Sunday, 20 September 2015
From soaking up the luxury to souking up the sights: A tale of two Moroccos
You can never tell with holidays. Sometimes it takes days to settle in, occasionally it’s instant.
Feeling at home and totally relaxed in Villa Dinari takes precisely 12 minutes.
The first ten involve hosts Heather and Abdellatif showing me their haven of a hotel – stylish, secluded and enchanting.
Bustling: A souk in the heart of Marrakech provides a chance to sample local delights and tastes
The next two are me feeling surprised and grateful for the chilled wine, salted almonds and olives welcoming me to my room.
It’s 20 minutes to the exotic craziness of Marrakech’s Medina, yet I feel as if I’m on a tropical island.
The gardens offer peace and privacy with a blanket of olive, oleander and figs.
Wrought-iron double beds and loungers grace the well-watered lawns around the pool. Low rosemary hedges fringe the paths, teasing you with their fragrance as you brush against them.
And my room is all soft Moroccan textiles with little artisan candleholders, so I can delight in a Jacuzzi bath by candlelight.
Every room has a pen and notebook so visitors can pinch all Heather and Abdel’s ingenious designs (and trust me – they’re worth copying).
This is the ultimate chill-out – like being at an exclusive, upmarket house party, but where you don’t actually have to talk to anyone if you don’t feel like it.
The silence is punctuated only by birdsong and Heather gently asking if I’d like a margarita from the honesty bar.
Naturally I don’t want to leave the villa, but I’m on a mission to discover what unexpected joys Marrakech has to offer, so I don’t just spend all day in its sensational souks.
Julie enjoying a cocktail at her enchanting hotel, the Villa Dinari with provides breakfast, tea and pastries on arrival, and wi-fi
Abdellatif is a walking guidebook with a lifetime’s knowledge of the city, and he not only protects me from being hassled but also masterfully guides me around the labyrinthine Medina, patiently waiting as I pore over flamboyant ceramics, sniff cubes of amber (excellent for deterring moths), admire the prettiest leather babouche slippers and eventually buy two small filigree iron tables for a tenner each.
I have no idea what easyJet will make of them but they’re gorgeous.
I dine at The Clock Cafe, with sunset views over the Kasbah and the signature camel-burger.
What captivates me most are their storytellers, who recount ancient Moroccan tales with such passion. There are translators, but it’s magical even when I don’t understand a word.
The next day I’m transported to the foothills of the Atlas mountains via Tahanaout, an ancient Berber village with an authentic market, where I’m the only tourist in sight.
The relaxing Villa Dinari pool, set amid beautiful gardens. Take advantage of the poolside bar alongside
I’m almost the only tourist at the Terres D’Amanar adventure centre too. I’m rather glad as no one can witness me quaking with fear.
I could go camel-trekking, cycling, horse riding, quad biking or hot-air ballooning, but I opt to cross a ravine on a wobbly, wooden rope bridge, then take a zip wire.
Two hours later I emerge exhilarated and proud – and with a head start if I’m ever asked to do I’m A Celebrity.
Back to safety and a generous dinner at the villa, a delicious, perfumed home-made tagine. I contemplate a hammam or a massage, both available on-site, but I’m asleep before I can utter ‘shukran very much’ for my supper.
TRAVEL FACTS: Plan your own Marrakech adventure