Berber Lodge, Marrakech, Morocco
Battered, weathered and beautiful, Berber Lodge epitomises low-key luxe away from Marrakech's well-trodden streets.
27 December, 2019
We're venturing south, in the opposite direction to those leaving Marrakech Menara Airport towards the city's frenetic nebulous. A 20-minute drive later, we reach the village of Oumnass in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.
Veering off the main road at a small wooden arrow reading "Berber Lodge", we follow a dirt track for a few minutes before reaching the low-lying, earthen-hued hotel that will be our lodging for the weekend. At first glance, Berber Lodge cuts a rustic, raw and sculptural shape.
Its barren exterior is juxtaposed with a busier inner space. A wrought-iron, mustard-hued star greets guests as they enter; a path, fringed with wild grasses and vegetation draws them deeper inside. Reception is a throughway between the extended corridor and the dining room - a quartet of chairs, a fringed fuschia carpet and a wicker bust mounted above a solitary, flickering candle hint at the design-led space's aesthetic, vibe and overall disposition.
Berber Lodge takes things back to basics (albeit with the welcome addition of electricity) - its owner Romain Michel-Ménière, a French-Swiss interior designer who has lived in Morocco since 2002, has incorporated the rough and the smooth. Open-plan rooms spill one into the next, suggesting the ethos of "openness" that imbues the place. It's a space to chill, recharge, disconnect… all buzzwords, yes, but Berber Lodge really does facilitate these things. Battered, weathered and beautiful - and away from the fray - this place epitomises low-key luxe.
Oases of calmness and comfort, all 10 rooms (cottages, really) are dotted beyond the hotel's central space, creating a series of private residences around the main property. Room six is the closest to base, while Ourika (the family room) offers the most space, sleeping three across two bedrooms. Inside most rooms, walls are puttied, mosquito nets are wrapped around bed frames in spider-like formations and wooden planks camouflage mod cons. Petite windows below your eyeline are covered by engraved wooden shutters, complete with star-shaped, battered-metal handles. Woven bed frames are veiled with organic cotton bedding - best enjoyed once tucked in with the crackling sound of the olive-bark fire (set by staff while you're at dinner) lulling you to sleep. Those not quite ready to drift off just yet can take up hearthside seats and dig their toes into thick, chevron-patterned cream-and-black Beni Ourain rugs while recapping on the day's happenings. Bathrooms teeter towards the basic, consisting of a dinky marble sink, a towel rail fashioned from whittled wood and a generously sized bath (there's no shower curtain and most rooms are open plan - though, thankfully, the toilet has a door).
What's for breakfast?
A very happy checkered tablecloth, billowing to the floor, greets you as you enter the breakfast room (open between 8am and 10.30-ish). There's no menu, so morning decisions are limited to coffee or tea. (Just FYI: if you choose tea and don't specify you will be served mint tea, not breakfast tea). Your first round of breakfast foods consists of a fruit, plain natural yoghurt, bread and perfectly squeezed orange juice, followed by crêpes paired with a selection of conserves. If you've still got a little room to fill, add an order of eggs to your breakfast - scrambled are best.
How about lunch and dinner?
While at breakfast, you'll be asked by your waiter to confirm whether you will be having lunch at the lodge. For dinner, your presence is assumed - it's a little like your mother's approach to hospitality (though of course there is always the option to RSVP "no" to an evening meal here). The menu is preset and changes daily, showcasing a selection of dishes that are specific to the region of Tameslouht - on any given night the three courses served here might include a medley of a lick-the-bowl-clean pea soup, a light chicken tagine served with seasonal vegetables and a lemon tart, all presented on moss-green crockery, placed onto woven placemats and eaten with weighty, vintage silverware. On occasion, dinner will be served in the lounge, rather than the main dining room.
Is there a bar?
A très boho-chic bar - flanked with woven lampshades (made in Tunisia) and quartered off with a couple of leather-capped high stools - beckons guest into the main building, pre-dinner. While it's a compelling place for an evening tipple, the dinky corner requires the house to adopt a pouring policy that is quite relaxed - read: the bar is where you are. Our preferred drinking spots: sinking back into the fireside, pillow-crowded sofas and book in hand on the terrace under bougainvillea. Ease and freeness is paramount here.
An unheated swimming pool; pack your bathing suit. WiFi is only available in the reception area - a needs-must novelty we're willing to get on board with.
Things you should know
Car service from the airport can be arranged by the hotel for 300 dirham or €28 (both currencies are accepted). A jeep (useful for the off-the-beaten track portion of your journey) will take you from point A (the arrivals gate where your driver will be waiting with a sign) to point B (Berber Lodge).
Within a short walk you'll find…
Rubble. Prickly pears. Sheep. Not much else. A car is required to venture beyond the acres of land which Berber Lodge occupies. For a change of scene, Beldi Country Club is a 20-minute drive away and serves as a great stopping-off point en route to the city's centre.