Relais & Chateaux Property Spotlight: Villa des Orangers
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The streets adjacent to La Villa des Orangers are a cacophony of shouting pedestrians, scooters zooming between cars, horns and the clip-clop of frequent horse-drawn carriages riding by to pick up wayward tourists—but you would never know it from inside.
Situated right outside the Medina (or Souks, or Red City) of Marrakech, the moment you walk through the doors of the Villa, you are instantly relaxed by a sense of serenity. I wondered how it was even possible to be so close to all the action—the old walled city is packed to the brim with vendors and their stalls, riads, restaurants and apartments, and a population density of 350/hectare (compared to downtown Vancouver at about 150 - 191/hectare)—yet, as soon as I walked into the long hallway towards the reception, it felt like the bustle was miles away.
Not to mention the smell! As soon as you enter La Villa des Orangers, you’ll be instantly taken by the sandalwood, spice and orange blossom aromatherapy greeting you. (I even bought a bottle to take home, and I wish there was a way to share scent online—it was one of the most impactful elements of my stay.)
I was warmly welcomed upon arrival, and my luggage was whisked away as I settled in the open courtyard with a Moroccan tea. Surrounded by blooming bougainvillea, the courtyard is crowned by the tops of fruiting orange trees, and a flowing fountain adorned with roses babbles at the centre of the garden. It’s the perfect place to while away the hottest part of the day, relax from your stimulating adventures in the marketplace, or enjoy a light lunch.
The artisanship throughout the building and public spaces at the Villa is incredible. You may forget how busy it is outside, but you won’t forget where you are! All the furniture is hand-carved, and the use of tiles and fabrics create an aesthetic that is undeniably of this beautiful region. The camel leather and black marble elements are combined with wonderfully, unique details—a backgammon table made in Syria in the twelfth century; the locally hand-painted dishes made especially for Villa des Orangers—which bring heritage and modernity together.
Another highlight of my stay at La Villa des Orangers (other than its proximity to the UNESCO Heritage Site on its doorstep) was cooling off in one of the two beautiful on-site pools. The smaller one sits atop a rooftop patio affords views to the high Atlas Mountains and the Koutoubia Mosque Minaret tower just outside the Medina. It’s a perfect perch to watch the sunset and listen to the call to prayers broadcast from the tower in the evenings.
Lastly, the dining experience was superb. With live mandolin music playing during the service, the restaurant offers a variety of French and Moroccan-influenced dishes. A mix of light options, such as tomato-basil gazpacho and local seafood lead to full tasting menus with duck, foie gras, etc. The service itself was excellent and engaging, and my dinner was delicious—I’m still dreaming of the soufflé I had!
All in all, it was a wonderful stay and I would easily recommend Villa des Orangers to anyone considering a trip to Marrakech and Morocco.