Featured Favorite: Dar Ahlam

Dar Ahlam

Ouarzazate, Morocco

Who it’s best for:

Luxury travelers, culture lovers, foodies, those seeking a little pampering and those who love highly unique hotels


Private desert encampment, tour the almond and rose valleys, spa treatments, visit 12th century Berber villages, private sundowner experiences, go for a hike, stroll through the gardens and cooking classes on request

Why we love it:

Dar Ahlam is a restored kasbah restored that promises an oasis of ethereal and minimalist romance with a luxurious whimsy that echoes through your mind long after you’re gone. This is a place to simply be, to take in centuries of Moroccan magic.

A Place for Dreams

Hidden away in an oasis of palm and almond groves where the Atlas Mountains meet the Sahara, Dar Ahlam is a place of dreams. This is a place where the days are long and luxurious, where time is measured in cups of fresh mint tea and pages turned in your book. After the thrilling hustle and bustle of Morocco’s vibrant cities, Dar Ahlam is a much-welcomed respite of calm and tranquility. It is long garden strolls, leisurely wine-soaked lunches and evenings pondering the desert stars.

From the moment you step foot onto the grounds, you are welcomed into a place where luxury is tinged by whimsy and delights await around every corner. The staff are attentive, but non-intrusive, giving you the time and space to discover the hidden secrets of Dar Ahlam at your own pace.

Come here to enthrall your senses. Breathe in the delicate aroma of orange and almond blossoms, hear the rustling of silvery leaves in ancient olive groves. Watch the fringe of the Atlas Mountains glow coral and red as the sun sinks low in the sky and you sip on a gin and tonic. Feel the couscous between your palms as you learn to hand-roll it in a Berber home, taste the palette of spices painted across your dinner table. Dar Ahlam is the dream of Morocco that you’ll never want to wake up from.

A Place to be Enchanted

A centuries old kasbah that has watched over generations of oasis life, Dar Ahlam has been lovingly restored to welcome travelers from around the world. They struck the perfect balance between adding just enough modern conveniences to create a luxurious experience without losing any of the relic charm. The design is minimal and beautifully clean, letting the sprawling, organic beauty of the gardens be the focus. Clean architectural lines are softened by swishing palm fronds and swathes of airy white linen. Accents of geometric Berber patterns are tattooed into rammed earth walls the color of honeyed terracotta.

Handwoven textiles and rugs plucked from the local souk bring a restrained decadence to the suites. Pressed tin lanterns cast a kaleidoscope of golden light, creating an almost unbearably romantic ambiance to any meal. Oversized, hand-carved wooden doors with pounded nails beckon you to seek what lies beyond.

This is a place where a new, secret space awaits you around every corner. Wander down halls lit only by candles, the flickering light casting shadows across the gently undulating surface of the earthen walls. Tuck yourself away into a cozy room painted the sumptuous colors of a Saharan sunset to read a good novel. Warm your toes by your suite’s private fireplace as nighttime brings the chill of desert air.

Morocco is a nation shaped by the cultural influences of countless foreign lands, and the Dar Ahlam gardens are no exception. Created by Louis Benech, the gifted designer of the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris and the Bosquet du Théâtre d'Eau at Versailles, they show how elegant simplicity can be. Feathery tufted grasses frame perfectly manicured lawns. Palms tower over orchards of olive and citrus trees. Pomegranates and flowers bring pops of color to a backdrop of soft greens. Tiny tortoises wander freely, peeking out from beneath the leaves. Perhaps the most delightful part of the gardens is the abundance of luscious fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and nuts that are grown to fuel the creativity of Dar Ahlam’s culinary team.

A Place for Delights

If you only travel to Dar Ahlam for the food and nothing else, no one could fault you. During your stay you will dine on dishes selected from 450 gourmet recipes created by the likes of Frédérick Grasser-Hermé, Philippe Conticini, Frédéric Eyrier, Cédric Nieuvarts and Thierry Alix, with desserts by the incomparable Pierre Hermé. Each dish has a story to tell. The ingredients tell the tale of Morocco’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. They are tantalizing, yet subtle. Simple, yet creative. Magnificent, memorable and utterly unexpected. The abundance of the garden fuels the menus, which are ever-changing to express the bounty of the seasons.

Whenever possible ingredients that can’t be produced at the kasbah are sourced from the local women’s co-operatives or farmers. Goat cheese, pomegranate vinegar, date caramel, tall herb grass honey and amlou, a luscious spread made from crushed almonds and argan oil, are all sourced from the surrounding valleys where they are harvested and produced by families who have been making them for generations. They have also developed a micro-credit system with local herders to rear high quality, environmentally responsible livestock.

At Dar Ahlam you’ll taste olives cured with orange peel and chilies, and pineapple carpaccio with crystallized coriander. You’ll sip on warming pumpkin and ginger soup or cool off with strawberries served with sweet and salty crystallized lemon, olive oil sorbet and vanilla. You’ll dine on a crusty avocado tart with arugula salad and ice cream made from melon flowers and yogurt.

Not only will you never have the same dish twice, you won’t even have the same dining experience twice. Everything is private and perfectly customized to you and your tastes. On a quiet balcony overlooking the grounds, sit on oversized cushions as your attendant presents delectable small dishes and starry skies peak through the canopy overhead. Be led through a candlelit hallway to a secret courtyard where a table for two illuminated by 100 candles awaits. Stroll through the garden to a secluded stand of olive trees where an elaborate lunch is set up for you, chilled wine and nibbles ready the moment you arrive. It’s all about these gorgeous, curated moments just for you.

Venture Beyond the Place

In case you want to do something more than indulge in delectable meals and read in the gardens, Dar Ahlam also offers a handful of other activities. Get a massage featuring the most beautiful Moroccan spa products or enjoy a personal sundowner on a bluff overlooking the mountains. Hike to a 12th century Berber village to learn about their traditional lifestyle or go for a picnic and bike ride through the fragrant almond and rose valleys.

By far their most special experience beyond the kasbah is their extraordinary private desert encampment called Camp Nomad. Spending a night in the Sahara in a classic Berber-style camp is a quintessential Moroccan experience that many travelers will do. However, no one does it better than Dar Ahlam. They have two different locations depending on the season, but both are utterly private and away from the crowds that most other experiences have.

White canvas tents, plush pillows, handwoven rugs, crisp linens and all of the same delectable food and impeccable service as the kasbah come together to create an experience that is simply put – magical. Think tagines slow cooked over the campfire coals and cocktails made from vodka steeped with lemons and star anise. As you watch a watercolor sky fade away to a canopy of stars brighter than you’ve ever seen, you’ll feel like the only people on Earth. It’s an homage to an age when the world felt twice as large and was still largely unexplored.

When your heart craves the romance of a bygone era and your soul the stillness of a desert sky, come to Dar Ahlam. You will find what you seek and so much more.

Visit Dar Ahlam for Yourself!

Traveling through Morocco can involve a lot of hours in the car as you move between the various destinations, so we love to use Dar Ahlam as a place to unwind and slow down at the end of a trip. We think everyone should splurge and spend at least three nights here, especially if you’re going to do one night in the desert at Camp Nomad. Everyone we send here comes away saying it’s one of the best and most special experiences they’ve ever had.

Check out our Magical Morocco itinerary, which pairs two nights at Dar Ahlam and one night at Camp Nomad with our other opulent favorites in Fez and Marrakech. From the fascinating traditions of Marrakech to vibrant modern cultural scene thriving in Fez, this itinerary has it all.

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