Travel | Diary of a Somebody

Anouska Hempel

The design maven waxes rhapsodic over the Royal Mansour

Anouska Hempel

February 10 2011
Anouska Hempel

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Woke up under a huge duvet at 8.30 (which is very late for me!), wondering where I was, to the sound of hundreds of sparrows (perhaps 500?), having a huge argument about something or other. I got out of bed, stepped onto the balcony to see the cause of the noise, and was greeted by the most wonderful day, and the Atlas mountains rising majestically in the distance. Those sparrows were having a go at two fat pigeons who had landed in their tree.

Pulled myself together, packed quickly, and dragged the suitcase and a million papers with yesterday’s sketches out of the room. Flew down the corridor and bumped into 10 terrifying women! A gaggle of Dutch and English women, I think from the Pottery Club Worldwide (or something similar), talking about the various factories that they were going to see today. This sight was extraordinary. Every shape and size of bottom had been poured, rather snugly, into multicoloured pedal-pushers – with very sensible shoes on the end of each pair of legs, ready for the day’s exploration on the pottery kilns, or wherever they were going. They didn’t draw breath, were speaking over each other at a huge decibel reading. I sensibly decided to wait for the next lift – what a start to the day!

I had a delightful breakfast, very close to my friends the sparrows, in wonderful morning sun. As it turns out, as part of the process of finding craftsmen to work on our new hotel, we were due to be taken to the same pottery factories as the Pottery Club women. Needless to say, I kept my distance from them. I did, however, learn an awful lot about tadelakt plaster – the process producing the most beautiful wall-covering in the world for interiors and exteriors. As a designer, I found the morning most worthwhile – even though dirty, dusty, derelict and diabolically dry.

We were to be taken to the Royal Mansour to see the king’s newest addition to his palace. It was a feast for the eyes on every possible level; I’ll need 15 books to describe this. The workmanship is the best I’ve ever seen in the world. Huge copper beaten doors, mother-of-pearl and crystal gloriousness abounded in every possible way in this extraordinary medina. It was exquisite in its detailing, perfect in its positioning and proudly dominated the skyline. Each room interlinked through the centre (the only way to do architecture) into other rooms of light and darkness that only the Moroccans and the Turkish people can do.

Exquisite rose-coloured rooms blending into plain greys and dusty whites. Taffeta curtains galore, ballooning and bustling in the wind – tied with beaded embroidered tassels of such beauty, that they would have done for one of my young models (today, I’m missing my couture group badly). One ballroom after another, one state room after another, some light, some dark, some large, some small – the variety was monumentally overpowering. The building was built around the trees, not the trees put in after the building – so there were strange corners of ancient dominating the modern in the most elegant way (anybody wants to stay here, I believe it is €1,900 for a small one-bedroom riad, with your own butler, maid and anything else you need). Am dying to go back, it was a complete new lifestyle in the hotel arena. I had to be dragged away, poured into the car – muttering drivel and taking notes.

Then on to La Mamounia – again, an extraordinary palace dedicated to the aesthete – conceived in Jaques Garcia’s brilliant, dominating, heavy, baroque way. This has been much publicised, so I won’t go on about it, but all these visual inspirations are very much part of the work that I do. Visual registration for me is paramount in my design – so this was a fantastic day, and an incredible way for me to show my accompanying architects true excellence in design. Dash to the airport, Easyjet home – definitely landed with a bump!

See also

People, Royal Mansour