkschmink at Bar Pavillion at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

pinkschmink at Bar Pavillion at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

My clowning around started a bit of a trend, because once we stepped through the pavillion (and past a counter full of delectable-looking macarons) …

Bar Pavillion at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

… these two had a bit of an impromptu dance-off.

Antoine and Amah on the steps of Bar Pavilion at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Antoine and Amah dancing in the gardens at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Antoine and Amah dancing in the gardens at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Antoine and Amah dancing in the gardens at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Antoine and Amah dancing in the gardens at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Antoine and Amah dancing in the gardens at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

All danced out (and slightly worried that someone was going to call security any moment) we headed inside. Don’t let the cloudy skies deceive you – it was hot and humid on the day we visited La Mamounia and stepping inside the cool, air-conditioned building was a welcome relief after our exertions.

Of course, once inside, we had to have a little nose around – but not before stopping to appreciate the incredible workmanship of the canopy again. My mind is blown anew every time I look at this. I can’t even begin to contemplate the man-hours that went into its creation. It’s just astounding.

Canopy over the terrace at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

I took another peek at L’Italien as we swept through (I’m a sucker for those stained glass windows) …

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… and through a (locked) door onto the courtyard of Instagram dreams. It’s been the setting for many a blogger’s Marrakech #ootd, but sadly not mine. Not this time. But I’ll be back! {insert evil laugh}

Tiled courtyard at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Fortunately, you’re never very far from another beautiful courtyard at La Mamounia. It’s definitely the most ‘grammable place I’ve visited in a while, and I think I’ll have to go quite some way to top it.

This little corner of heaven leads to the spa. I can hardly imagine a more blissful, soothing place to pass through. It’s as quiet as a church, even though the hustle and bustle of the medina is just a stone’s throw away. Just perfect.

Courtyard near the spa at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Much posing was necessary.

Antoine in the spa courtyard at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

pinkschmink in the spa courtyard at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Amah in the spa courtyard at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Amah pretty much wins at posing, and at matching her outfit to the courtyard. Swishy dresses just gotta be swished!

But we soon realised we were running out of steam. So with one last look at paradise, we reluctantly made our way out to the street …

View through stained glass windows onto the spa courtyard at La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

Entrance gate to La Mamounia hotel, Marrakech

… and slowly strolled through another glorious, rose-filled garden (which smelled incredible) towards Jemâa el-Fna.

Parc Lalla Hasna, Marrakech

I’d love to tell you that we grabbed some street food on the square and ate like the locals, but the truth is we took a cab to the French quarter, Gueliz, and found a little café in a shopping centre where we had what turned out to be rather good paninis. But, weary from our exertions and feeling as though we might never find anything to compare to La Mamounia, we called Mr. Driss to take us home.

And then we chilled beside the pool with a bottle of local rosé until the sun went down. Which, after all, really wasn’t such a bad place to be …

The pool at Kech Boutique Hotel & Spa by night, Marrakech