Set in the heart of Tangier’s Kasbah, an inner citadel, and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea toward Spain, La Maison Blanche is one of Morocco’s best-kept secrets. Elegantly refurbished, the traditional five-story townhouse built around a central courtyard has nine rooms, each done in a different style by the renowned French interior designer Regis Milcent. Each of the nine, light-filled rooms (named after notable Kasbah visitors) has been individually decorated in exquisite French fabrics and antiques that complement the classic Moroccan architecture. Handmade ceramic tiles decorate the floors in the traditional Moroccan style and the ceiling is hand-painted and signed by the artist. Upon entering the charming door from the busy Kasbah you will be transported to the peaceful and calming sounds of a fountain, the delightful smell of roses, and beautiful surroundings.
Mr. Aziz Begdouri, the owner of this magnificent hotel, said he has Sephardic ancestry and grew up with many Jewish friends. “This building has been in my family for four generations and its name came up by creating a list that is reminiscent of Tangier culture.” He told NYJTG that the restoration took six years and planning the details took a long time, “because I wanted to reflect the traditional Moroccan culture and aesthetic.” He said he had an engineer, architect, and designer working with him using all local materials with exquisite plasterwork and handmade ceramic tiles to provide an authentic feel for this 14th-century riad.
The riad, a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard, has eight double guest rooms and one twin. Guest rooms have an authentic, luxurious European-Moorish feel: carved cedarwood entrances, antique wooden doors, white plasterwork horseshoe-shaped arches, and fitted or freestanding wooden wardrobes with carved wood doors containing hanging space and shelves. Bathrooms feature marble from the nearby Rif Mountains, and the bathrooms have been updated with bathtubs with touches of red coral tile, “as Morocco is famous for it,” Begdouri said. Some of the famous artists and painters that lived in Tangier included Henri Matisse and the Tisch family stayed here as well as Rick Steves from the American tour TV show. Modern facilities include flat-screen TVs with satellite channels and free WiFi, and each room has its own computer.
In keeping with the style of a riad, the hotel has no elevator. “I wanted to maintain the traditional Moroccan culture and authenticity of Tangier and for our guests to live the same way as those in the old times.” Begdouri said the hotel added some comfort features like the rooftop deck, bathrooms, courtyards, fountains to symbolize peace and tranquility as well as mosaic tiles. The hotel has touches of Tangier’s past: European, Italian, French, and Spanish that represented the “melting pot,” he said, of the city.
All hotel furniture is either antique or custom-made in Morocco, from the bedside tables to the wardrobes. Every last detail has been carefully considered to make each guest’s experience as comfortable yet as authentic as possible. Floors are of parquet-patterned brick inlaid with traditional handmade mosaic tiles.
The breakfast is included and served on the rooftop terrace, where a spectacular view stretches out over the medina and down to the sweeping curve of the bay, the meal consists of delicious French pastries, Moroccan bread, and more. The view on a clear day is amazing. You can see the rock of Gibraltar and Tarifa, Spain, a 35-minute boat ride from here. Mr. Begdouri told NYJTG that business has been very good, “especially around the Fall and holiday seasons.” Most of his guests come from the United States and Spain and a lot of his business is generated from internet sites like TripAdvisor and Ricksteves.com.
One of their famous guests is the actor Daniel Craig (James Bond 007), who stayed here for the filming of “Spectre.” Azziz told NYJTG, “Bond coming to Tangiers has been a fantastic opportunity for my city, bringing our historic and beautiful Kasbah into the international spotlight.” Daniel Craig himself, and Lea Seydoux, his “Bond Girl” Dr. Madeleine Swann, both prepared for their scenes by the wardrobe, hair, and make-up film crews at La Maison Blanche. Mr. Craig had the hotel’s Sharif Moulay Ismail suite, considered the best room in the house, decorated in rich ruby-red and emerald-green velvet, with sumptuous hand-printed silk wallpaper from Paris. The room is named after Sharif Moulay Ismail, the second sultan of the Alaouite dynasty in the 17th century – his palace is now open to visitors as the Kasbah Museum.
Bond Girl Lea Seydoux had her make-up done in one room – Régis Milcent, named after the late French interior designer who was responsible for the hotel’s luxurious ambiance. The peach coral walls were painted by hand, and Moorish horseshoe arches on the mahogany doors leading to the bathrooms provide a feminine touch, which the Bond girl surely appreciated.
For your next visit make sure to reserve either one of these Bond rooms. Begdouri is knowledgeable about the city and is happy to offer visitors travel advice in six languages. La Maison Blanche is a calm and peaceful oasis in the heart of old Tangier and the only place where you should consider staying. It is a true gem!
For more information, visit:
To plan a trip to Morocco, contact the Moroccan National Office of Tourist or log on to http://www.visitmorocco.com/en
Fly Royal Air Morocco – https://www.royalairmaroc.com/us-en/
Ride with Train Al Boraq – high-speed rail service between Casablanca and Tangier.
Named Al Boraq after a magical winged creature of Islamic culture, it is the first superfast bullet train of its kind in Africa, running along the Atlantic coast for 200 kilometers between the port of Tangier and the commercial hub of Casablanca.
Story & photography by Meyer Harroch – New York Jewish Travel Guide & New York Jewish Guide.com
The author took part in a press trip sponsored by the Moroccan National Tourist Office.