Many of the mud walled fortresses of the Moroccan countryside have seen better days and most are in varying states of disrepair and neglect. These weary countryside fortresses are now being turned into affordable luxury hotels. The hotels are commonly known as the Casbah hotels and many of them are located in the desert just beyond Marrakesh. The lands were once owned by the Berber Chieftains and some are still owned by many families. Most people never really get a chance to take pleasure in the Berber Moroccan countryside because it was, for a long time, a well guarded secret of the Moroccan and European upper class. Now the lands are being discovered by well seasoned travelers from all around the world.
You can have tea in the desert or drop into a Hamman during the middle of the day and have dinner and drinks under the stars. The hilly Moroccan countryside doesn’t look like it is the best place to vacation and it seems even odder to find a luxury resort in the middle of it all. One of the best kept secrets of Morocco is the Casbah hotels just beyond Marrakesh. These destinations are some of the most relaxing and serene places that you can go to in the world. You will be surprised at how affordable some of the stays are, even with fully catered service. Check out these four moderately priced Moroccan Casbah hotels and see what you are missing.
Dar Ahlam – Village of Skoura
You take a caravan up a twisting road up the Atlas Mountains to the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass and then down to the red top mountains and past Berber villages to reach Dar Ahlam. Dar Ahlam is 30 miles from Quarzazate just outside the town of Skoura. Dar Ahlam actually means the House of Dreams and it was built in 1920 but was just recently restored to its prior glory. The traditional Moroccan mud wall style was repeated throughout the entire hotel and there is also an outdoor arbor.
At Dar Ahlam it is all about making your all your dreams come true and each guest can personalize their own stay. You can choose to sleep on the roof under the stars right down to the type of wood in your fireplace. At the Dar Ahlam you can have tea in the desert of meditate in the Zen Room. Most guests can be found steaming in the Hamman or relaxing by the pool. Other amenities include a perfume room (aromatherapy), gardens, and musical entertainment.
Dinner is almost never served in the same place twice. Other than following your nose to find your supper you must look for the lighted mass of candles and torches either in the garden, by the pool, or in a secret mud house. Sadly, dinner is not quite as good as breakfast and the desserts. But glasses of Gris (Moroccan Rose) at sunset will wash away any unfavorable tastes from your mouth. Sunset is an extra special highlight of the Dar Ahlam because the Atlas Mountains really appear to be made of gold.
During the day you can simply do whatever it is that you like. Whether it is yoga or meditation, tai chi, walking, or even taking an excursion of southern Morocco you certainly have your pick to choose from. Doubles start around $800 and all reservations are all inclusive. For more information you can call 800-735-2478 or log onto http://www.darahlam.com .
Ksar Char Bagh – on the edge of Palmeraie
Just beyond the secret palm forested neighborhood of Palmeraie lies some of the most beautiful Persian gardens and mud huts in the world. They are called the Ksar Char Bagh and they have incorporated Turkish, Moroccan, Syrian, and Persian architectures and designs. One of the highlights of the hilly resort is the black polished concrete Tadelakt oblong pool in the middle of the green lawn.
The over sized rooms all have bare walls in mauve tones and low lighting. There are Turkish fireplaces in all of the rooms as well as Syrian chairs. It kind of feels like there should be more, it’s almost too simple. The sleeping areas behind the Moorish arches are comfortable, but much like the rest of the resort remain dim at most.
Although it may seem like the Ksar Char Bagh is lacking a little you will find that they have one of the most appetizing menus. The kitchen is staffed by two top notch Moroccan chefs and the main ingredients come from the on-site organic garden. The dining room is located in a beautifully sunny building with white tile floors and high ceilings. For more information you can call the Palmeraie de Marrakesh at 800-735-2478 or 212-44-329-244. You can also log onto the website to view pictures at www.kscharbagh.com . Doubles start around $680.
Casbah Agafay – Desert between Marrakesh Airport and the Atlas Mountains
The Casbah Agafay lies among brown palm tree and olive grove covered desert. The rustic hotel was built using only traditional Moroccan building techniques crafted by area workers and artists. The design of the building incorporates 16th century wooden doors, a seven foot tall candelabrum, and a central fountain. There is also a heated outdoor pool as well as tennis courts at the Casbah Agafay.
Casbah Agafay is all about relaxation and serenity. The columned salon serves as an entryway to the hotel where guests are served mint tea and miniature almond cookies. Buddha bar style music plays softly in the background and you have a wealth of activities to choose from. Whether you want to relax by the pool, try some yoga in the pavilion, or even go horseback riding you certainly have your options. Among the activities are golf, hiking, water skiing, ballooning, and the game of squash. You could also go for an herbal soak in the spa or have drinks on the 8 man terrace.
The rooms at the Casbah Agafay have all the modern comforts of home but remain rustic with 4 poster beds draped in beautiful local textiles creating a chic sense of simplicity. The ceilings in the bedrooms are made of exposed twigs and the bathroom sinks are enclosed in heavy dark wood. The curtained bath hosts a giant clover shaped mosaic bathtub and has become quite popular with honeymooners. For more information you can call 212-44-368-600 or log onto http://www.kasbahagafay.com . Doubles start around $580.
Kasbah Tamadot – near Mount Toubkal
This Kasbah hotel is owned by Richard Branson and is by far the most affordable of all the other Kasbah hotels. The Kasbah Tamadot is about one hour south of Marrakesh on a steep crag near Mount Toubkal. The luxury retreat was also once owned by the Berber Chieftains. The fragrant cherry and apple orchards create a Zen like feeling as you walk through the resort. There are also rose beds and a cactus garden. The Kasbah Tamadot has 18 rooms each decorated with Thai Indonesian sculptures, Moroccan furnishings, and Asian antiques.
The dining room is less than appealing so you may want to have your dinner on the outdoor terrace or request it in your suite. The food is traditional Berber style, and there is also an outdoor fireside bar. The best part of the Kasbah Tamadot is not the food though. There are two pools, one with a poolside bar and the other an infinity pool that just seems to drop off the edge of the mountain. There is also a veranda over the pool, gardens, a salon, and Hamman steam bath.
This resort is definitely not for the inactive person. You can take a 3 day ascent of Mount Toubkal, go hot air ballooning, skiing, two tennis courts, a weight room, and a gift shop. You can also get laundry service for those longer trips. The Kasbah Tamadot has an indoor lap pool, golf, and horseback riding trips. For more information you can call 800-255-4255 or log onto www.kasbahtamadot.com . Doubles start around $300.