Just watched the episode of BBC’s series ‘Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby’ where they featured the Royal Mansour Hotel of Morocco. The hotel is essentially designed to make you feel like you’re in a kingly palace – all your quarters are private, you never catch a whiff of the ‘servants’, and you are as distanced from the real world outside as any high-up official could desire. It feels a little unreal, in fact. The hosts of the show, Giles Coren and Monica Galetti stepped into this world half as guests and half as staff. A hotel like that is built on the groundwork of a labyrinth of perfectly trained staff – 500 in all – who needed to be fluent in French, Arabic and English. The labyrinth was so large you sometimes needed golf-carts to get around in, and as Giles said, it felt like “Downtown Abbey meets Aladdin, with a bit of James Bond for good measure.”
I also began to understand how luxury hotels work at a service level: the top management, including the head chef, were French, and it was they who brought to the table the elegance, style and sophistication such a class of people demanded from the service offered to them. Everyone, however, top-down, took a remarkable pride to the work they were doing: whether it was being on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to greet important guests, making a drape look beautiful 350 times a day for as many of those drapes, cleaning, polishing and driving a car-ful of guests around town, arranging fruits on a plate before the arrival of guests.
It felt almost otherworldly, watching them. At the end of it all, Giles and Monica – perhaps to get a grip back on reality – slipped away from the staff quarters just enough to clink champagne glasses. Perhaps there was also comfort in knowing that they, unlike the real staff, could escape from such a big life still: for once, distance was more of a comfort than a strain.