Last Saturday I was home for my son’s graduation and my daughter’s birthday. We had lunch with family in the Tennessee hills and watched The Kentucky Derby, traditionally toasted with Mint Juleps.
This weekend I was back in Morocco where I had lunch with friends in the high Atlas Mountains and road mules to the Berber home where we were traditionally greeted with mint tea.
Last week I wished my dad could have seen his grandson graduate, and yesterday I wished he could have ridden with me in a land so rugged, so beautiful. Always interested in American Indian culture and nature, he would have appreciated the history of the Berbers, the indigenous people of the Atlas Mountains and Dades Valley—land like Colorado where he hunted and like Arizona where our favorite westerns were set. Seen from a saddle, the sweeping grandeur of Imlil made me feel like I was in a movie. No wonder. The village is where trekkers come to scale Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in Northern Africa. Seven Years in Tibet was partially filmed here.
In Imlil, our host, Lahcen of Authentic Toubkal Lodge, met us with the muleteers at our car. He is a friend of Kate who had invited me to join her and her daughter, Amy, just arrived from Melbourne.
I’d been in a few Berber villages—one where I entered a rug shop, another a girl’s school, and a couple I’d trekked through with two other hikers, but this was my first private home visit. Just as medina walls can hide secret gardens, village houses made of mud and concrete– seemingly hard and dark–can shelter cozy retreats. Such was the case here. Up the stairs, past a formal salon, then down a decorative hall a door led to a paradise of pure light. From the comfortable, colorful terrace we saw snow-peaked mountains and heard the mosque’s call to prayer.
Full and happy, we rested before taking a tour of the house and the village. The rooms’ design details and thoughtful touches–plush blankets, slippers, custom showers and tile — as well as the food, view, and hospitality have earned the home top ratings on Trip Advisor and Airbnb. Though grateful, Lahcen says he doesn’t display awards to persuade customers. Instead he preserves the authenticity of the home where he grew up and is confident “guests will come– inshallah.” He adds that while “money comes and goes” what matters is offering people the best of nature and making them feel at home.
To book a lunch, tour, or home stay go here.