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PaperCity Houston Jan:Feb 2024

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S even o'clock in the evening is the magic hour at Villa Mabrouka. High atop a cliff above the Strait of Gibraltar, the shimmering light is the color of pink champagne. After a day exploring the kasbah and the seductive souk, buying lustrous kaftans, jewels, and embroidered silk slippers, gilded guests gather on the roof terrace of British designer Jasper Conran's chic new hotel, gazing east across the molten glow of the Mediterranean Sea. It's a hotel rich in history, now hosted by Conran with rare refinement. Once the residence of a glamorous Saudi princess and decorated by expat American architect Stuart Church, the property was acquired in 1997 by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, as their August retreat. The great garden designer Madison Cox created their landscape. Interior designer Jacques Grange decorated their bedrooms in pure classical Moroccan style with a crisp green-and-white plan that Conran has mirrored on terraces and in several of the 12 suites. The hotel's swoon suite is the former bedroom of Yves Saint Laurent, mint-fresh in green tones with high ceilings and cool white plaster walls. Cashmere blankets and fresh- pressed Italian sheets offer discreet luxury. Conran, with an innate understanding and admiration of the polyglot nature of Tangier, has combined all the languages of Moroccan design into the interiors. Signature decor includes antique Fez embroideries and locally handmade bejmat and zellige glazed clay tiles that have been in the residence since the '60s. He incorporated antique Roman mosaics, 16th-century Andalusian tiles, and Murano chandeliers to honor the ancient trading post of Tangier. Crenellated archways, beamed ceilings (some painted in the Saint Laurent's signature shades of green and blue), and marble floors echo architectural details found in many classic local mansions. And, here in the middle of Tangier, botanical magnificence flourishes. Dozens of date palms, giant birds of paradise, and Australian umbrella trees that were planted originally by Cox add movement and grace to the gardens. Now updated by Conran, bright orange clivia, blue agapanthus, and fast-growing crimson roses tangle between bougainvillea and varieties of jasmine. It's a jungly paradise, steps from the Medina. Romantic guests can request a cocktail party or dinner in the charming gazebo, hand- painted with a chinoiserie fantasy garden by the British artist Lawrence Mynott, originally created for Pierre Bergé. Conran recalls his first visit five years ago, passing through arched entry doors and into the garden. "I knew instantly that this could be my second hotel project in Morocco," he says. "I will never forget that first sensation of coming off the narrow Tangier streets and into the villa's green and shady courtyard, full of banana and palm trees, before emerging into an oasis of big sweeping lawns and an incredible garden looking out to sea. The garden was vivid with hollyhocks, nasturtiums, roses, agapanthus, jasmine, and orange blossom, as well as ancient pavilions." Conran opened his first Moroccan retreat, L'Hôtel Marrakech, in 2016. He says that working on Villa Mabrouka has made him even more aware of its historical Previous page: Hallway at Villa Mabrouka. Clockwise from top: Marrakech Suite at Villa Mabrouka. Small pool. Lush landscaping. 34

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