The serene oasis of Palmeraie feels like a tranquil haven in comparison to the buzz of the Marrakech medina, yet this peaceful slice of rural Morocco is a mere 15 minutes from the city. Tucked away in this leafy sanctuary, the picturesque grounds of the exclusive Ezzahra Estate are surrounded by ancient olive trees and vibrant bougainvillea and the air rich with the heady scent of orange blossom. Located behind the property’s huge carved wooden doors is a selection of capacious and luxurious villas; among them sits Villa Azzaytouna (meaning ‘olive’ in Arabic) – the newest addition to the complex.
A small and intimate retreat, three-bedroom Villa Azzaytouna (above) can sleep up to six guests, making it perfect for families or a group vacation. The fully-staffed private estate has a romantic outdoor area complete with a 12.8-metre pool, candlelit Berber tent (ideal for evening drinks) and dining terrace. Inside, the villa’s contemporary Moroccan interiors are combined with traditional English charm. Designed by British interior designer Philip Hooper and peppered with finds from the local souks – including antique pots and Beni Ourain rugs – the east-meets-west surroundings and homely finishes make it the perfect setting for a relaxing break. In the plush bedrooms you’ll find open fires (perfect for chilly winter nights), private terraces with plunge pools and shaded Indian daybeds and loungers. The villa also comes with its own beauty therapists, a hammam and spa where you can enjoy luxurious Les Sens de Marrakech and Moroccan argan oil treatments on a whim. The estate’s other two houses, seven-bedroom Villa Ezzahra and two-bedroom Villa Alkozama can be taken over too, creating a perfect party venue accommodating up to 26 guests. If you do wish to book the entire estate, activities include tennis courts, golf and horse riding, plus there are screening rooms, a gym and another spa – plenty to keep you entertained without having to leave the blissful sanctuary.
For an authentic Moroccan experience, the labyrinthine souks of Marrakech cannot be missed. However, venture off the beaten track a little to Souk el Khemis, also known as Jeudi market, to discover eclectic antiques from old doors to chandeliers – many of Azzaytouna’s amazing relics were sourced here. Mustapha Blaoui is another hidden gem; a true Aladdin’s cave with exotic lamps and rugs in every corner – you won’t leave empty-handed. Next up, Sidi Ghanem is a key location for modern design, with shops such as Chabi Chic offering stylish Moroccan homewares to suit a cleaner aesthetic.
EAT & DRINK
Good food is an essential component of any memorable vacation, and Azzaytouna’s offerings – prepared by the house chef, who combines traditional Moroccan recipes with contemporary cooking methods – do not disappoint. Days start with an abundance of fresh fruit and juices, homemade breads, pastries and conserves, including the villa’s signature almond butter with a hint of vanilla. The lunch menu ranges from chilled cucumber gazpacho to salads and monkfish, while dinner is often a tagine, cooked over a traditional fire. Guests have been known to take over the kitchen to make their favourite recipes including marmalade (groves of bitter oranges grow throughout the villas grounds) as well as florentines.