The remarkable history of La Zagaleta

Callum Swan, April 2021 | Areas - Our view

Today, we know La Zagaleta in Benahavis as an established residential area of international note that ranks as one of the most exclusive places to live or own a property anywhere in Europe – but did you know that this former hunting estate has a fascinating history involving some of the most colourful personages of the international jet-set?

For most of its history the wooded terrain just above Marbella sprawled into the foothills of the mighty Serranía de Ronda mountain range with the freedom of a regal hunting estate. Over the ages, many a Spanish royal or head of state has visited it, but it wasn’t until the latter 1960s that the area began a new chapter in its history.

It was then that relatives of Thierry Roussel – later famous for marrying Christina Onassis – acquired the area currently known as El Madroñal, La Zagaleta, La Reserva de Alcuzcuz and of course the private estate that until recently remained within the Roussel family. Upon this enormous country terrain of over 1,500 hectares, the French multi-millionaire family associated with Roussel Uclaf, one of the pharmaceutical companies that would later fuse to form Sanofi, built a country estate whose technical infrastructure and refinement set new standards in Marbella and the Costa del Sol.

Among the famous guests that arrived and spent time at the Roussel estate in Benahavis were the former Spanish king, Saudi, British and Monegasque royalty, heads of state and international corporations, as well as intellectuals, film stars and global celebrities. In other words, the crème de la crème – and when years later a certain Saudi multi-millionaire named Adnan Kashoggi became so enamoured with the region that he made Roussel an offer he couldn’t refuse, the estate began a break-up that would lead to the creation of Alcuzcuz, El Madroñal and La Baraka.

Views of La Zagaleta

From La Baraka to La Zagaleta

The low-key, old school refinement of the Roussel family gave way to the more flamboyant but loveable style of Kashoggi, who named his new estate bordering the northern part of the Roussel property La Baraka. Here he built a luxurious, sprawling villa within ten minutes of Marbella, amid spectacular surroundings and views down to the sea. It would become the site of lavish parties attended by celebrities and grandees, creating many happy memories of a truly glamorous Marbella.

In 1991, a group of investors headed by Enrique Perez Flores acquired the property and renamed it La Zagaleta – commencing a process that has culminated in the creation of a five-star deluxe gated resort community of luxurious villas set in expansive private plots surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of this 900-hectare country club.

Kashoggi’s villa was redeveloped into the refined clubhouse and restaurant of the La Zagaleta Golf Club, which features two excellent 18-hole golf courses. Together with a top equestrian centre, racquets club and concierge service, it forms the basis of Marbella’s most exclusive hill club living environment – a reference for country clubs across Europe.

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Callum Swan, Marbella luxury estate agent +34 952 81 06 08