A SOFT BREEZE IN THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
A soft breeze in the Atlas Mountains - Luxury Travel Magazine
|By: Gary Allen, Issue 49 Summer 2012|
|Kasbah Tamadot, Morroco|
|LAVISH BERBER TENTS WITH HARDWOOD FLOORS, CHANDELIERS AND CLAW FOOT BATHTUBS NOW SIT THROUGHOUT THE GROUNDS OF SIR RICHARD BRANSON’S LUXURY RETREAT IN THE FOOTHILLS OF THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS. AN HOUR’S DRIVE FROM MARRAKECH, THEY ARE QUITE POSSIBLY THE BEST PLACE TO STAY IN MOROCCO.|
One of the advantages of being a business magnate as successful as Richard Branson is having the means to own luxury retreats dotted across the globe; beautiful residences in stunning locations with a fully-trained staff on standby for your arrival. Of course, also owning an international airline like Virgin helps make the dropping-in-whenever-the-mood-takes-him part of owning these properties a practical reality.
Branson is an uber-businessman and as you’d expect he brings a commercial perspective to much of his life, including his recreational properties. So none of them sit idle when he’s not there. They’re run as exclusive, luxury retreats where in-the-know travellers can visit and stay awhile, if they can afford the room rates.
Most people know about Sir Richard’s private Caribbean Island, Necker Island, and Ulusaba, his private game reserve in South Africa, but less know about Kasbah Tamadot, his Moroccan retreat an hour’s drive outside of Marrakech nestled in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The first thing I noticed when I walked around the grounds of Kasbah
Tamadot was the seemingly never-ending views of the mountains and hills surrounding the property and its beautiful garden.
Minimal landscaping gives a natural feel to the Kasbah’s garden which is planted with plenty of local plants, flowers and wild produce such as pomegranate bushes, pink peppercorns and rosemary, all for use by Kasbah Tamadot’s chefs in the gastronomic feasts they serve up daily. There’s a heated outdoor pool for a swim or a heated indoor pool for another swim. Your choice. Either way you’ll be looking for ways to do your penance for the overeating at mealtimes. The architecture of the main building is a feast of another kind, one for the eyes. There are rooms for quiet relaxing time, fireplaces, outdoor decks and lounge areas. The calls for prayers from the local village are audible in the Kasbah’s corridors and along with the building’s design, enhance that sensation of really being in an exotic land. Travel is all about that, isn’t it? Kasbah Tamadot is far enough outside of the hustle and bustle of Marrakech to also possess the feeling of being in the countryside; a remote and foreign countryside.
The spa at this luxury retreat is named Asounfou, the Berber word for relaxation, where
guests can enjoy all of the usual spa treatments along with a traditional Moroccan hammam. Once a week, Moroccans undertake this deep skin cleansing ritual that begins in a sauna like enclosure before washing, rinsing, scrubbing and rinsing again. At Asounfou, clay is then spread all over you and then you’re rinsed again before having moisturising oil applied. All natural ingredients are used and you leave feeling well,
really, really clean but also invigorated.
The accommodation for my stay was in one of the recently built luxury Berber tents on the grounds of Kasbah Tamadot. A short walk through the gardens and you enter yet another incredible Moroccan experience. The Moroccan chandelier hanging from the center of the tent is the first glimpse of what’s to come. Everything is just fantastic. Spacious and inviting, it is of course your own house with beautiful hard wood floors, a lounge area and a gorgeous bathroom with a claw foot tub, your own private deck and plunge pool, all looking out over the ravine and a close-by Berber village. Branson’s mother, Eve sponsors this village and three others in the area. Tours of Eve’s work can be arranged and are a great way to see the way of life of the local Berber people up close. The tours visit the new community centre where there’s a school for young children; a school for boys who live in remote areas and would not otherwise have access to education; a craft house for girls to learn spinning and weaving and a cashmere goat herd which will later provide the cashmere for the girls in the craft house.
90 percent of the staff at Tamadot are recruited from the local village. Throughout my stay I was always greeted with a warm and welcoming smile and the staff were ready to assist with whatever I required.
With just 24 rooms and suites and nine separate Berber tented rooms Kasbah Tamadot is a unique experience you simply cannot miss on a trip to Marrakech. Next time you’re at a dinner party, I bet you’ll be the only one who knows some words in the Berber language. Remember? Tamadot means “soft breeze”. You won’t forget it. I certainly never will.