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Alibaba Motel.

Ali Baba Motel

Field review by the editors.

Costa Mesa, California

There was a time when Islamic architectural elements in an American hotel suggested an establishment of opulence, an oasis where one might slumber on a thousand pillows stitched with gold. The Ali Baba (formerly Alibaba) Motel was built in 1973, and last we checked was still distributing postcards with the slogan: "For a brighter tomorrow, rest in our Casbah tonight."

The unique building stands along a busy boulevard. A daylight stop there in the parking lot is fine. No one was around during our visit, except for the friendly front desk manager, who couldn't answer obscure historical questions, but gave us a couple of postcards.

Photographer Phil Pasquini classifies the Alibaba as a prime example of "Islamic Folly" architecture. In his book Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America (full of many amazing examples of Islamic-inspired buildings), Phil writes that the Ali Baba Motel is a "loud visual statement that draws attention solely for commercial purposes."


Resembling a desert palace (though, perhaps, of a cartoon sheik), it features a large central dome, faux minarets, and window and entrance arches. There are lots of little details in the metal shutters and glass. If there was a great neon sign early on, it's long gone.

These days, a preemptive American flag flutters above the office and mars a bit of the faraway land ambience. And in 2019 the motel owners painted the Ali Baba's gold dome white, because, they said, white paint is cheaper.

Ali Baba Motel

2250 Newport Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA
Along Hwy 55/Costa Mesa Freeway, exit at 22nd St to parallel Newport Blvd., east side. Between Cecil Place and Albert Place.
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Nearby Offbeat Places

25-Foot-High Doughnut25-Foot-High Doughnut, Costa Mesa, CA - 2 mi.
John Wayne's YachtJohn Wayne's Yacht, Newport Beach, CA - 3 mi.
Hitler's CarHitler's Car, Costa Mesa, CA - 2 mi.
In the region:
Coffee Pot Building, Long Beach, CA - 18 mi.

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