Culture / Travel

Inside Villa Mabrouka, the Hottest New Hotel in Tangier

Designer Jasper Conran Opens His Ultra-Chic Hotel in the Former Residence of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé

BY Diane Dorrans Saeks // 02.21.24
photography Andrew Montgomery

Seven o’clock in the evening is the magic hour at Villa Mabrouka in Tangier. 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.

017 Villa Mabrouka (Marrakech Suite) Villamabrouka.com @Villamabrouka Photographer – Andrew Montgomery (Photo by Andrew Montgomery)
The Marrakech Suite at Villa Mabrouka. (Photo by Andrew Montgomery)

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 Saint Laurent’s signature shades of green and blue), and marble floors echo architectural details found in many classic local mansions.

014 Villa Mabrouka Villamabrouka.com @Villamabrouka Photographer – Andrew Montgomery (Photo by Andrew Montgomery)
Exterior views of Villa Mabrouka. (Photo by Andrew Montgomery)

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, handpainted with a chinoiserie fantasy garden by the British artist Lawrence Mynott, originally created for Pierre Bergé.

016 Villa Mabrouka (Marrakech Suite) Villamabrouka.com @Villamabrouka Photographer – Andrew Montgomery (2) – Copy (Photo by Andrew Montgomery)
View from the Marrakech Suite. (Photo by Andrew Montgomery)

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 significance. “This has been a conservation and preservation project as much as a design project,” he says.

Elizabeth Anthony

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NUM_MAROC19XXPH076.01-copy (Photo by Andrew Montgomery)
Yves Saint Laurent, Morocco, 1970s. (COURTESY FONDATION PIERRE BERGÉ. ©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

The Yves Saint Laurent Influence

Yves Saint Laurent had been his inspiration since Conran was 12 years old, the artistic son of Sir Terence Conran, a towering figure of interior design and founder of The Conran Shop. “I always thought that Yves Saint Laurent was the most glamorous, a genius,” Conran says. “He designed, he painted, he created sets for the theater, he collected important art, and his fashions and accessories were powerful. To become the guardian of Mabrouka is the sweetest honor.”

His aim at all times has been to protect the magic of both the house and its ravishing gardens. “In this project, I have been very touched by the kindness and encouragement shown to me by Madison Cox, president of the Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent [who also designed the original garden] and by the Moroccan authorities, whose enthusiasm for the project has been invaluable,” Conran says.

French designer Jean-Louis Deniot, whose Old Mountain residence is just a few minutes’ drive from Villa Mabrouka, attended the opening party for the hotel. He is an ardent fan. “Villa Mabrouka leads the way with its dynamic and compelling infusion of classic Morocco style,” Deniot says. “Jasper and his talented team are our new ambassadors for elegant Tangier style.”

Villa Mabrouka, 1 Sidi Bouknadel, Tangier 90000, Morocco, villamabrouka.com. Suites from €450 per night. 

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