- Detailed Review
- Facts & Amenities
To quote the hotel’s owner, Sir Richard Branson: ‘Business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.’ Tamadot is a perfect example of how Branson put his own words into action. He created a hotel that continuously develops new concepts and ideas to entertain its guests.
In addition, the hotel offers a lot in terms of beauty and inspiration, including a number of tailor-made activities, many of which are focused around the Eve Branson Foundation, which gives locals employment opportunities by teaching them various handicrafts. Guests can visit these workshops, as well as the dedicated on-site boutique. There are also a number of outdoor pursuits to choose from, including paragliding, quad-biking, horse riding and many interesting treks.
Overlooking a striking valley and sitting beneath the snowcapped High Atlas mountain range, there is nothing else quite like this tranquil retreat, a welcome escape from Marrakech and its buzzing medina. Furthermore, it’s a refreshing 10 degrees cooler than Marrakech, particularly welcome when I visited in the hot month of June.
In the 1940s, the main building was the home of Venetian antique collector and designer Luciano Tempo. His tasteful collections and pieces are displayed in the suites and around the grounds of the hotel, adding history and depth to the destination. The landscaped gardens are now fully mature, home to some cheeky goats, waddling ducks, grumpy camels and plenty of croaking frogs at sunset.
The Kasbah took seven years to renovate but it was well worth the wait. It is now less focused on the Virgin brand and more on the well-being of guests. It offers numerous facilities, including a fully equipped gym, two tennis courts, a billiard room, a kids’ club, a library and ping-pong table, as well as many imaginative dining venues.
I drove 45 minutes from Marrakech via Asni and into the Ouirgane valley. En route I visited the Asni Saturday market, which was certainly an eye-opener – full of everything you could imagine, from chainsaws to handbags, sheep’s brains to underwear; someone even tried to sell me a canary.
On arriving at the hotel, a porter immediately took my bags into reception and relieved me of my keys to park my car in a safe place. As I was early, my room was not yet clean, so while I waited I was offered a delicious mint tea and lunch on the terrace with spectacular views. When my room was ready, the GM personally came to inform me, and I was then escorted through the aromatic rosemary hedgerows to an enormous Berber tent, my home for the next two nights.
Rooms and suites
The Berber tents all have slightly different interiors. I stayed in number 58 (Adfel), overlooking a Berber village across the valley and up to Mount Toubkal (the highest peak in North Africa). On entering the tent there is a real wow factor: the word ‘glamping’ doesn’t even begin to do this space justice. The interiors are a mix of Moroccan and Indian design, with lots of lovely little treats: a welcome fruit basket, Moroccan pastries and nibbles and a complimentary mini-bar. Lots of thoughtful extras are offered, including a torch to find the way back in the evenings, red-and-green Moroccan slippers, a Nespresso machine, a shisha pipe, board games and binoculars for sightseeing.
Given the extreme temperatures in the Atlas mountains, each tent has a powerful split air-conditioning unit, with a choice of hot or cold air, as well as heated blankets on the king-sized bed. There is also a private wooden deck with sun loungers. And despite the fact that the Kasbah is next to the main road to Imlil, traffic noise is absorbed by the vegetation, with only the sound of local children playing in the villages below, birdsong and the occasional call to prayer echoing down the valley. This is the perfect place to escape from the world.
A couple of niggles were that turndown was a half-hearted effort – none of my belongings was tidied or folded. Second, it proved impossible to find one of the light switches, so I slept with the bathroom light on all night. I also found it disconcerting that the bathroom was open-plan, as I like a sectioned-off toilet.
The Berber tents are at the end of the property, and it’s a bit of a trek to the communal areas, but if you don’t mind the extra walk, they are a better option if you want privacy.
On a technological note, wi-fi was good throughout the hotel, although mobile-phone reception was patchy. There was a flat-screen TV in the tent with basic channels that felt a bit out of place; I would have preferred it to have been less conspicuous.
The bathroom was enormous and open-plan, with a freestanding claw bathtub, a separate, oversized, powerful rain shower and double sinks. Personally, I am not a fan of the scent of the bathroom amenities and preferred the ‘for him’ verbena range rather than the very floral ‘for her’ amber musk range. These amenities, along with the bathrobes, towels and a yellow rubber duck, are all elegantly branded with the Tamadot logo.
Given the pleasant temperature when I was there, dinner was served on the roof terrace. The set-up was delightful, with twinkling lanterns and candles lighting the way. Plenty of other guests were present to create a buzzy atmosphere. The hotel seemed to have thought of everything, even menu torches for each customer and, later, a cashmere Berber poncho was produced to keep off the evening chill. I had the option of choosing à la carte or a five-course Moroccan tasting menu. I opted for the latter and was thrilled with the offerings as each dish topped the previous one, exciting the senses with every mouthful. To produce Moroccan food with such elegance is a real achievement, and the flavours were delicious, with many ingredients used from the on-site organic garden. My waiter suggested a Moroccan wine pairing with each dish, but having spied one of my favourite local wines on the menu for an unbelievably affordable price, I went with that – La Ferme Rouge Gris.
The waiting staff were knowledgeable, friendly and relaxed, and kept me entertained with intelligent conversation during the pause between courses.
Other restaurant options
The location for dinner tends to be chosen for you based on the weather conditions, but my concern with this is that the main, indoor dining room looked a little tired and gloomy. That said, there are plenty of lovely private dining options scattered around the grounds both inside and out.
Breakfast and lunch are usually served on the terrace overlooking the pool. Both meals are casual affairs with exceptional food, and the service was a lot quicker during the daytime, with a different team of waiters. They have an extensive cocktail list available throughout the day at the bar or served wherever you want.
Given that there are limited places to dine in the area, I would strongly suggest booking on a half- or a full-board basis. There are some amazing treks in the region, so if you’re feeling adventurous, you can have lunch at a local Berber cafe or guesthouse – alternatively, the hotel will provide exceptional picnics.
Spa and wellness
If you want to experience the Asounfou Spa, I strongly suggest booking in advance as I didn’t and was extremely lucky to get an appointment during my stay. They have a lovely traditional hammam but I opted for a massage. The treatment room was small, but once I had my head firmly buried among fluffy white towels, I forgot where I was and let the therapist work her magic. I opted for a simple back and shoulder massage, which was firm and engaging, although the Damask rose-infused facial option also sounded appealing.
Le Sens de Marrakech is the spa’s potion of choice, and that evening some sample pots of the date face cream were left on my bed at turndown, which was a lovely little touch to entice guests to the spa.
Pool and beach
With an inviting heated indoor pool and a dramatic outdoor infinity pool, this retreat is a year-round haven. While I was there, the outdoor pool was popular with both families and other guests, so it’s worth arriving early to bag a bed in one of the hedged-off areas for more privacy. Throughout the day I was brought cold towels, skewers of watermelon and my ice-cold water was constantly replenished. The location is sublime, with views up to the snow-capped Atlas mountains and across the red earth valley, with blue, blue skies overhead and immaculately manicured gardens all around.
Children are only allowed to stay here at certain times of the year (European school holidays), when kids under 11 years stay free in their parents’ rooms. During these times there are many activities for them: tea parties, cooking lessons, treasure hunts, mule rides, mini manicures and a young diner’s menu that includes free soft drinks and ice cream.
For older children there are two floodlit tennis courts that were in constant use during my stay, and the hotel can arrange lots of interesting day trips to the local villages, as well as mountain treks. There is also a prominent three-bedroom Master Suite with 360-degree views that would be perfect for a large family.
The pool area became very noisy with yelps and squawks from young children during my stay, so it is worth checking if your dates coincide with the school holidays, especially if you are in search of a peaceful break.
Staff and service
One of the lovely things about Kasbah Tamadot is that all the staff are from nearby local villages, and many have been with the hotel since the opening. They all have warm, welcoming smiles and a genuine love of the area and their job. The dinner service was not quite as slick as it was at other times of day, but aside from this, I couldn’t find fault. And despite there being 140 staff to 28 rooms, it never felt suffocating or overstaffed.
French and British newspapers were a nice additional touch.
The majority of guests were British, which is no surprise given the nationality of the owner. And with the strong eco-influence throughout the hotel and the charitable work it supports, many guests are eco-conscious and interested in this side of the business.
There were a number of families and groups of friends travelling together during my stay. For me, one of the benefits of having such a large room was that I could choose whether to indulge in the privacy of my Berber tent or people-watch by the pool.
There didn’t seem to be a valet service to bring my car back to me, so I had to walk down the road and get it myself. That said, this is unlikely to happen to other guests, as I would imagine very few would self-drive up the winding, and often unmarked, mountain roads.
How to get here
45 minutes by road from Marrakech Menara Airport
28 rooms & suites