Halfway through a stay @ Dar Zaman - it gets better by the day.
I came to Morocco to attend the wedding of a childhood friend's son to a Moroccan woman in Casablanca, and was overwhelmed by the festivities, and the warmth I received from everyone as a visiting American, just after the US ambassador was murdered in Libya, and anti-American riots erupted across the Arab world in protest to the idiotic video defaming Islam posted by an American on YouTube.
I have wanted to visit Morocco for many years and this was a great opportunity. However after the intimacy of the wedding at the family's beautiful home at the beach in Mohammedia - Casablanca totally underwhelmed me. I left by standing room only space in 2nd class ( 1st was sold out) un- air conditioned train for the 4 hour+ trek to Marrakech, only to become sick and prisoner of my hotel bathroom ( in a very nice, and well under-priced modern hotel in Gueliz - Les Trois Palmiers, but a standard modern western style hotel). The frame of mind being ill was turning my better judgments against my Moroccan adventure. Having traveled extensively all my life, and now creating custom private tours for clients, I knew better. But my utmost desire was to hop the 1st plane out & up to a friends in London (- not my favorite place in Europe to spend time when so many fascinating destinations within a few hours of travel lay at your feet there).
I forced myself to visit at least one riad in the old medina to get a feel for what the experience could be before I took off.
Still not feeling well, & absolutely very anxious to leave the next afternoon,
I made myself take a short cab ride to Sidi Ben Slimane - a neighborhood worlds apart from the modern Gueliz section, and was led by one of the multitude of children anxious to earn 20 dirhm from the taxi just steps away to the door of Riad Dar Zaman.
From the moment Hassan greeted me at the door I was transported. I knew instantly I was NOT boarding a plane to England the next day.
As if in a dream you walk into this space so stylish, yet understated in design -subtle tones of white, & ivory pillars and wrought iron loggias around the open air central courtyard. It is as if you've entered a small wing of a faintly Andalusian palazzo.
But the warmth of Hassan, accompanied by the effusive praise of an American from NYC (who had never been out of the USA before) had me mesmerized.
Even better the next day was the welcome shown by the owner, Peter, an ex-NYer, born in England. He escorted me to a lunch which any intrepid traveler can only hope to find by getting very local insider info - a stark little neighborhood hole in the wall with THE best poulet au citron accompanied by a bowl of slightly spicy white beans that I could eat for lunch the rest of my life. Then lead to Dar Cherifa & what had to be a silence of an intensity I've never experienced within its enclosure ( see photo ) - a beautiful multi-storied space around a courtyard with a shallow impluvium floating rose petals on its surface. It is a space you can visit and read, or just sit overwhelmed with the peace the silence brings. When you come back to normal consciousness - do order the orange cake saturated with a reduction of jus de orange and orange blossom water - it makes transition back to reality easily bourne ( btw those of you that know of the orange cake suffused similarly at famed Maya's in St. Barth - beware - as incredible as Maya's is - & I'm one of her biggest devotees - this tops it ( my apologies to Maya & Randy whom I consider friends ).
I spent 2 nights at the Riad and, because there was no room in the inn for this baby Jesus (hardly) - I'd have gladly stayed in a straw manger there - Peter arranged for me to let a flat in Essaouira on the Atlantic coast for the weekend - another find - 3 rooms in the Mellah quartier in a centuries old building beautifully renovated - blue & white portuguese tiled kitchen and bath, a salon and a 4 poster bed - all with wooden ceilings I laid in bed and stared at happily for some time.
But I couldnt wait to return to Riad Dar Zaman, in the midst of the craziness of the medina. I'm back for 3 nights. I do think maybe I'm still ill and dreaming, because a small guest house offering only 4 bedrooms would normally have me wondering about the enforced intimacy with the other guests. They have all been as lovely and interesting as the super staff here. I don't even want to leave this haven to go out anywhere. Peter has dragged me out the door thank goodness several times, and seen only a few facets of the charms of Marrakech. I'm threatening to have renters squatting rights til they have to get the police to throw me out.
Am I being over-wrought in my praise ?
It's hardly sufficient to describe the way I feel here - especially after being ready to write off completely a destination
I've always yearned to visit.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Dar Zaman is an exquisite Moroccan house in the heart of the Marrakech medina. Chic and romantic, we have four, beautiful en-suite double bedrooms, a sun terrace, plunge pool, and most importantly, a fun and spirited team to take care of you! We're English-owned and managed: come and stay with us and savor our superb hospitality! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Riad Dar Zaman Hotel Marrakech