Archaeological excavations have been made in the mountains around Marbella, which point at human habitation in Paleolithic and Neolithic times. There are also remains of Phoenician and later Carthaginian settlements in the area of Rio Real. In Roman times, the city was called Salduba
During Islamic rule, Muslims built a castle in this city, and they surrounded it by walls. The name Marbella, which is derived from Marbil-la, dates from this Islamic era. In 1485, the Spaniards reconquered the city, and during the centuries that followed, the city grew.
In the 1940s, Marbella was a small village with only 900 inhabitants. But this soon changed when Prince Max Egon zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg and his heir Alfonso de Hohenlohe experienced a problem with their Rolls-Royce in the vicinity. This first encounter with Marbella so impressed Alfonso that he decided to buy land commercially, marketing the area as a tourist destination. In 1954 he opened the Marbella Club Hotel; his son had recently returned from California, and the hotel was loosely modeled on the motel style with lower pitched terracotta roofs among 23,000 trees.
Given Alfonso's maternal membership in Spain's titled aristocracy (his mother, Doña Piedad Iturbe y Scholtz, was the Marquesa de Belvis de las Navas), and his paternal kinship to the royal courts of Europe, the hotel quickly proved a hit with vacationing members of Europe's ruling elites, and those privileged to socialise with them in casual yet discreet luxury. Don Jaime de Mora y Aragón, a Spanish bon vivant, brother to Fabiola, Queen of the Belgians, was a frequent vacationer.
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