Deep in the maze of the Marrakech Medina, Dar Darma is made up of three cavernous rooms and two additional apartments (each with two bedrooms), all of which have been meticulously restored to their original 17th-century grandeur. A striking, ‘Arabian Nights meets La Dolce Vita’ décor has been added to the mix, making the place look as though it has been plucked straight from the pages of ELLE Decoration (think 300-year-old zouak ceilings paired with leopard skin rugs, antique velvet sofas, carved wooden beds and rust-effect or metallic strip walls).
Each room is unique. The first-floor Red Apartment is the largest (and the owner’s pick when he’s in town) and comes with a secret doorway in the middle of the cupboard leading to a bathroom with deep twin bathtubs. The Blue Apartment is only marginally less palatial.
The public rooms are no-less striking. The fern-filled central conservatory is overlooked by a gallery lined with giant black urns, black velvet sofas and walls of picture frames and mirrors. The black and white chequered floor can give the sensation of being lost in a giant chess set and, with the riad’s labyrinth of corridors and secret doors, adds to the slightly surreal ‘Through the Looking Glass’ feel.
- The dramatic decor of antique textiles, hand-painted ceilings and sultry lighting
- You can rent the whole riad as a private holiday home
- The hammam can be heated at a moment’s notice, while the roof terrace plunge pool offers some respite as the medina heats up
- The service – staff answer almost any question with, ‘C’est comme vous voulez’ or, ‘As you wish’
- The large internal windows and expensive antiques mean it’s not ideal for small children
Need to Know: Dar Darma
Number of rooms: 5
Check-in/check-out times: Flexible
Swimming pool: Yes
Spa: Yes. The riad has its own small hammam
Dogs welcome: No
Eating and drinking: As with many riads, there’s no formal restaurant as such, although a traditional Moroccan breakfast is included. The housekeeper will also prepare fine traditional food for lunches and dinners, served in the grand dining room, with a bit of advance notice.
Location: Deep in the heart of the medina, you’re right in the thick of it for exploring Marrakech and its hectic shopping, eating and mooching opportunities. Head to the roof terrace – and pool – for a vista of the Atlas Mountains and a sense of calm. There are many local sights worth venturing out for, including Majorelle Gardens, a beautiful space choc-full of local plants and famously beloved of Yves Saint Laurent whose ashes were scattered here.
Getting there: Marrakech Menara airport is just three miles from the city, so the taxi ride to the edge of the medina is short. From here, it’s a short, but confusing walk so take a map and don’t be afraid to ask people for directions along the way.