Before any Journey departure, I have a long check list of what to do/what to take. Rarely do I arrive to a foreign country without local currency, VIP arrival translates to tipping, begging for unscheduled help translates to a gratuity, ie in Scotland, after 50+ days of travel, I injured my hip- I struggled with carry on bags on the tarmac at small airports – those steep stairs up to a plane in heat or rain were a challenge – local cash is always appreciated. At every airport, my pockets are stuffed with small bills. Traversing three countries with different currency presented its own challenges – memorizing each currency and value.
In Morocco the dizzying 30 day Camel Caravan Two schedule sometimes left me fatigued, my driver and I developed many code phrases for the Journey, we had a code phrase for please, let the guide go, I’m tired; for tipping, it was simple blue or pink – use the Blue currency for your gratuity. It made me slightly dependent, but it relieved me of calculating rates at the end of a strenuous hiking or sightseeing day!
Turkish Lira may prove more daunting – the 5 Lira note equals .30. When I’m on my own and language barriers are challenging, I’ve been known to just open my wallet and let people take the necessary amount, fresh oregano from a farmer provides immense pleasure when I’m home recreating a local dish – I’m sure they have never taken too many pink or blue notes.
A small spice shop in Marrakesh that I frequented would pick out coins in my wallet – currency is mostly manageable, but coins, takes me so long to read the small font, please take the coins! One of my favorite photos of me is on a country lane in France, me with wallet open ‘negotiating’ a bag of walnuts from a local farmer! I’ll never forget the experience!
Memories and Experiences – are what I crave the most in my travel.
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.
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.
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.