Solange Hando discovers the Kasbah Hotel Xaluca, a unique hotel at the doorway to the Sahara.
Only 5km from Erfoud town, Xaluca greets you in the middle of nowhere among swaying palms and tingling sand. You may spot a dromedary or two grazing on the meagre grass but where is the hotel? All you see at first are adobe towers rising in the African sun, that’s the entrance to your hidden Kasbah. Now step under the archway and you may be welcomed by Berber musicians and dancers before mint tea is served in the reception. Symbolising Moroccan hospitality, the drink is poured into glasses from a silver pot, held high so guests can appreciate the golden colour and gentle foam before the refreshing taste.
Ready for your room? Not quite, just follow the staff around the spacious outdoor area where, fringed by palms and bougainvillaea, the swimming pool beckons with hard-to-resist loungers. But don’t be tempted until you know your way around the lanes. It’s a bit of a maze (no lift) yet so attractive, as colourful pebble patterns meander along the traditional archways leading to corridors and rooms. With 200 rooms and 8 secluded bungalows, plus a conference centre, Xaluca caters for a wide range of guests, including groups on the Grand Tour – keen to relax for a couple of nights – and the occasional film crew drawn by the architecture and surrounding wilderness.
Modern amenities are available in every room but top of the range are the 9 Suite Royals boasting extra living space, African ornaments and large terraces looking out to the dunes. Junior and senior suites have king-size beds while standard rooms are also a good size, adorned by cushions in the seating area. Standards can accommodate 2, 3 or 4 people. But whatever you settle for, the genuine Moroccan style is enticing: first the warm Berber colours, mostly orange and red, for the bed throw, drapes and rugs on the tiled floor, then the shower room with a basin carved from local marble and shelves embedded with fossils like ammonites. Most windows are small like in an original Kasbah, a citadel or fortress built to keep the leader safe. The bungalows provide luxury apartments, each one with a private entrance, kitchen/living space, 2 suites (jacuzzi), courtyard and terrace. Self-catering guests can access hotel facilities.
For an overall view of the grounds and beyond, the rooftop terrace is well worth a climb for the stunning panorama over the dunes and decorated towers and tiny gardens glistening all around. Down by the pool, Berber rugs show the way to restaurants and bars. Dining is in or outdoors, two restaurants for international fare and two for Moroccan specialities. Must try is couscous, the ‘national dish’ made from wheat semolina, which can accompany the slow-cooked tagine (meat and vegetable stew) flavoured by local spices. Add a glass or two of Moroccan wine and the gorgeous buffet might also tempt you with fresh salad, paella, roast chicken and so much more, followed by sun ripe fruit (loved the oranges sprinkled with cinnamon) and sweet pastries. Don’t skip breakfast, it is generous, American style.
Activities in the hotel? If you’re prepared to leave the pool, out or indoors (jacuzzi), you will find a fitness room, paddle tennis, mini-golf, ping pong and bocce but after a long day at the ‘Door of the Desert’, the spa is sure to be a highlight. Rituals range from Vichy showers to sauna, massage (10 rooms), traditional hammam and beauty treatments. Then relax under the palm trees with a pre-dinner drink or browse the gift shop, gazing at silver craft, pottery, necklaces, coral, and fossils.
Adventure? The hotel can arrange a 4WD or ATV ride through palm groves and dunes or an overnight bivouac in the desert (warm clothes recommended). But most guests can enjoy the sunrise with little effort: wake up before dawn, see the stars as you drive to the edge of the dunes, then ride a dromedary or climb through shifting sand. Now, as you sit and wait in silence, the magic begins, soft shades of purple and pink spreading across the land, turning to gold as the sun peeps over the top, rising blazing hot within minutes. Amazing… but time to return to the Kasbah for a scrumptious breakfast and a cool glass of mint tea.
Tell Me More about Kasbah Hotel Xaluca
Kasbah Xaluca Hotel Km 5 Route Errachidia BP 205, 52200 Erfoud, Morocco
E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: +212 5355 78450
Double rooms from £71
Errachidia to Erfoud is around 65 km
Getting there: Royal Air Maroc London to Errachidia via Casablanca, from £369 (round trip)