READING

The Atlas and Kasbah du Toubkal, there where time ...

The Atlas and Kasbah du Toubkal, there where time stops

Taking a detour to the High Atlas and Kasbah du Toubkal means arriving to a place where warmth, smiles and a beautiful natural setting make it much more than a simple guest house; Kasbah du Toubkal is a place where time seems to stop.

Our adventure starts at Menara airport in Marrakech.
After a turbulent negotiation for the taxi price, the car rapidly toils up dusty roads and leaves behind us the chaos of the city.

READ ALSO:
11 Unmissable Weekend Breaks & Day Trips from Marrakech

view from the window road to imlil

Along the road we spot isolated groups of houses and locals who inevitably protrude to see who’s behind the car window. Our driver is quiet, but he must have a real passion for a compilation of arabic music which we listen repeatedly, the scarf covering our nose and mouth to try and not breath all the dust coming from the window.

Only four hours ago we were at Milan airport, and now I feel I’m on another planet.

It’s about 65 km to Imlil, a Berber village perched on the slopes of Jbel Toubkal, North Africa highest mountain (4167m), which seems to look at you from up there, the peak whitened by some perennial snow.

The taxi finally drops us off and we walk to the Kasbah office in the village.

“Just wait one minute, I’m going to call the mule” says the receptionist after asking for our name.

Quickly enough one man arrives and takes our two suitcases (luckily they are small!) places them in the bags on the mule’s back, fastening them with a rope.

mule carrying luggages kasbah du toubkal

From here it’s a fifteen minute uphill walk to the majestic door of the walled Kasbah du Toubkal. Now I understand why berbers call the mules “the 4×4 of the High Atlas”: while walking up we met many locals, each with his own mule carrying a multitude of differerent things.

Hassan, who has worked here since everything started, opens the door, with a wide smile on his face and welcomes us inside.

I look around and I instantly feel home.

MEET KASBAH DU TOUBKAL view of kasbah du toubkal

Kasbah du Toubkal was home to a local baron, then after being abandoned for decades in 1995 was restored with a particular attention to respect the traditional methods by Mike Mc Hugoe, founder of Discover Ltd.

The kasbah is an oasis in the middle of the mountains, with flowers, and green, and animals roaming around: a feeling of relaxation and peace pervades the area.

I have a tip for you: if you want an incredible view over the Kasbah and the valley, go up the tower near the entrance.

I must admit that before researching Moroccan destinations I had no idea that Morocco actually had mountains this tall, but they are so impressive that Martin Scorsese chose the Kasbah du Toubkal and its natural surroundings to film Kundun …. and you thought that was Tibet!

Life is slow in Imlil: often a refugee for people looking to hike around or ascend Jbel Toubkal, after a few hours the sense of relaxation is overwhelming. You don’t look at the clock anymore, the hours are marked by the muezzin chant, which echoes in the valley with a sweet and melodious sound. Birds fly at high speed in the clear sky, and time seems to stop.

view from kasbah du toubkal

Dates and milk: a traditional energy boost
Hassan welcomes us by washing our hands with rose water, an ancient ritual, and offers us some dates sopped up in milk, which is the traditional berber source of energy (highly needed after the trip!); this is followed by our first of many cups of hot and delicious mint tea.

tea mint kasbah du toubkalAfter a restoring break we are brought to our room, in our case a Deluxe Room, which strikes me right away with its feel of warmth and authenticity, the walls and interiors decorated with local crafts.

The prices for the private rooms are not for the low-budget kind of traveller (although they have beautiful Berber style dorms if you are looking to spend a little less), but this doesn’t mean you should expect luxury, canopy beds and personal butlers: your stay at Kasbah du Toubkal is not about that, yet it is totally worth it.

We all know indeed that it’s the little details that make a place unique: the rooms, the terrasse and the exteriors  are uniquely and thoughtfully decorated, and each little detail makes the place as special as it is.

Think like Berber clothes, leather slippers and wool ponchos at your disposal in the room, oranges, fresh fuit, and some other special touches like the ones below.

details room kasbah du toubkal

details room kasbah du toubkal

Photos above: Daniela Zanirato

The bathroom has the same warm feeling, and I love the fact that the toiletries are not your usual ones: here you find henne (used for dyeing the hair and decorating the skin), gassoul (a moroccan black soap), and argan soap (next time I’ll go to Morocco I’ll have to remember to bring something bigger than my hand luggage so that I can bring tons of argan soap home!).

cushions terrasse kasbah du toubkal

Photo: Daniela Zanirato

It’s a perfect day to have lunch in the terrasse: the sun is bright and shiny, and the view…oh boy! It”s almost moving to dine in front of such a dramamatic view over the surrounding wide valleys and the mountain range.

flowers kasbah du toubkalI choose a mix of fresh tomatoes, olives, eggs and juicy oranges as a starter, followed by meat skewers and rice; Daniela on her part seems to be in heaven when she’s told that at Kasbah they have vegetarian options as well (it seems not to be too common in other parts of Morocco).

lunch kasbah du toubkal

You really can’t leave this place without experiencing the hammam, especially since it’s free for guests to use it, you just need to reserve your spot at the reception. Having said that, right before dinner Daniela and I decided it was our turn to try it.

The process of the hammam is pretty easy once you get the hang of it: you enter a steamy room, scrub yourself with the black soap and a rough glove, then you mix in a bucket hot (and with hot I mean HOT!!, now you are warned) and freezing cold water, and you use this mix to rinse the soap off.
…then you are gonna tell me if your skin isn’t as soft as a baby’s!

When the sun goes down it gets quite chilly in Imlil, so make sure you bring a warm sweater; if not, being cold is always a good excuse to snuggle with your love in front of the fireplace in the common room!

As for romance, can it get more romantic than a candlelight dinner? Next time I’ll have to bring my boyfriend!

candlelight dinner at kasbah du toubkalI definitely can’t complain about the food at the Kasbah: everything we tried in our two days stay was delicious! Tagine, couscous, soup and veggies… oh let’s stop it! Each plate is savoury and made with fresh, genuine ingredients. Mouthwatering.

WHY I CHOSE KASBAH DU TOUBKAL: SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY 

Kasbah du Toubkal has won multiple awards for its Corporate Social Responsibility and the attention to respecting the environment and local communities.

The Kasbah adds to the clients’ bill a five percent levy: this funds the Association Bassins d’Imlil which works in the area to make the local communities’ life easier, for example by creating a rubbish clearence system and providing an ambulance.

The levy also funds Education for All, a charitable association which provides education in boarding schools to girls from the rural High Atlas, which otherwise would have no means to geeting educated.

All of the staff employed at Kasbah du Toubkal are locals coming from Imlil or the surrounding villages.

If you want to know more about the story and the project of the Kasbah I highly recommend dowloading and reading the Reasonable Plans booklet.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT KASBAH DU TOUBKAL 

Truthfully, nothing – I loved every single minute of my stay.

The Kasbah is a truly special place, and it’s in one of the most beautiful and untouched locations I’ve ever been.

kasbah du toubkal

Photo: Alan Keohane

The info box
Kasbah du Toubkal is located in the heart of Toubkal National Park, about 65 km from Marrakach. To get here you can either arrange transportation with the Kasbah, or you can take a grand taxi in Marrakech (we took it directly outside the airport). The right price to haggle for is 250-300 dirhams (we got a little ripped off at the airport so make sure you tell the driver you’re not going to pay more than that!).

Rates for a private room start at 160 euros per night, which includes breakfast. Access to the hammam is free, as well as an introductory trekking to the surrounding villages with a local guide (I will tell you more about that in another post).
For more infos on the Berber dorm style rooms, contact the structure. Kasbah du Toubkal and Discover Ltd. also organize trekking trips and Jbel Toubkal treks.

Have you been to some place so special that you felt in another world? Tell me about it!

I was a guest of Discover Ltd. and Kasbah du Toubkal. All the opinions expressed are my own, as always.


RELATED POST

  1. This sounds incredible. Such a contrast to the bustling centre of Marrakesh. I think I’m going to have to check this one out for myself.

  2. Corinne

    22 November

    Heading to Morocco in a couple of weeks…and this place looks beautiful!

  3. The furniture and pillows all look exactly like my home! Every moroccan has a moroccan room haha but I am dying to go back! On the list is Marakesh and Casablanca to visit my grandparents and now Kasbah Du Toubkal!

  4. christine

    24 November

    Wow, that looks like a great trip. You had everything you needed!

  5. Morroco is on top of my list. .. reading lots of beautiful article urges me more to go 🙂

  6. Em

    25 November

    Wow great pictures, the hammam sounds interesting! Always nice to experience something new 🙂

  7. Jonny Jenkins

    25 November

    Looks amazing. So great to hear about places like these and especially see that they care about about corporate social responsibility.

  8. Kristen Sarra

    25 November

    Thanks for this little gem. It was clearly a wonderful experience for you and I had never heard of it before. I’ll put it on the Morocco list 🙂

  9. Between the hammam and the delicious food, this looks like a heavenly place to stay.

  10. Alejandra

    27 November

    I love how they support local associations! and I would love to try the hammam!

  11. Samantha

    27 November

    Morocco has been on our list for ages! We really wanted to do the trek to the top of the mountain but I got sick 🙁 Maybe next year we’ll find time to go….this hotel looks just the ticket!

  12. melody pittman

    27 November

    this looks like such a fun trip! glad you enjoyed. the food pictures look amazing (i prefer the lunch ones) and the scrub sounds right up my alley. my husband gave me a trip to morocco for christmas once, 10 days, professionally planned, and i canceled the whole thing because we were going to ride 8 hours each way to get on camels to go pitch a tent in the desert for the night, which was a total buzzkill for me.

  13. Elena

    27 November

    Lovely photos! Went to Morocco and Atlas mountains in 2008 and I loved it! Looks like you had an amazing time there and those tagines have just brought some good memories 🙂

  14. Alli

    27 November

    Loved this post! I had a Turkish masssage while in Istanbul that seemed very similar to the one you endured . . . although in my experience a giant Turkish man with a huge belly scrubbed me down!

  15. Susan

    28 November

    This spot is so beautiful, I’ve never been to Morrocco, but your photos have seriously captured what I thought it would be like. Geat article, I literally just told my boyfriend as I’m reading this, “we’re going here.”

  16. Katie

    29 November

    This place looks amazing! When I picture Morocco I don’t picture this! It definitely makes me want to travel there!

  17. Revati

    29 November

    Morocco is pretty high on my list, but i’d never heard of this place! It looks so quaint and pretty!

  18. […] Read more: The Atlas and Kasbah du Toubkal, there where time stops […]

  19. WOW! I love when all it takes is a few hours for things to be completely different. It’s amazing how the world can be like that… just crossing a border or a street even! The setting seems so tranquil and I love all the attention towards providing a healing space and the tea and cleansing rituals… You’ve just put this place on the list! -M

    • Steph

      25 January

      I know I love it too! This was really one of those places so magic that will stay with me for a long time…let me know if you get to go!

  20. […] Be prepared to a blaze of colours, sounds, and smells in Marrakech. A trip to Marrakech is an overly-sensorial experience, and you should keep this in mind when preparing your luggage. Combine long, airy dresses – this is Africa! – with some statement colored rings and bangles.Carry a scarf with you, not to keep you warm of course, but there will be occasions you will want or need to cover your head, especially if visiting religious sites or traditional villages in the Atlas mountains. […]

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.