This Palmeraie boutique hotel in Marrakech is an expansive domain, with six-metre-high ceilings. The sleeping and lounging zone of Dar Zemora has punched-metal wall sconces, a stone fireplace (lit every evening), jewel-coloured rugs, and French doors leading to the elegant garden.
Get this when you book through us:
A candlelit scented bath with rose petals; if you've booked Dar Zemora for exclusive use, you'll also get a camel ride from the gates
Three rooms, two suites and a pavilion, all very private and looking out on the gardens.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Check-in, 2pm. The hotel can arrange for you to use a shower to freshen up if you have a late flight, and the hotel try to accommodate early and late comers as much as possible.
Double rooms from £180.00, including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, afternoon cake and tea, and mineral water.
Closed every year from late July to late August.
At the hotel
Hammam, treatment room for massage, aromatherapy and reflexology, library, free WiFi in all areas. iPod docks and DVD players are available on request.
Our favourite rooms
Zahara suite has a lovely terrace, wooden four-poster and fireplace. The Perla suite is on the roof, with open fireplace, marble bath and big private terrace. Bebra has a hand-painted bathroom ceiling and traditional brass fittings.
The heated pool is shaded by palms and surrounded by gardens, parasols and teak sundecks.
Layers in winter; swimmers.
Airport transfer for £20 (highly recommended). Private parties of up to 14 adults can book the whole property. Call for specific details of wheelchair access.
Welcome. Baby cots are free and can be added to Mecila, Zahara and the Pavillion. Extra beds for under-16s are £50 a night can be added Zahara and the Pavillion. Babysitting, changing mats and highchairs are available on request.
Weather permitting, round the pool by candlelight. In winter, by a roaring fire in the Omar Room.
As though you’re at home.
If you want a to feast on the first night, let the hotel know before you arrive; otherwise you can decide whether or not you'd like an evening meal at breakfast. A two-course lunch is served daily. In the evening dinner is served at 8.30pm. Jamila prepares a modern, three-course Moroccan dinner every night except Sunday, when a traditional Moroccan four-course feast is served.
None as such: you can relax with a drink wherever you choose.
Dinner's always served at 8.30pm, but late arrivals can order ahead for a light supper.
24 hours, but drinks only after 9.30pm. Staff will whip up light meals for late arrivals, if requested in advance.
Dar Zemora is in the Palmeraie, an area of lush palm groves just outside of Marrakech, a 15-minute drive from the Medina.
The drive from from Marrakech Menara Airport should take 20 minutes (it’s 10 kilometres) (www.onda.ma/ONDA/an). There are direct flights directly from London, Paris and Madrid, but those arriving from North America will need to change.
From the main station in Marrakech, regular trains run to other major Moroccan cities, including Tangier, Casablanca and Fez.
The hotel is in the Palmeraie, a 15-minute taxi ride from the Medina and souks. Dar Zemora can arrange transfers from the airport for their guest. There are hire car desks at the airport, but the hotel recommends you take their transfer option as it’s tricky to find.
Worth getting out of bed for
Genteel pastimes are the order of the day at Dar Zemora: melt into a supine state in the hammam, or grab a mallett and challenge your Mr or Mrs Smith to a game on the croquet lawn. The hotel's superlative staff can arrange more full-throttle pursits: hikes in the Atlas Mountains, horse and camel rides, tennis games, golf tournaments, quad biking and even hot-air ballooning, or a guide to help you unravel the slender, crowded alleyways of the Jemaa el-Fnaa's souks.
I’m sitting at the tiled table on our private terrace in Palmeraie-set sanctum Dar Zemora. To my left, my Mrs Smith lies on an outdoor bed with a white canopy that billows softly in the breeze. Past her, an olive tree, heavy with black fruit; through the leaves, a glimpse of the hallucinatory bright blue of the swimming pool. The only sounds are the birds, the chugging of the sprinklers over the lush lawn and the far away, melodic adhan (call to prayer). We feel marvellously tranquil and alone; and yet, think of anything we might want – a steaming mint tea, a plate of cookies – and the discreet staff, dressed in flowing white during the day and black at night, miraculously appear. It’s impossible not to feel like royalty here, complete with the sprawling palace and gardens.
From the instant we arrive at the airport, there’s an unspoken promise of luxury. Other taxi drivers await their charges with paper signs, but ours (easily arranged through pleasant emails with the riad’s English proprietor, Lindsay) holds an elegant rectangle of carved wood with engraved, looping letters spelling ‘Dar Zemora’. The name means ‘Zemora’s house’ and the proprietors chose it in part for the sonority of the word, reminiscent of ‘amour’. In the seven volumes of press clippings displayed in the hotel’s entrance, this riad is listed over and over – deservedly so – as Marrakech’s most romantic. Rarely have Mrs Smith and I spent a weekend so cocooned, so wrapped in each other’s arms and thoughts.
The taxi speeds us from the airport through Marrakech’s lively streets, and I jostle my Mrs Smith with childlike excitement: ‘Look! Camels!’ Having grown up in Algeria, she’s not quite as awed. ‘Those are dromedaries,’ she corrects me, laughing and stroking my hand. The taxi turns a corner, and honking scooters fall away, replaced by birdsong. We enter the Palmeraie district – the Beverly Hills of Marrakech – where verdure overflows from behind salmon-pink walls. An arched doorway swings open for us. We enter a magnificent garden. Amina, in flowing white, emerges to shake our hands. She leads us on a tour through a dizzying series of spaces. From the grand circular entrance with its high domed ceiling, we visit the Casablanca room with its handcrafted couches, the plush Omar room, the intimate library. Each space balances local architecture and artisanship – ancient carved-wood doors, chandeliers of intricate metal lace, richly hued rugs — with a familiar western cosiness: couches arranged by fireplaces, lamps and coffee tables within easy reach. Mrs Smith immediately spots an elegant chess set and her eyes widen. I try to distract her – ‘There’s a croquet set on the lawn! Scrabble! Cards!’ – but to no avail. She’s devilishly good at chess, and I realise I’m in for another defeat at her hands. Amina whirls us outside again, past the pool, to the spa centre. She shows us a massage room so serene my shoulders un-knot at the sight of it, and a traditional hammam. ‘Like a sauna,’ Amina tells us, ‘…only wet. And Moroccan. And very hot’.
Amina saves the best for last, swinging open the door to our Zahara suite. I gape as we move from the foyer (yes, the proper foyer) to the living and sleeping area. It’s larger than my one-bedroom apartment in Paris. The tadelakt walls, polished with natural black soap, have a rich, chocolate finish, and though the ceilings are tall and the spaces vast, the room feels very intimate.
That first afternoon, we sit on our terrace and drink mint tea into which we dip sweet, crumbly cookies. I break the last one in half to share it, but Mrs Smith leaps up and rushes inside. She comes out with a purple tagine and a bashful grin – ‘I noticed there were more cookies in the room,’ she says, unveiling them. ‘I never want to leave,’ she says, leaning across the table for a kiss. We brush the sugar from our lips and wander the grounds, saying ‘salaam alikoum’ to neon-yellow parakeets and the frogs in the decorative lily-pad-strewn pond. The staff soon come to tell us lunch is ready: cumin and curcuma carrots, home-baked bread, and grilled chicken.
It’s difficult to tear ourselves away, but as the sun begins to set, we ask for a cab and make our way to Marrakech’s bustling Medina. We walk among snake charmers, monkeys perched on shoulders, mountains of spices, fortune-tellers, street players and the calls to prayer from several mosques at once. My heart surges with that elusive feeling, so precious to travellers: I am here, I am alive, I am living. We plunge into the Souk. Vendors call to us: ‘Take a look, wouldn’t you like a magic dress, a magic box, a magic mirror?’ My bag fills quickly with argan-oil soap, a carved wooden box… We rush away, afraid we’ll find ourselves with a carpet that’s impossible to transport on Ryanair. The vibrancy of the city is invigorating, but it’s with some relief that we find ourselves back in a cab, winding our way towards our new home. We play chess till late in the fan room, sitting on plush pillows, surrounded by candles. I lose, quickly and often, but Mrs Smith’s laughter, her smile in the moonlight, her kisses as she leans across the board, make me want to keep playing forever.
By the second evening, the housekeeping staff adorn our bed with flowers. Whatever hesitation we may have felt, as two women in love travelling to Morocco, Dar Zemora’s staff treated us with a respect and hospitality so lavish we never once worried. With our every need met before it was felt, in quiet, in calm, we saw and heard only each other, and fell even deeper in love.