Dar JL: more gardens than guests

November 11, 2010 in MOROCCO | Comments (0)

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An oasis in the Palmeraie district of Marrakech.  Out of rush hour this riad-style resort is just 10 minutes drive from the Medina.  We entered another world. An enchanted world, with hundreds of lanterns glowing under palms and olive trees that stretch through a vast 13 acres of grounds.

A blaze of lanterns leads you up stairs to stepping stones over water into the inner sanctum of Dar JL.

A sense of discovery prevails. We came out onto the main pool area which at night was impossibly romantic, with a sculpture apparently dancing in the flickers of a fire.

You won’t see too many people here at Dar JL. All this space has actually only 10 bedrooms spread out in various residences, fancifully decorated in a homely and colourful way.  Lounging areas are spread out too, with plenty of space to get away from the other guests, should you want to. Wall hangings, carved lanterns, rugs, cushions and hand-fashioned furniture evoke an exotic mood, with themes from as far afield as Sweden (deluxe room Mora with a private terrace), Italy (deluxe room Milano), Asia (suite Cashmir) and Africa (suite Mali) (all in residence Dar Limoon).

Three of the bedrooms lie in villa Dar Jennat which can be rented for sole use – a popular venue for parties and weddings with its large living room and extended terrace area – including plenty of outdoor dining space, sitting space and potential dance platform.  Two Superior Rooms (Fez and Toubakal) lie in residence La Tour – a tower that offers a view and colourful chillout areas.

Yet another room quaintly called Hippie Village is a dream-like walk (or perhaps a dance) over and up a stone path, between the shadows and flickers of lanterns. It was a love affair with Morocco’s colour and textures, woven mats and wall hangings. By contrast, this faraway room features a modern kitchenette.

In this more isolated setting there is an attractive ornamental pool with live fish. Stairs take you up from the pool to the equally hip chillout area. This is a great party venue says Salma Bennani Manager of Dar JL. Among the magic of the trees, lanterns and pool, you won’t disturb anyone. On normal evenings it is open to all guests.

Dar JL is owned by a Swedish couple, who opened it to the pubic some 18 months ago, creating a little stir among those who follow luxury. One extraordinary fact about these gigantic gardens and the handful of rooms is that gardeners outnumber guests. An amazing 80% of the food on the table is organic, produced on the property, says Salma with obvious pride.

Our dinner gave witness to the care and style devoted to food. It also gave a taste of the rare individuality and magic-maker quality of Dar JL. Set up in a tent in the garden, surrounded by the flicker of giant candles in rows of lanterns under the spectre shapes of olive trees. We sat on what I imagine are Bedouin-style cushions by a low table. Our waiter, with infectious friendliness, brought three courses that would delight beyond delight. First a sophisticated kind of spring roll, that sparkled on the tongue with flavours, followed by exotically presented salmon – baked or grilled under a half mango succulently sauced, and then a dessert to remember, chocolate cake hot enough to melt the icecream.

At the end the waiter asked if he could bring the cook to meet us, so there was really an intimate family feeling. Our tips to both seemed to surprise them, almost “no no – you don’t have to” –  demonstrating their genuine friendliness.

Other delights and finesses at Dar JL are the little spa, with hammam and two treatment rooms, tennis court, and a jogging track through the olive groves. Despite the faraway feel it has hi-tech at your fingertips with wi-fi throughout the 5.5. ha estate  – and the hotel loans a Moroccan mobile phone to guests to keep contact with staff.

The other nice thing is the warm welcome of Dar JL Manager Salma…and her staff.

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