Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The "Chic" of Araby: Ali Baba Motel

It is a great feeling to be traveling mindlessly down the streets of suburban Southern California one minute and in a split second be transported to the arid climes of the Mideast.  Standing sentry over Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, CA, the Ali Baba Motel is the stuff of myth and legend, making every visitor feel like the chicest Sheik (or Sheba) of Araby!

Ali Baba Motel - Costa Mesa, CA
Mr. Tiny, the Sheik of Failure at self-portraiture

The gleaming golden dome and the mini minarets remind drivers that California is still the land of fruits and nuts (dates and pistachios, naturally), famous for it's brilliant, if altogether anachronistic, architecture.

A view of the dome from the interior courtyard.
Don't you love the atmospheric creeping vine and those aluminum sun covers?!!
The funny part about the Ali Baba (and most roadside motels of a similar vintage) is how
 with just a few cosmetic changes the entire theme could so easily change.  Imagine the
 Capitol Dome Motel; do you think there is a sister motel in the DC area?

The magic is really in the details (like this exterior tile) that are probably
 easier to change than to maintain.  Fortunately, the Ali Baba remains
 mostly intact, setting it apart from the many themed motels that have
 been changed over the years from magic Arabian palaces to just boring,
beige Best Westerns.

A view of the oasis pool through the geometric, Islamic-style screen.
Spaces like this help me dream of really awesome 60's soirees
that are equal parts I Dream of Jeannie and The Party.

Like many of its mid-century, themed counterparts, the Ali Baba has definitely seen better days and more prestigious clientele.  Odds are that plenty of pipe smoking occurs on the premises but I think one would be hard pressed to find a proper hookah.  Moreover, I'm pretty convinced that it is the official hideout of the original forty thieves.  Nevertheless, we can dream of the Ali Baba's glory days; if I found a magic lamp it is more than likely that I'd commit one wish to seeing the Sultan's Suite (there certainly has to be a deluxe room called the "Sultan's Suite," doesn't there?) as it was in 1965.

This is how Mr. Tiny sees himself at the Ali Baba Motel.
Just the hookah, the harem, and the Sheik of Araby.
"The Sheik of Araby" - Spike Jones & His City Slickers

Do you have any wacky tacky, themed motels in your area?  What's the funniest motel in which you've stayed?

Ali Baba Motel
2250 Newport Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA


Mr. Tiny


  1. Thanks for the look into this awesome vintage hotel. I used to drive past it all the time on the way to the Swap Meet. I love themed hotels/rooms. There's a hotel in Tahoe City called Fantasy Inn. It has a lot of different themed rooms. I haven't been but home to stay there at some point.

    1. Yes, it is another on of those places that I drove by all of the time and always thought was awesome. I've even taken other people there to see was high time to stop and take some pictures! I am adding Fantasy Inn to my list of places to see, thanks!

  2. Ha! I grew up just a couple of miles from this hotel, and I must have driven by it hundreds of times, and it's like I never really SAW it until now! Funny how things just fall under one's radar sometimes :-)
    My favorite all-time wacky hotel is the Madonna Inn. I just love that place

    1. I grew up in the area too. It is an under appreciated local landmark. I heard that it might be purchased and turned into a boutique hotel - very interesting!! The Madonna Inn is a MUST STOP every time we pass through SLO!

  3. How random! Also, how fabulous! I now have an intense pistachio craving...

    1. Don't you love the complete thematic randomness of it all?!!! It's insensitive, vulgar, and strange but that is what we love the most!

  4. I second the Madonna Inn; we stayed in the Daisy Mae rock room with its ensuite rock waterfall shower. Another fab place to stay is La Jolla on the Florida Keys, and The Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale Mississippi is very cool Himself and I have spent a few happy holidays exploring the wacky tacky in various parts of the US (home is London, England); keep up the good work of spreading the vibe, Mr Tiny.

    1. Thanks Kate!! How wonderful to have stayed at the Madonna Inn. We stop every time we pass through San Luis Obispo but have never stayed the night. It is so garishly wonderful and the gift shop is usually full of good stuff too! Thanks for the other recommendations; we're always wanting to check out "new" places!

  5. I know that place! Always wanted to go there.

    1. The most I can recommend is to top for a photo op; I can't speak to the cleanliness or safety of the rooms.... I do love seeing the big, gold, onion dome every time we drive by. Every town needs a little fantasy architecture!

  6. Replies
    1. It is like a sheik's secret desert oasis! If'n I get the chance, I would love to have an "I Dream of Jeannie" pool party!

  7. All I can think of is the song "A-Hab, the A-Rab King of the Burning Sands"! HaHaha I love the Alibaba swanky and fabulous!

    1. Isn't it great?! The effort it would take to get it into top shape seems so minimal - hopefully we can make it happen.