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Tue 24 Aug 2010 04:00 AM

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Moorish designs

The newly-renovated Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses is brimming with traditional Moroccan motifs.

Moorish designs
A room in the Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses

The newly-renovated Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses is brimming with traditional Moroccan motifs.

The intricate art of mashrabia lies at the heart of the recently-renovated Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses hotel. "Mashrabia is the centrepiece of this project, with 200 different versions within the hotel, a symbolic representation of Moroccan culture," explained Didier Gomez, founder of Didier Gomez Interior Design, the French firm responsible for the property's new look.

Located in the heart of the Moroccan capital, a few minutes from the Royal Palace, Sofitel Rabat Jardin des Roses features 229 rooms, including 37 suites, some of which span over 1,000ft². The property is surrounded by a sumptuous 20-acre Andalusian park, rose garden and eucalyptus forest, and is a short walk from the Oudaïas, Rabat's little known kasbah. It also features an entire building dedicated to wellbeing, encompassing 13,000ft² of spa and fitness facilities.

Palatial luxury

Gomez was intent on creating a palatial space that was luxurious and contemporary but still brimming with Moroccan references. Mashrabia was an obvious place to start. Other distinct elements, such as water, roses and amber, and a striking gold, black and beige colour scheme, reappear throughout. However, it is the careful treatment of mashrabia motifs, and the subsequent interplay between what is seen and what is not, that defines the hotel. "I also used the idea of the garden and water as a centrepiece for the project. I used Moroccan materials but in a different way to the pastiche that is familiar from Marrakech," said Gomez.

Instead, the design drew on Rabat's distinctive character. "Rabat is like Washington, a political city, elegant and different to the rest of the country," Gomez explained. "The town is totally beige (the colour of the stone) and white, so I added black, which means luxury in the Occident, and gold, which is common in the culture."

At the same time, it was necessary to bring in the French undertones inherent in the Sofitel brand. The idea was to craft a finely balanced interplay between French and Moroccan - or, more specifically, Rabati - elements.

The tone is established from the outset. In the lobby, the element of water is introduced in an evocative combination of pools and black marble. Eclectic furniture pieces shrouded in the hotel's dominant colours, black and gold, make an immediate impact, while mashrabia detailing works its way across the marble floor.

"In the lobby entrance hall, the idea was to have water, as a symbol of an Arabic garden, going through the hall and ending up outside," said Gomez.
"We used a very sophisticated mix of furniture - old, new, oversized and all different - as I would do for a house. The rest of the walls are in stone and all the floors are Moroccan marble imprinted with leaf-like designs."

Walls and floors are a subtle combination of beige and white, while a mirrored ceiling reflects the path of the water. Two Murano glass chandeliers reiterate a sense of lightness, and alcoves in white and beige silk create a sense of intimacy.

Colourful creations

While the lobby revels in its monochromatic splendour, dining areas are striking in their use of colour. Red and black dominate in the El Patio restaurant, which opens up onto the park. A Moroccan carpet custom-designed by Gomez boldly reiterates the colour scheme.

Inspired by the 1930s and 40s, the space is highly geometric, with one wall entirely covered with a reproduction of a traditional design by Douanier Rousseau. All the while, an assembly of mirrors creates a sense of openness. "All of the furniture has been specially designed, with round sofas and five different kinds of chairs, all in red and white," Gomez detailed.

In the Moroccan restaurant, Al Warda, warm colours mingle with Moroccan-inspired lights and 1960s-style furniture. "We kept the antique ceilings and introduced painted aluminium to add a touch of modernity. The floors are black, as are the big Moroccan doors, which have been lacquered in a shiny black. We then introduced the colours of spices," Gomez said.

An aura of intimacy is continued in the Amber Bar. "This is the most spectacular space for me, with the bar and the wall behind it all in lit alabaster. The ceiling is in copper and the walls are a patchwork of nine redesigned examples of mashrabia, in gold. The floor is made of Moroccan marble and all the furniture is black, white and bronze."

The mashrabia theme continues in the rooms and suites, where black sliding mashrabia panels made from plexiglass separate the bathroom from the main room. The panels can be opened up to offer views of the gardens and the city, from the bathroom.

In the larger suites, mashrabia plays an even more dominant role, with designs making their way on to the carpeting, onto wooden panels on the walls, and onto oversized art work. "Attention to detail, particularly when it comes to furniture, gives these suites the feel of a very luxurious private house, rather than a hotel," said Gomez.

"I love this project," he added. "I like the way that from the lobby to the restaurants and to the rooms, there is a continuation of the same ideas, the same combinations and the same sense of luxury."