Dar Zemora, Marrakech, Morocco
Hands up everyone who’s been on holiday, and spent their final, rosé-soaked lunch planning how they’re going to buy a property on the island/beach/city (delete as applicable) and move there part-time/full-time/when they retire (again, delete as applicable). Hands up who’s actually done it.
Those hands at the back belong to Lindsay and Paul Kentish, who’d always dreamt of buying a winter home for themselves in Morocco, but through luck or circumstance didn’t end up with just a house, but a whole plot of land in the Palmerie on the outskirts of Marrakech, and turned it not just into a weekend retreat for themselves, but a boutique hotel, too. Lucky us.
Note to Marrakech newbies: ‘Palmerie’ sounds like a beautiful oasis outside the city… it’s not really. There are plenty of palms, but this is less Arabian nights, and more criss-crossed roads and broken down housing. It is, however, home to some beautiful hotels and a great retreat from the madness of the medina, if a trek up into the Atlas Mountains is too much of a stretch. And at Dar Zemora, where the grounds are stuffed to the manicured fringes with orange and lemon trees, twittering birds and a rather lovely pool and pool house, you really couldn’t feel further from the hustle and bustle of the medina.
Many of the staff have been at Dar Zemora since it opened in 2003, and that ‘nothing is too much trouble’ motto that so many hotels quote with wanton abandon really does ring true here. So, when it was too chilly on the March night we stayed, a fire was whipped up in our room, and when we woke up the next morning, straw hats were already laid out on the wrought iron loungers on what they bill as a terrace, but is essentially an entire rooftop.
While this property ended up being big enough for Lindsay and Paul to fling open its beautiful wooden door to paying guests as well as family, it’s small enough that if you want to book the whole place, you can turn it into the perfect retreat for your own extended family vacation. There are six rooms, with the beautiful, four-poster La Perla suite (where we stayed) definitely the one to snag if you do invite friends to join. Or, if you fancy a little more seclusion, the Pool Pavilion room in those aforementioned, sweet-smelling gardens.
Dinner is a one-choice affair, and didn’t blow us away (I would take a taxi into the medina for food on a repeat visit), but the evening experience is still pretty lovely: a glass of wine from the silver drinks trolley in front of a roaring fire and a game of chess before food.
This is a place for idle games and lounging around, with outdoor terraces liberally scattered with cushions and drapes, and spacious rooms full of places to curl up with a book. Or maybe a sketch book and pen for planning your own home away from home.