ALEKK M. SAANDERS
Tuesday, 15 November 2022
Once upon a time, the site just above Marbella with the view over Africa was... French. The wooded terrain of more than 1,500 hectares that stretches into the foothills of the Serranía de Ronda covered with unique firs and centenary oak trees was owned by Henry Roussel, from the multimillionaire family running a large pharmaceutical company in France. His son, Thierry Roussel, is also known as the fourth husband of Christina Onassis. The French built an estate corresponding the technical infrastructure and refinement set new standards in Marbella and the Costa del Sol.
Like Alfonso von Hohenlohe's Marbella Club, that in the 50s became a magnet for the rich and famous, in the 60s the Roussel's 'finca,' attracted the world's elite. It is believed that among the celebrity guests who dropped in Roussel's Benahavis estate were the King Emeritus of Spain, Saudi, British and Monegasque royalty and some presidents and prime ministers. Heads of state international corporations, intellectuals, film stars and celebrities were regulars at the stylish estate.
When, years later, the Saudi billionaire, Adnan Khashoggi, fell in love with Marbella and its surroundings, he made Thierry Roussel an offer he couldn't refuse. Eventually, the Roussel's old-school refinement was transformed into the more flamboyant but endearing style, typical of Khashoggi.
The new estate, bordering the northern part of the Roussel property, was named La Baraka. The sprawling luxury villa built was supposed to become the setting for lavish parties attended by celebrities and grandees. The spirit of a truly glamorous Marbella conquered the Benahavis hills more when El Madroñal was created. When Khashoggi was arrested, the land was put up for auction.
In the very beginning of the 1990s, nearly 900 hectares in the area of La Baraka, were purchased by a group of investors led by Enrique Perez Flores. The idea was to create a private estate – a luxury area with golf courses and ultra-exclusive homes and very special infrastructure. In 1992, the first roads and homes were inaugurated. The same year they started the constructing of the first golf course that was designed by the American designer Bradford Benz. In 1994, the golf course was opened along with establishing the sporting association Club de Campo La Zagaleta. Incidentally, Khashoggi's villa became the refined clubhouse and restaurant of La Zagaleta Golf Club. Together with a world-class equestrian centre, tennis club and concierge service, La Zagaleta remains a benchmark for country clubs throughout Europe.
Even far away from Spain, the beautifully manicured La Zagaleta has become the synonym to the words 'exclusivity', 'luxury' and 'prestige'. Apparently the most secluded, gated community in Europe is the best choice for those who prefer living away from the limelight. Unsurprisingly, the most influential businesspeople from all over the world as well as the most colourful characters of the international jet set and even politics settled in La Zagaleta. There is private security, and no one can say who is a resident of La Zagaleta. There are rumours that have indicated, for example, Rod Stewart, David Beckham, Hugh Grant, Novak Djokovic... and even a political personality not to be mentioned. However, who lives or owns houses in La Zagaleta is just a guess.
Some 30 years after the first homes were built, La Zagaleta has 230 villas ranging in size from 3,000 m² to 10,000 m² with prices that start from 3 million euros. Each villa is unique, with their own style depending on the specifications of the owner. All houses correspond to the truly meaning of the words – luxury, design, comfort, efficiency and functionality. One of the recently built villas is the Salucci House (about 2,000 m² on a plot of almost 6,000 m²) was offered for 12.5 million euro. The gated community still has plenty of plots to develop new properties in the Benahavis municipality though La Zagaleta is usually associated with Marbella because of its extraordinary luxury and exclusivity.
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