At a Glance
"Dar Ahlam" | translation: “house of dreams.” It might sound like a poetic, even dramatic moniker, but it fits the fairy tale that is Dar Ahlam. A truly special, one-of-a-kind property, this hotel is a passion project from French visionary Thierry Teyssier, who took almost two years to carefully restore a historic casbah in this little-touristed area. Each of Dar Ahlam’s 14 suites is completely unique, simultaneously honoring local craftsmanship and highlighting worldly treasures from the founder’s personal travels. Teyssier was a seasoned luxury-travel entrepreneur before opening Dar Ahlam, which he did out of a desire to create a place where anything a guest could think up could be made to happen. The result is a place with no restrictions, no set meal times or locations and a staff eager to create a truly custom experience for each guest.
**The Standout: **The numerous meal settings—guests will take every meal in a different venue, each with a special and singular vibe **Don't Miss:**A night in Dar Ahlam’s desert encampment
- The on-property dining, which showcases spices from the best purveyors in Morocco
- The tranquil, expansive gardens filled with palm trees
- The adventures by foot, quad bike or 4×4 into the surrounding desert
Tucked away down a dirt road in a remote oasis in southern Morocco, Dar Ahlam, or the House of Dreams, is an exquisite hideaway. Highlights of a stay range from lying by the pool and dining on some of the best gourmet food in Morocco, to visiting a remote region inhabited by Berbers and Bedouin and exploring a traditional side of the country.
The passion project of a Frenchmen, Thierry Teyssier, who fell in love with a little-touristed area, the ancient Kasbah took almost two years to restore. Local craftsmen cut windows in the façade, fashioned wooden ceilings of bamboo and olive wood, carved arched wooden doorways and painted the walls in native Tadelakt style but in an innovative palette. Finally Teyssier, who personally oversaw the décor, added his collection of treasures that he picked up on his worldly travels. One suite, for instance, contains antique birdcages and another has an enormous painting from India.
Each of Dar Ahlam's 14 accommodations suites different, but all bear a nomadic taste, which mixes textiles from Paris and Marrakech with straw carpets from Mexico and wool ones from Italy. Some bathrooms have colorful tiles; others have wood-burning fireplaces at the foot of the tub. Every stairway, hallway or courtyard delights with a new mix of lanterns, carpets, tiles or objects.
Seasons bring change as well with heavier curtains and carpets laid down in winter and Moroccan cashmere shawls hanging in each closet. In fact, setting a scene is a motif that dictates each day at Dar Ahlam. There is a main salon, pool area and hammam for spa treatments, but there is no lobby nor dining room. Rather, every meal is served in a new setting. Guests arrive at the salon when they would like to eat and are escorted to a new venue: a table on the lawn, a picnic in the garden, terrace on the ramparts, a cozy alcove in the Kasbah or a candle-lit tent.
Activities, too, are orchestrated for drama, so treks through the Valley of Roses end with a picnic by a river and sunset may be celebrated with cocktails or tea on an isolated hilltop furnished with cushions and carpets. The region offers incredible hiking as well as opportunities to experience traditional village life with Berber guides. For the more adventurous guests, the hotel arranges an overnight in the desert to sleep in tents under the stars. (Note: there is no fitness facility, no phones in the rooms and internet only in the main salon and the junior suites.)
The staff comes from the local village, and Dar Ahlam’s nine acres of gardens (one of which supplies the chef with vegetables), were designed by one of the gardeners behind the makeover of the Tuileries in Paris but are now maintained by a team of twenty Berbers from Skoura. The chef, also born in Skoura, has benefited from frequent crash courses with visiting French chefs, who have collaborated with him on combining local ingredients and traditions with international savoir-faire. The results: each meal manages to balance sophistication with an appreciation of the rustic beauty of the environs.
Breakfast at Dar Ahlam may include bowls of preserves and sliced kiwis or pomegranate from the garden with freshly baked breads, honeyed crepes and sugared sponge cake; while lunch could be grilled chicken skewers or minced beef accompanied by carrot and fennel salad and green beans dressed in a pomegranate vinaigrette with peanuts. After one meal here, it is easy to understand why so many Parisians return regularly. This really is, as its nickname says, a house of dreams.
Who Should Stay
Couples looking for a supremely romantic place to relax and families or travelers seeking a high-end experience in the desert
Ouarzarzate, the closest airport, is a thirty-minute drive away, but flights are infrequent, unreliable and are often scheduled for odd hours. Most people charter flights or make the five-hour drive from Marrakech.
Written by Melissa Biggs Bradley