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Hotel Highlights

  • Dramatic melange of 18th-century period detail, antique textiles and bold modern art make this feel like a lived-in museum
  • Authentic hammam, traditional Moroccan cooking and probably the best mint tea in Marrakech
  • A uniquely private residence: the riad is a personal holiday home that you ‘borrow’, complete with staff

Overview

Immersed in the bustle of the Marrakech medina, Dar Darma hotel is a quirky guesthouse that boldly mixes old and new. This private residence places fading textiles next to leopardskin rugs, centuries-old traditional zouak ceilings above velvet lounge chairs. Inside the walls of this fantasy holiday hideaway, a cosy hammam and roof terrace with mountain views are a welcome retreat from the whirlwind of nearby souks.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Dar Darma with us:

Choose between a Moroccan dinner for two on arrival (excluding drinks) or two tickets to Majorelle botanic garden

Special offers

Exclusive rates, packages and special offers at Dar Darma

Ladies at Dar Darma Honeymoon special Save 20% on five-nights stays Save 28% on seven-night stays

Facilities

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Dar Darma Hotel – Marrakech – Morocco

Need To Know

Rooms

Five suites, including two apartments, each with two separate doubles. The hotel is desinged to feel like one residence, so most of the doors don't have locks.

Check–out

By arrangement, depending on subsequent bookings.

Rates

Double rooms from $268.32 (€207), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.50 per person per night on check-out.

More details

Rates include breakfast and, if you're staying more than three nights, return airport transfers. Whole riad, on request (excludes Christmas/New Year), including dinner on first night, breakfast and transfers. Rates exclude local tax.

Also

The riad has its own hammam; give staff a few hours’ warning if you’d like a treatment, so it can be brought to the correct temperature. Staff are very accommodating, so if you’d like to be serenaded at dinner or massaged on the terrace, just ask.

At the hotel

Courtyard, roof terrace with plunge pool, hammam, massages, library, WiFi in rooms. Suites have showers and large baths, TVs and DVD players. Rooms are phone free for maximum relaxation.

Our favourite rooms

The first-floor Red Apartment is the largest and quietest suite, and the one the owner chooses to stay in when he’s visiting; it’s more like an antique-strewn private flat. As well as 18th-century period details such as original doors, hand-painted ceilings and carved plasterwork, it has two generously sized double bedrooms and bathrooms, both with twin sinks, showers and big baths. The Blue Apartment’s cupola-lit, fire-warmed dining and sitting room is flanked by two double rooms, one featuring a four-poster in a wood-panelled recess and a red-walled bathroom; the other (also with a four-poster) has a huge round bath. The smaller, split-level Orange Suite has a handsome black and white sitting room with stairs leading up to an orange and gold-themed bedroom with ensuite bathroom.

Poolside

There's is a little tadelakt plunge pool on the roof terrace, where there are recliners and daybeds for sunbathing, and distant mountain views.

Packing tips

Sketchbook, camera or travel journal, depending on your creative bent. Some good books or DVDs. A long kaftan or djellabah for lounging around in.

Also

Minimum stays of four nights over Christmas/New Year and over the Easter and May Bank Holiday weekends apply.

Children

Welcome (€30 a day for under-14s; €50 for older kids), but large internal windows, an unsupervised courtyard pool and lots of antiques mean it’s not ideal for little ones. Babysitting can be arranged with a few hours’ notice; cribs can be provided.

Food & Drink

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Dar Darma Hotel – Marrakech – Morocco

Hotel Restaurant

Dar Darma’s housekeeper Maria is also a talented cook, creating French and Moroccan dishes for lunch or dinner, from tagines to tarte tatin. You may be joined by gnaoua musicians in the dining room.

Hotel Bar

Drinks can be brought to you anywhere in the riad.

Last orders

You’ll have to give a few hours’ notice if you want dinner, but otherwise there are no rules, within reason.

Room service

8am–9pm, or later with prior arrangement.

Smith Insider

Dress code

Entirely up to you, but interesting vintage pieces and chunky tribal jewellery will feel just right.

Top table

Choose your own adventure: if you don’t fancy the decadent dining room, staff can set up private tables in the courtyard, on the roof, in the mirrored ground-floor salon or in your rooms.

Local Guide

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Dar Darma Hotel – Marrakech – Morocco
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

The riad's dark, cocoon-like hammam is a particularly traditional one, with low-slung heated benches and a low ceiling; allow yourself to be bathed and scrubbed with savon noir, then exfoliated until your skin is softer than rose petals.

Dar Darma will arrange a guided tour of the souks and beyond, or, if you prefer exploring on your own, furnish you with a map, directions, tips, and a number to ring if you need them to send out a rescue party. You’re perfectly located for diving in and out of the souks, visitng the Musée de Marrakech (+212 524 441 893, www.museedemarrakech.ma), wandering down to the square or exporing the antiques shops on Dar el Bacha; the city's largest traditional hammam sits on this street too. 

Dar Darma's cook Maria will teach you how to make mint tea properly and will even give you a Moroccan cookery course if you ask nicely. Learn tajine-based techniques from €60.

At Dar Darma, your wish is their command, so if you want them to bring in belly dancers, arrange a day trip into the High Atlas or a chauffeur to ferry you around while you shop, just say the word.

Local restaurants

Buzzing Moroccan fusion restaurant Le Foundouk (+212 (0)524 378190) is virtually opposite the riad; ask Dar Darma host Brahim to book you a table for two on the first-floor balcony, drink champagne cocktails and tuck into delicious soups, stews and grills with an Oriental twist.

Local bars

Decorative lanterns cast a constellation of lights over chic colonial-style bar and restaurant Le Salama (+212 524 391 300), a short walk from the hotel on the southern side of the Medina. Watch the walls twinkle indoors as you sip a glass of wine, or adjourn to their elegant terrace.

Local cafés

Terracotta walls, vintage railings and a flock of rainbow-hued paper lanterns make Earth Café (+212 660 544 992) one of Marrakech's cheeriest eateries, and as the first vegan and vegetarian café in Marrakech it's also one of the healthiest. Tuck in to fresh juices and veggie-filled filo pastry-wrapped parcels, and keep an eye out for their cooking classes too.

+ Enlarge
Funky old Medina

Dar Darma

11/12, Trik Sidi Bohuarba, Medina, Marrakech, Morocco, 40000

Planes

Marrakech’s Menara Airport is 6km from the city centre. Get there from the UK and other hubs in Europe with British Airways (www.ba.com) or Royal Air Maroc (www.royalairmaroc.com). Taxis from the airport take 20 minutes and will cost around €15 – make sure you agree a price before setting off to avoid being overcharged.

Trains

The Moroccan state railway, ONCF (www.oncf.ma), runs inexpensive (but limited) services to Marrakech from Casablanca, Fez and Tangier. Look for TCR (Train Climatisé Rapide) trains to guarantee air-conditioning in summer. You’ll find plenty of taxis waiting at the city’s charming, if slightly dilapidated, station on Avenue Hassan II.

Automobiles

Driving is not recommended in the congested centre of Marrakech and parking around the hotel can be very difficult. If you do want to hire a car, several companies have desks at the airport. To reach the hotel, follow Avenue de la Menara into the city.

Reviews

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Dar Darma Hotel – Marrakech – Morocco

Anonymous review

by Lisa Allardice , Literary-world reporter

‘Dar Darma, Dar Darma,’ muses the robed man with only four teeth. ‘Dar Darma, Dar Darma,’ echo two boys on battered bikes. A long conversation in Arabic ensues. ‘Come, this way please,’ says the youngest, in perfect English. Mr Smith and I look at each other doubtfully. We have been doing circles of the souk for nearly an hour. This is our second stop on…
Read more

Dar Darma

Anonymous review by Lisa Allardice, Literary-world reporter

‘Dar Darma, Dar Darma,’ muses the robed man with only four teeth.
‘Dar Darma, Dar Darma,’ echo two boys on battered bikes.
A long conversation in Arabic ensues.
‘Come, this way please,’ says the youngest, in perfect English.

Mr Smith and I look at each other doubtfully. We have been doing circles of the souk for nearly an hour. This is our second stop on a long weekend in Marrakech, otherwise we would have taken a taxi from the airport (only small cars can enter the city walls). Stallholders are beginning to close and it is getting dark as we follow our unlikely guides down increasingly dubious alleyways, my pull-along suitcase and gold slippers (an earlier Souk purchase) no match for the mediaeval cobblestones. Despite the Pied Piper procession that we gather along the way, it seems nobody knows how to find this enigmatically named hotel.

Down a narrow street on which I’d be less surprised to find a red telephone box than a luxury hotel, a woman weighed down with grocery bags exclaims ‘Dar Darma!’ and points us in the direction of an iron doorway in the medina wall. We ring the ancient bell.

Dar Darma really is worthy of risking a hackneyed Aladdin’s cave reference – especially as there's a touch of rock ’n’ roll to its exoticism. From the dust and commotion outside we find ourselves transported to a room of cathedral-like calm. Everything is on a dramatic scale: vast ceilings, wall-length windows, all muted shades and rich fabrics. A log fire is burning in the huge grate, the light reflected in giant silver urns, trees casting magical shapes from the courtyard.

Staff in black uniforms emerge from the shadows and they take our luggage so smoothly we hardly notice. Guided gently along another corridor and up a steep, stone staircase, we are shown to our room. We're in the Patio Suite, so called, presumably because it stretches the whole length of the riad, looking down onto the gardens below. The other ‘apartments’ are themed by colours and vary not only in tone but degrees of drama and decadence – one is almost entirely covered in mirrors. Ours, impossibly sumptuous as it is, seems to be the simplest – with the plain, restful bedroom and majestically elegant bathroom. These are just the sort of stylish, opulent rooms you might expect to find in Yves St Laurent’s own luxurious Moroccan villa; the fashion designer loved the city so much he requested his ashes be scattered here and you can still visit YSL’s gorgeous Jardin Majorelle.

After our lengthy adventures getting to the hotel, we deem it smart to head to the well-known Hôtel les Jardins de la Koutoubia. The Piano Bar is a deliciously louche combination of red-leather armchairs, gold finishes, cigarette smoke (and, yes, there’s a man tickling the ivories, playin’ it again – and again). Taking no chances, we get a taxi back to Dar Darma and discover we had missed the front entrance entirely. Our bedroom, with two impossibly high, simple wood-framed four-poster beds pushed together, is strangely monastic amid the regal flourishes elsewhere; the heavy curtains drawn, it is as dark and silent as in the days of the mediaeval medina.

Sadly, it is a too chilly for us to breakfast on the terrace, so we eat in the imposing dining room looking out onto the winter-sun-filled courtyard. A must for anyone staying at Dar Darma is a visit to the Ben Youssef Medersa, a Koranic scripture school dating back to the 14th century. With its decorative domed prayer hall, courtyard pool, zellij-tiled façades and cedar carvings, it is simply stunning (although the 100 tiny, window-less student chambers are less appealing to anyone used to a Smith hotel perhaps), and it’s just around the corner. It was still in use up until the 1960s, apparently, and Kate Winslet fans will recognise it as the school in Hideous Kinky.

A little souk-sullied after the previous day’s hard bartering, it's tempting to explore beyond the city – which in Marrakech means a trip into the mountains, the desert or possibly the coast at Essaouira. Having been recommended a restaurant just over an hour’s drive away called, enchantingly, La Pause, we opt for this oasis in the sand dunes. The proprietor – a charmant French hippy – discovered it one day while out horse riding and transformed into an eco-resort. The price of the meal isn’t cheap, though it does include a car and driver, and as a lunch destination, it doesn’t get much more remote. It’s just the two of us under a Bedouin tent on cushions at low tables in the desert, but with white-clothed sophistication. And what a view: you half expect to see Ralph Fiennes staggering over the horizon. The traditional Moroccan cuisine is the best of our visit, finished off with chocolate brownies and strawberries. A little incongruous, yet somehow perfect. Mr Smith is going to have to go to some imaginative lengths to beat this rendezvous for romance.

On our return to the city, to prolong the serene effects of our excursion, we opt for a spot of pampering – North African style. And where better than the spa at Maison Arabe? A subterranean pleasure palace of domed recesses and pools, in which thousands of tiny stars from the giant brass lanterns play across the surface: the surroundings are ethereal; our masseuse is robustly corporeal. We submit ourselves to a no-nonsense rub-down and an even more business-like, but gloriously effective, massage. Feeling scrubbed and sparkling clean and as insubstantial as the reflected stars, we can do no more than float upstairs for a light supper in one of the restaurant’s invitingly intimate coves. Eventually we feel drawn by the lure of the velvety darkness of Dar Darma. But oh, for 999 more nights! Let’s hope we mysteriously can’t find our way back…
 
 

The Guestbook

Reviews of Dar Darma from Smith members

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