Dar Zaman

Marrakech, Morocco Book from

A beautiful, intimate hideaway in the quieter reaches of the northern medina, whose warm service makes for an unforgettable stay
The taxi dropped me on a main road opposite a narrow cobbled lane which looked, for all the world, like yet another dark dead-end in Marrakech's winding medina. And while it may be a cul-de-sac in the strict sense, a regal wooden door at the end opens to reveal a true haven from the bustle of the outside world. Dar Zaman’s beauty lies in its intimate size (there are just 4 rooms) and its truly personalised service. It also happens to be great value.

When Peter, a British former ad exec, first visited Marrakech in 2005 he had no plans to settle, but on entering the calm of the riad it is easy to see why he has stayed. The building - little more than a shell then - has been lovingly restored to emphasise the beautiful pointed arches, white stonework and wrought-iron grilles of the central courtyard, which now provides a perfect space to relax after a day of exploring the madness of the souks.

As soon as darkness falls, the riad comes alive in the glow of candle light and warm hues. Rose petals are sprinkled on the beds and dinner tables, and candles light the stairways and halls. The 4 bedrooms are stylishly simple and decorated in neutral tones to complement the Zen ambience. Couples on a budget will love it here.

Highs

  • Peter and Hassan's warm and attentive service will leave you feeling like you have spent your time in Marrakech with kind and knowledgeable friends
  • You're an easy 10-minute walk from the main square, and a short walk from 2 of Marrakech's best restaurants (Zellij and Yacout) and the Medersa Ben Youssef
  • Great value for money, and a pretty and peaceful haven from the busy streets outside. We awoke to nothing but the gentle sound of birdsong during our 2014 revisit
  • Our 3-course evening meal was delicious, fresh and creative, which cannot be said of all in-riad dinners

Lows

  • Finding the riad can be a tricky, but Hassan will come out to meet you at the main road when you first arrive
  • Bathrooms are quite small, with little natural light; bedrooms are narrow too (as so often in riads)
  • With just 4 rooms, you'll need to book early

Best time to go

The best times to go weather-wise are in the spring months (March to end of May) and the autumn (October and November), when it is sunny but not too hot. The high season is April, May and the Christmas/New Year holidays. Summer (June-September) can get very hot.

Our top tips

Besides all the obvious stuff - avoiding the hot summer, checking Ramadan dates, putting your bargaining hat on in the souks, not travelling as a solo girl - we suggest you take up the hotel's offer of borrowing a Moroccan mobile phone so that you can easily call them if (or, in our case, when) you get lost. It's free, and comes pre-charged with credit and useful numbers. They can talk you back or come and collect you - one guest said that the ride to the riad on the back of Hassan's motorbike was the highlight of their stay!

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
City Style
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 4
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • Over 12s only
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

This is stylish simplicity at its best. Walls are neutral creams and whites with rich splashes of reds and burgundies in the bedspreads. The furnishings are elegant: carved wooden lamps and bedside tables, soft Berber rugs on stone floors, and ornate shutters which can be closed at night for an indulgent lie in.

The 4 bedrooms are all equally charming; there is no duff choice. Three of them are on the first floor, with windows opening onto the calm of the courtyard below, while La Terrasse is on the roof terrace (smaller and less private, but handy for sun-worshippers). Given a choice - which is rare, given its popularity - La Douiria Superior would be our tip for winter stays (it's the largest, with a working fireplace which is perfect for snuggling up), while La Carbone Superior is perhaps the most stylish, with its charcoal-and-red colour scheme. The beds have perfectly plump pillows and beautifully crisp linen which made bedtime a real treat. Given the narrowness of the rooms - a common feature of most riads - some beds are set right up against the wall on one side.

Each ensuite bathroom is decorated in traditional tadelakt, with an abundance of soft towels and Sens de Marrakech goodies which we loved. All have showers except La Baignoire which has a wide tadelakt tub (with shower attachment) - you can request candles for a romantic evening soak. All have hairdryers and decent size mirrors; the only thing missing is natural light.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Hairdryer
  • Heating (Reverse A/C)
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Food at Dar Zaman is a leisurely, intimate affair; breakfast, lunch and dinner (the latter two on request) can all be enjoyed inside or out. The cosy dining area has space for 3 couples, while the courtyard and roof terrace provide picturesque alternatives for dining al fresco.

In some B&B-style riads, dinner is an afterthought, but not here. Simply put in a request in the morning, and chef Karima will source fresh produce from the market, taking on board any dietary preferences – nothing is too much trouble.

We arrived late in the evening and - having requested dinner ahead of our arrival - were welcomed by a candlelight, rose-scattered courtyard table, relaxing tunes from Peter’s iPod dock gently humming in the background. We opened with a selection of Moroccan starters including fresh courgette salad, a sweet tomato dish and home-baked bread; then a choice between 2 mouth-watering tagines - lamb and prune with toasted almonds or, our selection, a succulent lemon chicken - served with fragrant rice. Finally apple crepes were followed by mint tea and coffee. It may be a fairly standard Moroccan menu, but it was all delicious, fresh and reasonably priced. We’d also recommend sampling the Moroccan wine as it’s usually better value than international offerings - we went for the rose and found it to be the perfect dinner accompaniment. If you fancy a change of scene, Dar Zellij and Dar Yacout - two of Marrakech's best restaurants - are a short walk away (you'll need to book).

For our breakfast, we were in the cool, shaded dining room, a welcome choice in the heat of mid-May, although if you’d prefer the views and sunshine of the terrace just ask. The choice was impressive: warm bread and pastries, homemade jams and freshly cooked pancakes, plus a selection of fruits and natural yoghurt. Light lunches and snacks can be arranged throughout the day.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Cooking classes
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore the medina: Peter has compiled a comprehensive list of tips - where to eat, how to shop, what not to miss - which you can browse over breakfast. In addition to the big draws - palaces, souks, medersas - he points out hidden gems such as the Maison de Photographie, which houses over 3,000 black and white images of Morocco from 1870-1950; and Dar Cherifa, a magical 16th century house built around a central courtyard with tall columns, ancient stucco work and old carved beams
  • Keen shoppers should consider booking a guide to take you around the souks and point out the best handicrafts
  • Take a horse drawn carriage around the city (available from Jemaa el-Fnaa), and then cool down with a mint tea at the Cafe des Epices, and watch the world go by
  • Back at the riad, chill out with a book in the shade of the beautiful roof terrace; or slip into the tiny plunge pool if you're feeling hot and bothered (and not too self-conscious)
  • Ask staff to book you in at a nearby hammam; or arrange a day's hike in the Atlas mountains, an hour away by car

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Camel rides
  • Cooking classes
  • Historical sites
  • Local hammam (steam baths)
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

This is definitely aimed at couples, and children under 12 are not accepted unless you take the whole riad.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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