Q: What is it? A: The former residence of an Italian artist, discovered by Sir Richard Branson’s mother, bought by her son and converted into a rather luxurious outpost at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains.
I always wanted to know what it is like…
…to be a globe-trotting billionaire with a preference for neatly ironed denim shirts and wavy hair. My visit to Kasbah Tamadot in the High Atlas Mountains gave me a tiny glimpse of the life of Sir Richard Branson, (no, he wasn’t around). But I slept in the room where he first slept after his mother talked him into going up the dry Ouirgane valley to buy this place. Sir Richard was in these hoods to do a little balloon flying when Eve Branson found this kasbah. Originally built in the 1940s, it now belonged to the Californian artist and antique dealer Luciano Tempo who had modernized it. She convinced her boy to present the cash and the rest is, as they say, hotel history. I guess it sometimes comes in handy having a son who is a globe-trotting billionaire.
It doesn’t fit into any known category.
Is luxurious but it’s not glitzy. In many ways it’s modern but it’s certainly more traditionally Berber than hi-tech. Sir Wavy Hair obviously preserved a lot of what Signore Luciano Tempo had created. As you’ve probably already figured, this is not a place created by some kind of ‘agency’ and presented in PowerPoints. It’s the result of a creative relay-race involving some extraordinary minds. Apart from the magnificent backdrop formed by the High Atlas, the most obvious attraction around here, is, (drumroll… fireworks!), the Kasbah Tamadot itself.
Among the most friendly and hospitable people I’ve ever met…
Those who’ve been following this page for a while, know that I’m always ranting about the importance of the staff. In the case of the Kasbah Tamadot, some 90% of the staff members have been reqruited locally from the surrounding Berber villages. The hotel management proudly tell you that they have been trained by the Kasbah Tamadot ”…in all aspects of hotel operations” as well as in the English language. A very clever move as hospitality must be in the DNA of the Berber people. This goes for everybody I met during my three-night stay, from the concierge to housekeeping. You will be extremely well taken care of.
I say, anyone for ping-pong?
With only 18 bedrooms and suites plus six Berber tented suites you’d expect the service level to be nothing but top-notch. It is. The remote location also means that the kitchen must be amazing from breakfast to late night dinner. It is too. Executive chef Lee Cowie, (a Kiwi), knows his game and – I shit you not – his interpretation of tagine is a serious challenge to even the best local chefs. Another honorable mention goes out to Navindran Sukumaran, the super-friendly restaurant manager. But it’s the local Berber waiters who really deliver throughout the entire stay. Also, on a concrete platform, under a shading roof, stands something that says a lot about this hotel. It’s a table; a blue ping-pong table! What other luxury resort will you offer you that?
Yes, I hereby award it the expected five stars.
Expectations on this place were very high. Not being a badass guest but a critical minded guest, I’ve been scanning everywhere for imperfection. I didn’t find any. This is by no means a cheap place to stay at, but the fantastic staff make you feel a little like, well… a globe-trotting billionaire. I’m glad that my hair is still intact.
Reservations: Virgin Limited Edition (UK)
T: +44 (0)208 600 0430