Marrakesh: 'Saint Tropez Minus the Yachts'

Directly behind the Mamounia's expansive gardens, there is a state-run hospital, a dilapidated, boxy building filled with old iron beds. For a few years now, there have been two different rooms for newborn babies. One is for babies born into "normal" families; the other for the children of young, unmarried women who have their babies in secret and then give them away right after birth.

There are also sordid tales of Arab sheikhs who rent villas in the Palmeraie for a weekend to spend time with 30 young Moroccan men and women. And there are others of Europeans who go there to film and photograph children and youths for pornographic Web sites. Claims such as these prompted the police in Marrakesh to set up a special anti-pedophilia division a few years ago, which now regularly arrests suspected foreign child abusers.

Culture Clash

The soirée at the Mamounia ends at about 3 a.m. Star architect Jacques Garcia spent a long time at the bar. His renovation of the building took three years. In the process, he repositioned nearly all the walls, created new patios and "in architectural terms, combined the Orient with the Occident." In other words, he installed iPod stations, wireless LAN networks and flatscreen TVs.

Brian Ferry sits in the Italian restaurant and wonders whether the new Marrakesh will be too modern. Orlando Bloom talks about his Moroccan dog, and the evening closes with Carine Roitfeld, the editor of the French edition of Vogue, singing a karaoke duet with former Gucci designer Matthew Williamson in the hotel's Churchill Bar.

At 4:35 a.m., the muezzin from the nearby Koutoubia mosque wakes up most of the hotel guests with a 15-minute call to prayer amplified by loudspeakers. It's very loud and very authentic.

Translated from the German by Jan Liebelt

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