I didn’t quite realise quite how much I needed to get away from the city until I caught a glimpse of the snow topped Atlas Mountains behind the large head of the camel I was stroking.
After politely declining to ride one of the many camels that were walking towards us, we eagerly hop back in the taxi and speed off through the desert towards the beautiful snow caped mountains that fill the horizon. We almost can’t believe it, forty minutes out of Marrakech and here we are, sipping sweet Moroccan mint tea in the foot-hills of the Atlas Mountains surrounded by Kasbah Angour’s beautiful gardens and red sandstone walls.
Perched on a hill-top, this eco-friendly hotel offers stunning panoramic views of the highest mountains in Morocco and the surrounding Berber villages. Built eight years ago – partly by his own hands – owner Paul worked closely with local carpenters and craftspeople from the villages below to give guests an authentic taste of Morocco. The décor showcases Moroccan craft at its best, everything has been made either by local tradespeople or produced on site using cedar or walnut wood sourced directly from the Atlas Mountains. The walls have been built using local red sandstone and mud and the floors laid with handmade clay tiles from Meknes. Oh, and there’s also a pool, yes!
After basking in the warm afternoon sun, we pad up to our room and enjoy the same glorious views from our roof terrace. The suite is large and homely; colourful patterned rugs decorate the floors as well as the charmingly uneven tiles that feel warm under foot. The bed is large and comfortable, and the hand crafted wooden furnishings have Berber motifs carved into them giving the room as sense of authenticity and character.
Quiet, peaceful and with nothing but rolling hills surrounding us (seriously not even a shop) we pop our trainers on and scamper off to explore the villages with local guide Abdul. There are a variety of outdoor pursuits that can be arranged such as day trips to Marrakech, donkey treks, 4X4 adventures, camel rides, guided souk visits, rounds of golf, a variety of half or full-day walks and even skiing! But with our salopettes collecting dust back in England we opted for a six-mile, half day ramble around the Berber villages with four other guests – private excursions are also available.
We weave in and out of Abdul’s own village Agadir, before dropping down into the valley and passing through the National Park, all the while entertained by Abdul who stops frequently to fish for scorpions, search for quartz crystals or simply to tell us historical Moroccan stories. It’s brilliant fun and definitely worth my slightly pink shoulders – I really must wear more sun cream. Finally, we pass through Outghal, another local village made up of baked mud huts before heading back up to the hotel for a spot of lunch.
The food offering at The Kasbah is focused on seasonality and good quality produce. Fruit and vegetables are grown on site and the evening menu changes daily depending on what is ready for the eating. In fact, to avoid wastage, the friendly Berber staff offer guests the evening menu in the afternoon leaving time to prepare only what is needed. Healthy, hearty and with Moroccan and Mediterranean influences, you can expect dishes like pumpkin soup with argan oil and toasted corn croutons, coriander and garlic charcoal grilled chicken and, of course, vegetable and lamb tajines with apricots and sautéed potatoes. For dessert I enjoyed a plum tart made with plums from the garden as well as the majority of my boyfriend Jamie’s orange and carrot cake – well I had walked over six miles that day!
After another peaceful night sleep and a delicious breakfast of Berber eggs (eggs cooked in a bed of fried tomatoes) we find ourselves back in a taxi and hurtling towards Marrakech airport. I look out the window and see the camel I met a few days earlier chewing happily on some grass by the roadside. I give him a little wave.
“Who are you waving at?” Jamie asks.
“Oh no one, just a friend” I reply, smiling to myself.
Standard season: 2 people, 2 nights with breakfast from £81 – £217
High season: 2 people, 2 nights with breakfast from £131 – £346
Airport transfer £27
For more information visit www.kasbahangour.com