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Hot List 2010

La Mamounia, Marrakesh 
$$$$

Avenue Bab Jdid

Marrakesh
Morocco 40040

Tel: 212 524 388 600

For decades, the 87-year-old La Mamounia was the height of Moroccan glamour, hosting everyone from Charlie Chaplin to the Rolling Stones, but by the 1990s, it had become a shabby shadow of its former self following an ill-conceived design. Now, after a three-year, $150 million revamp by French designer Jacques Garcia, "the loveliest place on earth," as proclaimed by habitué Winston Churchill, can again live up to this appellation. The top-to-bottom makeover not only reestablished but heightened the Art Deco meets Arabesque design of the original. Walls are adorned with intricate plasterwork and gem-colored zellij (traditional tiling); sconces and lamps throw off speckles of light through punched metal; arresting black-and-white photography of contemporary Berbers, Tuaregs, and bedouins animate hallways; and dozens of fountains and decorative pools add a tinkling sound track. The 210 guest rooms are lavishly appointed as well, each with painted wood doors, a large etched-glass mirror over a leather-topped desk, and a terrace; alongside are modern touches such as key-operated light fixtures and the ability to lock or unlock one's room door via a bedside switch. New too, are the expansive outdoor pool, subterranean spa, and three restaurants serving fine French, Italian, and Moroccan cuisine. La Mamounia's 20-acre garden is still its most romantic feature, and strolling amid the centuries-old palm, orange, and olive trees is a true retreat within the medina walls. Though staff are unfailingly polite (at check-in they'll usher you to a sofa, proffering figs and almond milk), the service can be uneven—housekeeping has a habit of entering one's room immediately after knocking, and calls to the front desk go unanswered. Other caveats are high prices (continental breakfast costs $42) and the overly dim lighting throughout, in which visibility is sacrificed for a moody ambience.
Which room to book: Any facing the verdant garden and the Atlas Mountains beyond .
Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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