Morocco's star magnet hotel La Mamounia re-opens

Tue Sep 29, 2009 5:48pm EDT
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By Tom Pfeiffer

MARRAKESH, Morocco (Reuters Life!) - Marrakesh's Mamounia hotel opened its doors on Tuesday after a three-year facelift aimed at fending off rival establishments trying to lure its free-spending guests.

None of them competes with the Mamounia on history. Since it opened in 1923, the world's top stars and leading politicians have passed through its tranquil gardens laid out by 18th century Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah for his son, Mamoun.

"This is a wonderful place, and the hotel one of the best I have ever used," Winston Churchill said in a 1935 letter to his wife Clementine about the palatial pink stucco hotel on the fringes of the medina in Marrakesh.

The British wartime leader would escape there to paint in the gardens and invited along U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to admire the vista from his hotel balcony of tall, elegant palm trees backed by the snow-capped High Atlas mountains.

La Mamounia's fame has grown as other celebrities passed through including Charlie Chaplin, Kirk Douglas, Omar Sharif, Joan Collins, Martin Scorsese, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Nelson Mandela, Helmut Kohl, Zinedine Zidane and Nicole Kidman.

The hotel's director had to provide a made-to-measure bed for France's lanky General Charles de Gaulle.

De Gaulle's successor as French President Nicolas Sarkozy has jogged through its gardens and Morocco's kings have been regular visitors.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were inspired to write their song Marrakech Express and the Mamounia featured in many scenes of the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much.   Continued...

<p>Gardens of the Mamounia hotel are seen in Marrakesh September 18, 2009. REUTERS/Jean Blondin</p>