Villa of the month: Dar Arbala, Marrakech

This month, Brummell heads to Morocco’s fourth-largest city and booming tourist destination to check into the palatial Dar Arbala

Travel and Wellbeing 13 Jun 2024

The background

Marrakech is just under a four-hour flight from the UK, and yet is probably the farthest you can feel from the British countryside or the streets of London without having to travel to the other side of the world. A heady feast for the senses, Marrakech is not for the faint of heart. The hustle and bustle of the famous medina, which dates back to 1070, with its souks and street vendors vying for your attention (and money), is loved and loathed by tourists in equal measure. Up until relatively recently, Marrakech was rarely visited by westerners, aside from the hippies who flocked to the Red City in the ’60s and ’70s. But times have changed, and today Marrakech is a flourishing tourist destination. In 2023, it was ranked eighth in the Top 10 Best Destinations for International Tourists by Tripadvisor, and in the same year it broke its own record for the number of tourists, reaching 13.2 million visitors. There’s plenty to do in Marrakech beyond haggling for saffron in the souks, and its culinary and cultural offerings are more refined than ever before. Pop into La Mamounia for a nightcap, à la Winston Churchill, who escaped the dreary British winters for ones spent at the hotel (the bar is named in his honour). And don’t miss Jardin Majorelle, which has become Marrakech’s must-visit attraction. The former home of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, which he and partner Pierre Bergé purchased from original owner Jacques Majorelle in 1980, the Art Deco villa is surrounded by towering cacti and 300 plant species, which really pop against the building’s electric-blue (trademarked by the artist as Majorelle Blue) façade. It’s an Instagrammer’s fever dream, and located just around the corner from the equally stylish Yves Saint Laurent Museum, which is also well worth a day trip. Visitors to Marrakech best pack an additional suitcase for all the trinkets they’re sure to take home. For something tasteful and authentic, visit interiors store Mustapha Blaoui in the fashionable Dar el Bacha area, and Lalla for elegant bags and accessories made by local artisans.

The villa

In Marrakech, it’s a good idea to have a luxury base from which to escape the frenetic city centre and recharge your batteries in the sun (incidentally, Marrakech is warm all year round with temperatures of roughly 18°C in the winter and soaring to 40°C in summer). And you can’t get much more extravagant and impressive than Dar Arbala. Located around a half-hour’s drive from the city centre in the Ourika Valley, this sprawling villa accommodates up to 15 people and is set within three-and-a-half acres of beautifully maintained gardens. The traditional Moorish architecture and interiors set the tone, but come with modern amenities such as air conditioning and underfloor heating in the bathrooms, plus a heated swimming pool, gym, tennis and badminton courts. The gardens are, no doubt, where you will spend most of your time, lounging around the swimming pool, socialising in the barbecue area and soaking up views of the snow-capped Atlas mountains. Your very own butler, Ibrahim, will keep you topped up with refreshing mint tea, and the first-rate housekeeping team of maids, 24-hour security and personal chef ensure you need barely lift a finger. However, should you wish to venture farther afield, the local area has excellent hiking opportunities with seven local waterfalls, and a nearby market every Monday offers bargain-hunters the chance to bag a real treasure.

The details

Dar Arbala is available for exclusive hire from £10,500 per week with daily breakfast included. See for more information.