House of Dreams – Dar Ahlam

There’s little about this 19th-century Kasbah that won’t leave you wanting to return. Dar Ahlam the House of Dreams. Relish a land of adventure from this Kasbah near Ouarzazate, the gateway to the Moroccan desert. One of the most luxurious properties in Morocco, in a 19th Century Kasbah.

Dar Ahlam, Skoura

On the fringes of the Moroccan desert, shaded by the palms, lies Dar Ahlam. Pale terracotta colored stone meets brilliant blue skies as this traditional Kasbah cuts an imposing shape across the landscape. Perched between the town of Skoura and the imposing Atlas Mountains, in what was once the hunting grounds of a Sultan. Unwind in a haven of manicured lawns and fragrant almond blossom, olive groves, dates, and oranges. Or step out into the wilderness of the desert for a night under the stars, where you will soak up the elegant beauty in the privacy of your own luxury tent.

The décor changes with the seasons, sumptuous fabrics and colors bringing the environment to life. Days at Dar Ahlam are long and luxurious. Without the distractions of television and technology, you can truly unwind. Instead, indulge in a massage under the olive trees or head off for refreshments by the river. A perfect blend of French antiques, African art, create the perfect harmony of old-world charm and modern luxury comforts. Spend a balmy evening atop the Kasbah, aperitif in hand, before feasting on a freshly prepared supper under the vast endless sky.

Beyond the walls of Dar Ahlam lies all the mystery of the desert. Explore the dunes on camelback for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, surrounding yourself with the golden sands of the Sahara as you’re pampered in your private luxury tent for a night under the stars.

Kasbah where I enjoyed a private lunch

Dar Ahlam does not allocate the suites in advance, but all are spacious, with air-conditioning, fireplaces, roomy bathrooms, and a view of the Atlas Mountains. The 1920s Kasbah building has 18 rooms, some inside the seductively dark main building; others, with intimate terraces sit amid the gorgeous gardens. I circled around the Kasbah amid the vast chambers of cool tadelakt plaster walls to locate my suite, hidden behind a massive arched wooden door that quietly slid closed. The interiors are muted tones of sand and earthy grey which repeat the neutral, natural furniture materials, local Berber rugs warm up the floors.
 
There’s a sapphire tone to the outdoor heated pool, which has massive Roman steps and is surrounded by comfy sun loungers, request an umbrella and it instantly appears. I read one morning as birds fluttered and chirped around me, I have very fond memories of my days here at the Kasbah.
 
Vegetables and herbs used by the kitchen are grown on the grounds and there is also a large patch of olive trees that are harvested by locals.
 
Meals are an enchanting daily surprise: tables are set up in different locations depending on the day’s theme. The menu combines traditional Moroccan specialties and the latest culinary innovations. My meal locations ranged from an olive tree shaded garden table to a private lunch in a nearby ancient Kasbah. The call to prayer sounded nearby, I closed my eyes and could imagine an ancient village with sounds of wooden donkey carts, and the clippty clop of horses. One particularly enchanting private dinner was set amid a thousand candles in a ruby red room, it was exquisite. The first evening sunset found me at the top of the highest hill, enjoying an exclusive tea ceremony, a bonfire outlined the darkening sky as a poet recited sonnets.

A traditional hammam and spa offers authentic scrubbings.  Make your way down dim, candlelit corridors to discover small, tiled treatment rooms. Say yes to full body scrub, shampoo and dry!

One common denominator, all the mountain ranges have in common: The Berber people. Berbers are a welcoming people with strong traditions, it’s more than dates and rosewater. Traditional subsistence farming is the norm in the Atlas Mountains, with small farms producing nuts and fruits, local sheep and goat herders can be seen along the roads.
 
I would return in a heartbeat to enjoy morning hikes in the Atlas Mountains and afternoons basking poolside. I left a piece of my heart at Dar Ahlam.
 

Sunset Tea Ceremony with a Poet

Mesmerizing Moroccan Odyssey

Morocco never bores, always intrigues and leaves you wanting more. Once is not enough! Morocco is a land of legends and fascination, despite its closeness to the European continent, its soul lies in the cradle of its North African coastal home. A historically independent nation, it has always been a multi-cultural historic crossroad for trade, ideas and migratory people.

One of our very first Journey clients recreated a Moroccan Odyssey based on his college days in the deserts of Algiers. Wanting to introduce his kids to the exotic deserts and traditions of Morocco, this trip became ‘local legend’; at fundraising events or parties when introducing myself – someone would invariable say: Oh, I know who you are, you designed the amazing Moroccan tented camp complete with camels, daylight dune drives, drumming lessons with nomadic Tuareg, star gazing with an astronomer, the 10 day adventure and exploration was vast!

Recent Journey for a fashion forward client and her photo-bug husband, traveling during Ramadan allowed them to join in with a local family when they broke their fast – this meal is known as Iftar. Traditionally the day time for a Moroccan woman during Ramadan involves a lengthy preparation of the first meal after a day of fasting.

A special table setting is prepared, with a variety of Moroccan breads, dates, milk, Moroccan sweets, eggs, bessara (fava bean soup) along with tea and coffee.

This repast of food depends greatly on the region of Morocco. Our clients experienced this sacred meal with a local Fassi family, which included the table setting process, the call to prayer signifying the beginning of break-fast. Beginning with dates and milk before progressing into the feast.

They also enjoyed a mesmerizing evening with a local story teller, this was one of the highpoints of their Moroccan Journey – they spent a quiet evening dining with a local man and woman who translated ancient Moroccan stories for them. The Moroccan tradition of Hikayat, or storytelling dates back almost 1,000 years, the Master Storyteller recounted tales in Arabic, while his companion translated. Stories were orally passed on through generations of families, this dying art is kept alive by a few Master Storytellers. This ancient traditional entertainment was found in cities throughout Morocco, Marrakech’s Jemaa El Fna square is the only city keeping this tradition alive.

An awe-inspiring country with a strong sense of culture. Open air vendors will tempt you with their colorful wares, snake charmers do exist on the famed Jamaa el Fna Square, in the medina quarter.

Travelling from Fes to the high Atlas Mountains, they relished their authentic experiences at Hotel Kasbah Tamadot, Sir Richard Branson’s Moroccan retreat. Enjoy day trekking and a luxurious stay in a hotel Berber Tent, where you can soak up the views on your private deck equipped with sun loungers and space for outdoor dining, some suites have their own Jacuzzi. After a day of mule trekking through Berber villages, a Jacuzzi is the perfect reward!

Afternoon Architecture & Islamic Gardens Tour. Lose yourself in the gardens of ancient palaces and exotic Riads perfumed with orange blossoms, citrus, blood red roses and the sweetest jasmine. The tour combines an overview of the fascinating and beautiful world of Moroccan Architecture which showcases all the main ornamentation and decorative techniques from floral motifs, geometry, ceramics to calligraphy, symbolic of the rich cultural heritage of the vast Islamic empire and uncovers the mysteries of the Islamic concept of Chahar-bagh, the four-fold garden and leads us to discover earthly paradise revisited.

As described by the couple: a very authentic afternoon was spent in exploring back alleys brimming with traditional craftsmen. Enter into the depths of the tanneries, observe weavers at their loom, engage with the copper workers employing traditional design techniques and discover hidden workshops where generations of artisans ply their individual trades and adapt century old techniques to a modern market.

This artisanal tour is designed to give you an overview of production methods and step by step explanations as you go beyond the traditional medina tour to delve deeper into the world of the artisans of Fes. Meet the artisans themselves as you gain first-hand knowledge of the materials and the processes involved in their daily work. The tour finished with a visit to Fes new artisanal school and exhibition gallery.

Moroccan cuisine has gained massive followers among food connoisseurs. Staples of most meals include lamb, fish and fowl, including pigeon, which is considered a delicacy when baked in pastry, the b’stillah is a national favorite.

Morocco is an enchanting exotic location and has been a favorite of our clients for many many years – we can add authentic tents in the desert, camels to climb the dunes…let your imagination be boundless! http://www.gwenbooks.com/2015/10/journey-moroccan-odyssey/

A few suggestions: Arrive Ouled Driss via helicopter for a luxury desert overnight stay.Morning begins with an exhilarating 4-wheel drive adventure through sandy trails, blooming acacia and tamarisk trees to the dunes, reaching the most elaborate and important kasbahs in the Dades Valley. You have seen these vistas used by movie makers for years including Lawrence of Arabia and Jesus of Nazareth.

Meet your decorated camels at end of day for a ride to the highest dunes climbing to the peaks for a spectacular sunset over the Sahara Desert. Chilled drinks, known as sun downers, in hand. A leisurely ride back to your private luxury desert tent erected in the middle of the desert.

Can we tempt you to discover the rich emblematic and colorful nation in Spring or Fall?