t’s the colors that keep you at the table. Your Berber omelet is long gone—caramelized onions, tomato and coriander mopped away with a few squares of golden, pillowy m’smen. From the kasbah’s breakfast pergola, situated majestically atop a foothill wreathed in olive and citrus groves, surrounding gardens glow green beneath minaret-studded ridge lines, and the mountains beyond wear seven shades of purple.
That Kasbah Bab Ourika is only forty-five minutes from the center of Marrakech is a boon for time-strapped travelers, and it is also a marvel. You could spend longer commuting across Manhattan, and yet, as you round the last of the rutted driveway’s uphill switchbacks, flanked by knobby mules, chickens and children, you may feel you’ve left the (ever worldlier) Red City in another dimension.
This is not the Morocco of glossy concept stores and scooter-wielding teenagers clad in ripped denim. But nor is it the Disney version that so often finds expression in an excess of filigreed lanterns, tasseled pillows and statement plunge pools. Rather than pandering to Western fantasies of Eastern grandeur, Bab Ourika’s design hails the Berber traditions and aesthetics that have inhabited the Maghreb for millennia. Built using a heritage mixture of mud and limestone that blushes and burns in the shifting desert light, the kasbah could almost have sprouted straight from the canyon it commands. In each of its fifteen guest rooms, furnished with seemly restraint, ornamentation is limited to antique oil lamps and pom-pom throws sourced nearby.
Nothing detracts from the snowcapped mountain scape that is the property’s true centerpiece. Once you’ve had your fill of breakfast vistas, you might visit a local saffron cooperative, where you’ll learn how women work by night to harvest the tiny threads from lavender crocus flowers—or trek through pomegranate and kumquat orchards en route to a Berber village. Don’t be surprised if your guide invites you home for mint tea in the company of many smiling siblings and cousins. In our case, the ritual was complete with homemade barley flatbread, prepared by his mother and still warm, not to mention oil pressed from olives grown in his own back yard.
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