Berber, Arabic and Moorish culture, exotic spices, desert backdrop, minarets, mountains, mint tea, medina, mayhem, enchanting hideaways… all with a French intonation – this is Marrakech.
Adelto’s Assif Majid heads to the Moroccan city of cool. It may feel like a real-life Indiana Jones film but he makes it back in one-piece to tell his tale.
I’d arranged to meet a member of Dar Jaguar’s staff outside Café de France in the ancient Jemaa el-Fna Square at midday. We didn’t know what she looked like and I’m not sure if she knew what we looked like either. Fifteen minutes had passed and no sign of her. All this time a woman outside the busy café kept looking at her mobile and looked rather anxious, it was only when I approached her and asked if she was with Dar Jaguar and she replied yes, are you Assif? What a relief, despite it being June the temperature was 43°C and I was getting rather sweaty in the hot sun. Our luggage was then arranged and loaded onto a hand-drawn cart, and off it disappeared amidst the chaos. We then followed this very welcoming lady to the riad, which was only a five-minute walk away from the main square, some riads are a 15-20 minute walk away as many of the streets are pedestrianised.
After a few near collisions with mopeds, donkeys and tourists who seemed lost we arrived at the Dar Jaguar. Our host opens the big black wooden door and we enter an opulent, tranquil and mysterious riad, leaving behind the dust and disorder of Marrakech. The first thing you notice is the leopard print wallpaper and the sumptuous dark hallway. The smell of burning oil and incense really set the ambience for what was to come…
First impressions: wow, romantic and chic
…We were escorted to our room – ‘The State of Grace’ – it comes with its own independent staircase and entrance hall. The room certainly has the wow factor and it’s huge. Its private Italian-style ‘Juliet’ balcony looks over the gently flowing petal-filled fountain of the Dar Jaguar courtyard and across to the breathtaking Syrian chandeliers in the open salon and plunge pool area. The king size four-poster bed has been especially commissioned for the suite, as have the opulent jewel coloured silk velvet curtains and cushions that adorn it.
The room has a monochrome feel to it. The flooring is like a chessboard with its black and white tiles. A cowhide rug sits in front of the fireplace that has the word ‘Love’ in it, perfect for romantic winter nights. The State of Grace room is also the Royal Suite and is perfect for honeymooners and other special occasions. Four state carver chairs – two Victorian leather and two gilt and turquoise silk art deco – sit proudly in this luxurious room. The sculpted plasterwork framing the entire suite is over three hundred years old and magnificent in its detail and intricacy. A glorious 1800s French crystal chandelier that looks awesome subtly lights these historic features. There are two large wardrobes that can be locked, which are definitely needed, as there is no safe in the room – a typical custom with Marrakech riads.
The bathroom was small but extremely lavish, it is styled in black polished silky-smooth tadlekt plaster and natural bejmat tile flooring. A massive freestanding copper bath sits at its centre lit by two exotic crystal Syrian hanging lights. There is no separate shower but a copper hand shower in the bath. There are also beautiful dual copper basins and there are plenty of thick black towels – the bathroom is a dream, opulent, tranquil and romantic.
The State of Grace
The luxury Marrakech riad has a close connection to all that is stylish and sophisticated in its partner business, The State of Grace in Notting Hill, London. The owner, Lucia Silver, is a couture fashion designer with clients ranging from Keira Knightley to Paloma Faith. The luxury Marrakech riad has clearly been exquisitely decorated with the distinctive touch Lucia is known for in London. It brings together an exquisite blend of traditional Moorish and Oriental architecture with an elegant European romanticism.
Lovingly restored from a crumbling shack less than two years ago, the ancient fortress palace dates back hundreds of years – and has been created and curated by Lucia into the most fabulous guesthouse for up to ten people.
Dar Jaguar offers four spacious en suites and one Royal Suite, as well as three different salons and a large sun-drenched roof terrace with magnificent views over the city. There is also a plunge pool set under the ancient carved woodwork and huge Syrian chandelier – one of the many interior treats designed by Lucia. Free WiFi is also available on the ground floor.
Each room has an individual style with furnishings and heirlooms sourced from all corners of the globe:
Peridot’ s Powder Room
Is a pale Georgian green room behind a pair of two metre-tall cedar wood doors. Located just by the beautiful Dar Jaguar courtyard, the room has a double bed and a pale cream high marble console table lit by beautiful copper cutwork lights. Its bathroom is Roman style with columns and a deep tadlekt bath.
Is a rich ochre-coloured suite with majestic heavy antique brass studded entrance doors. Set off the beautiful Dar Jaguar courtyard, the room has a double bed (or optionally twin beds), a black ammonite marble console table, lavish silk cushions and exquisite pastel coloured Syrian hanging lights. The bathroom is a chic dark grey with long lavish copper mirrors.
Is an alluringly exotic magenta room with its own intimate entrance hall set off the peaceful open salon, behind a romantic archway on the first floor. Babylonian Vamp has a double bed with lavish silk cushions, a tall marble console table and exquisite Syrian crystal lights. Lucia describes this as her gay room! The riad is a gay-friendly resort and has hosted many gay clienteles despite Morocco’s religious conservatism. Marrakech is despite this a very gay-friendly city with many trendy gay hangouts.
Is a pale aquamarine first floor suite looking over the beautiful Dar Jaguar courtyard. Gossamer Wings has a double bed (or optionally twin beds) and exquisite Syrian hanging lights. It has five windows making it a wonderfully light and airy room. As it is near to The State of Grace suite and also accessed by an independent staircase, it is perfect as an adjoining family room for children.
There is a wonderful courtyard with a palm tree and water fountain filled with rose petals in the centre. The gentle trickle of water is extremely soothing and relaxing – it is much needed after the chaos of the souks and bazaars.
Dinner can be served anywhere in this luxury Marrakech riad. You can choose from the open-air courtyard, rooftop terrace or the very elegant dining room next to the Dar Jaguar boutique, where you can buy exclusive Kaftans and designs by Lucia.
We didn’t have dinner at the riad, as we decided to eat out, but I’m told the talented chef can prepare most dishes for you. All meals are cooked on the day using seasonal fruit and vegetables bought fresh from the market. However, we did enjoy breakfast every morning. You just need to let the staff know what time you would like it the night before. We were served a fabulous breakfast of fresh orange juice in the most glamorous decanter, a choice of mint tea in a traditional copper pot (with or without sugar), coffee, delicious fresh fruit, honey, pancakes and croissants.
The luxury Marrakech hotel offers sumptuous exoticism like no other riad. It is situated in the heart of the ancient district of Marrakech and guarantees some of the best care and attention from the moment you book and until you leave. Prices are reasonable with rooms starting at £95 per night and with the Royal Suite (the size of a small apartment) being £189 per night.
Open throughout the year this boutique Marrakech hotel prides itself in its personalised itinerary for guests. They will tailor-make your ideal break away. The best of Moroccan cuisine, trips to the desert for camel rides, four by four dune buggying and golf, hot air ballooning, henna tattooing, belly dancers and belly dancing lessons, oriental dancers and traditional musicians, snake charmers, fire eaters, personal guides/chauffeurs, excursions out of the city and more can all be arranged.
All of the above can be arranged for honeymooners, hen weekends, special birthday celebrations, intimate weddings and more and if ten people are staying together and taking the exclusive use of Dar Jaguar, this works out at £65 per person per night which is a steal. This includes four private members of staff and breakfast every day too!
Our hosts were perfect. Willing to go out of their way to help and really make you feel comfortable – and nothing is too much trouble. You feel like part of their family. The Dar Jaguar employs English, French and Arabic speaking staff, all with impeccable customer service, on call 24-hours a day. This luxury Marrakech riad is not one of your run of the mill type European establishments. Marrakech riads operate quite differently so don’t expect to find a TV, minibar, telephone or tea/coffee making facilities in your room. Security is 24/7 at the house. You need only concern yourself with enjoying your totally personalised itinerary, delicious food and stylish, peaceful surroundings.
The time you will spend at the Dar Jaguar you will treasure for a lifetime.