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December 20, 2002
The reason for our visit was not to stay here (as it is well out of our modest price range), but to see the highly regarded gardens. The security at the hotel is very tight, as a burly guard at the main entrance asked if we were guests. When we said "no", he pointed us to the concierge desk, where the helpful gentleman said we could take a discreet look at the gardens at no cost. We could take photos, but not if we spotted anyone important or famous. Also, no camcorders allowed, and we had to leave our camera bags with the concierge. Since our goal was not to spot celebrities, we took our cameras and waltzed in. It is recommended that you wear presentable clothing, so no shorts or sleazy t-shirts if you want to gain admittance.
The seven acres of formal European-style gardens are well manicured by a staff that keeps a wary eye on tree trimming as well. Stroll down well-manicured walking paths and look at the linear ponds with lots of peppy frogs and green water plants. The center of the garden features a pavilion with a few displays and a man selling high-end crafts. Since he is working at such an exclusive hotel, he has a very low-key sales pitch. The posh outdoor pool, adjacent to the gardens, is the perfect place for the moneyed traveler to soak in some rays. If you are lucky, you may encounter a donkey that is part of the maintenance crew for a photo.
We walked through several of the impressive public spaces, designed with a mix of Moorish and Art Deco styles. Jacques Majorelle gets design credit in the original 1925 design, and Andre Paccard was King Hassan's pick to embellish the property in 1986. Perhaps the best is the formal courtyard with the tranquil fountain in the center. Ironically, the courtyard leads to the casino, which as stated by the signs is forbidden to Moroccans. There are plenty of posh shops, cozy sitting areas, and public artworks to ponder.
The hotel has 171 rooms, with standard rooms as well as isolated villas and themed suites dedicated to Sir Winston Churchill (an occasional guest at La Mamounia) and the Orient-Express train. As you can well imagine, there are plenty of restaurants and bars on the premises.
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