This Fabled Moroccan Hotel Got A Multimillion-Dollar Makeover For Its 100th Anniversary

Marrakech’s five-star La Mamounia has been long been revered for combining “the comfort of the West and the splendor of the East” in the grandest style possible.

(La Mamounia)

“This is a wonderful place, and the hotel is one of the best I have ever used…. It is the most lovely spot in the whole world.” So said Winston S. Churchill to Franklin D. Roosevelt about La Mamounia in Marrakech in 1943. He made a practice of taking up residence at the famous five-star hotel every winter, with other famous faces soon following suit. At that time La Mamounia had just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and just last year it turned 100.

These days Churchill is honored by a bar named after him, as well as one of the hotel’s top suites. In 2020, the legendary hotel unveiled the first phases of a multimillion-dollar revamp, which was fully completed in 2023 in time for La Mamounia’s centennial. It had already long been considered by many to be the best hotel in the world, combining “the comfort of the West and the splendor of the East.” And now it’s truly and utterly incomparable.

(La Mamounia)

La Mamounia was conceived in 1923 by architects Henri Prost and Antoine Marchisio on a 37-acre palace and garden complex that Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah gave to his son in the 18th century. Combining Moroccan and Moorish architecture and design with all the luxuries of a Parisian palace hotel, it soon attracted the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Marcello Mastroianni, Alain Delon, Catherine Deneuve, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro and the Prince of Wales, along with the international jet set.

(La Mamounia)

While it may have come to seem a bit stuffy at one point, Pierre Jochem, the iconic property’s longtime General Manager, points out that part of the inspiration for the revamp was that “our clientele has also changed. They are younger, well-travelled and are connoisseurs.”

La Mamounia’s most famous guests are honored in the hotel’s new Salon d’Honneur. Formerly the main entrance, this space has been transformed into a “chic museum celebrating the hotel’s glamour and its notable guests throughout the years,” the property notes. Also new are two luxurious lounges, featuring scenes from Moroccan life, continuing the Moorish-meets-Art Deco theme.

(La Mamounia)

The semi-secretive alcove areas off the main lobby now provide objet d’art, antiques, ornaments, pictures and books relating to different facets of Moorish culture. Additionally, the famed outdoor Majorelle Bar has been remade into a new lounge with calming views of a palm grove, enhancing the two new restaurants the hotel introduced in 2020 from celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Last October the hotel hosted an event for 2,000 guests celebrating the occasion, where Mr. Adil Fakir, Director of the National Moroccan Office of Tourism, gave the opening speech, emphasizing the importance of La Mamounia as a driving force in the tourism of Marrakech and the Kingdom. We spoke to Pierre Jochem about the incredible property he has the honor to oversee.

(La Mamounia)

What is your philosophy of hospitality, and how does it apply to running La Mamounia?

Since its opening in 1923, La Mamounia has set the gold standard for traditional Moroccan hospitality and a classic example of the great age of grand hotels. And since Churchill’s day it has continued to host the “who’s who” of international royalty, politicians, celebrities and the jet set throughout our entire history. We are known for our best-in-class luxury hospitality, authentic sense of place, careful attention to the needs of all our guests, and the memorable moments that we strive to create for them.

Our philosophy of hospitality is exactly that; we are privileged to share our incredible haven with people from around the world, and our entire team is proud to share La Mamounia with our guests, creating meaningful, personalized experiences. Our team is made up of more than 600 passionate professionals, most of whom have been with us for many years, and all of whom delight in sharing our special part of the world with our guests.

(La Mamounia)

What are the fine points that make La Mamounia one of the world’s best hotels?

La Mamounia is a destination in and of itself. From the moment that guests enter our grand doors, they are immediately welcomed and transported into a luxurious oasis with nods to the rich history and culture of Marrakech. While our hotel’s iconic design has undergone several restorations since its beginnings more than 100 years ago, it has always retained its distinctly Moroccan character while also ushering in new modern amenities for today’s travelers. While at La Mamounia, guests will enjoy world-class dining at the helm of renowned Chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Pierre Hermé. We also invite guests to indulge in wellness treatments inspired by traditional Moroccan techniques at our legendary spa, and find comfort in our exquisite accommodations.

(La Mamounia)

Are you mainly detail oriented or focused on the bigger picture?

Both; the “bigger picture” cannot exist without emphasis on each and every detail. As General Manager, it is my responsibility to guide my team so that we may all work together and envision the bigger picture and future of La Mamounia, while not losing sight of the details that impact each guest’s visit. It is often these micro-moments that leave the biggest impression, so we are focused on getting these elements of service right. At the same time, we pride ourselves on evolving with the times and are constantly challenging ourselves to find new ways to cater to the changing needs of our guests while remaining true to our values, heritage and identity.

(La Mamounia)

What was involved in renovating such an historic property?

In honor of its milestone 100th anniversary in 2023, La Mamounia celebrated with complete restorations and refreshments of several of its beloved public spaces led by acclaimed architecture and interior design firm Jouin Manku. While we understand the importance of providing guests with modern and fresh amenities, we also took care to preserve its unmistakable sense of place and AraboAndalusian spirit. This was among our priorities during the renovations, as it was integral for us to pay homage to La Mamounia’s legacy while celebrating its centenary anniversary. One of my personal favorite additions included the aptly named Centenary Chandelier, which was inspired by a Berber necklace and now prominently hangs in the Grand Hall and called by our guests “Le Bijou de la Grande Dame.”

(La Mamounia)

How does the property now manage to represent both tradition and modernity?

The presence of La Mamounia’s old-world charm is present throughout its grounds, with nods to the rich history and culture of Marrakech and the hotel’s legendary visitors. As part of our commitment to today’s modern traveler, we are continuously innovating and ushering in fresh, new experiences and amenities. For example, our [initial] renovations in 2020 included the start of our collaboration with acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten creating new culinary experiences for our guests and the introduction of new restaurant venues, a newly designed Churchill bar and cinema space.

(La Mamounia)

What is it like working with Chef Jean-Georges?

Chef Jean-Georges is a culinary legend and we are honored to have him at the helm of our epicurean experiences, housing not one but two of his original creations. In its convivial and elegant atmosphere, Chef Jean-Georges reinvents the luxury trattoria at L’Italien. At L’Asiatique, guests can expect a South Asian–inspired culinary journey, the first experience of its kind by the chef.

What can we expect from La Mamounia in the decades to come?

Like fine wine, La Mamounia continues to get better with age. We are committed to continuous innovation in the luxury sphere, and maintaining and bettering the gold standard that we have been known for for 100-plus years.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2024 issue of Maxim magazine.