Olinto – Morocco Peace and Quiet is Luxury

Our clients and many other Americans must have been impressed with Moroccan World Cup prominence; the country is a sizzling visitor scene this year! Marrakech is packed with luxury riads and lodges, as much as I love it, after a few days of the colorful chaos, most travelers seek a tranquil escape in the Atlas Mountains for a few days of serenity.

Olinto Pool, Morocco

Keeping my eye on the pulse of the new important hotel properties before my fall visit, I’m very intrigued by a new hideaway in the Atlas Mountains. Olinto is a luxury Atlas Mountain retreat situated in the Berber heartland of Morocco, a mere 55-minute drive from Marrakech airport.

The nine vine covered cottages sit at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. The Retreat has been created by Prince Fabrizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, a pioneer in establishing legendary Moroccan properties. In fact, on my first to Marrakech, I stayed in his glorious riad, the five-star Maison Arabe and still dine in the enchanted gardens.

A petite footprint on a massive piece of land provides the ultimate in seclusion. Each of the nine majestic pavilions has been designed with privacy and the utmost comfort at its core. Those in search of utter harmony and a much needed get away from it all, will find themselves surrounded by stunning vistas and pure mountain air.

Set on 10 acres amid groves of olive trees and perfumed gardens, above the Berber village Imlil. The retreat provides dramatic views, the cottages enjoy rooftop havens for private sunbathing, and secluded gardens, in some cases, small pools. A spa will open sometime next year, for now, guests can enjoy massages in the traditional hammam. I know of two clients who request private gardens or beach pavilions for nude sunbathing. Sunshine, a gentle breeze and privacy equals sybaritic heaven for many!

Set at the foot of Mount Toubkal, the highest northern peak, Olinto is the perfect location for hiking, adventure sports, mountain biking and climbing. Our clients who have stayed in the area, enjoy hiking with Berbers and visit women’s cooperatives and take cooking classes in local homes.

Shaded courtyards and vine covered pergolas provide places to read or just let the quiet take over. A natural grand swimming pool has majestic views of the reddish mountain peaks over a thick cluster of silver leaved olive trees.

One always needs a time out from Marrakech, and this retreat appears to be the perfect antidote.

My formal RSVP has been posted and my personal review coming in fall. Olinto has received much press since their opening.

Photo credit Ebony Siovhan.

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