Friday, January 21, 2011

Douar Samra, High Atlas Retreat

photos by Laini Taylor

Hello there! We're back to Morocco today!

Picking up where we left off . . . 

After five days in Marrakesh, it was time to move on to our next destination: the village of Tamatert in the High Atlas Mountains, about an hour and a half from Marrakesh and just upslope from Imlil, a (larger) village that is the center for trekking on Mount Toukbal, North Africa's highest peak.

Tamatert is tiny. Teeny-tiny. I'm afraid I have a sad failure of photography -- a hire car brought us, and another picked us up, and what with Clementine fussy in the car seat, I didn't ask either driver to stop for a panoramic shot. Sigh, alas. And as for the village itself, there was the matter of not wanting to be the big a-hole sticking a camera in everyone's face. 

Our precise destination was the guesthouse Douar Samra, owned -- indeed, built -- by Jacqueline, the Swiss woman who owns (and restored) the Riad Samsara in Marrakesh, where we stayed. Douar Samra is an altogether different experience. Samsara was all elegance; Samra is rustic-cozy. So cozy.

Remember I mentioned the coziest room I have ever been in? Well, here it is, the lounge at Samra.

How fairy-tale is this room? *Swoon swoon love.* I couldn't get enough of it!

It made for excellent Clementine exploration, too.

{keep reading after the cut!}

We thought we were the only guests in residence, but it turned out a British couple was staying there too, and were out trekking with a local guide; we met them at dinner.

We didn't have the place entirely to ourselves, though.

Oh, hello.

And though this next one looks to be part of the sequence, as if Clementine just decided to take a nap right then and foomped down on her back, in fact this is a bit later.

Also deceptive, her new friend, who seems to be watching over her?

. . . Might just have ulterior motives . . .

No, you say. You think I slander him? Cats are selfless creatures. What could he possible want?


Another little time lapse. This was extremely cozy. Clementine stirred and needed a cuddle to get back to sleep, and cat-friend decided to help by keeping her tush warm. We had a lovely lounge all together. (I was reading the ARC of Delirium, by the way, the new one from Lauren Oliver. Good!)

photo by Jim Di Bartolo

The story of Jacqueline building this place is, as we understood it, that she liked to hike in this part of the Atlas, with the drawback that there wasn't anywhere comfortable to stay. Bummer. So she decided to create a place. I don't know how she came to choose Tamatert, or how the talks with the villagers went (it is really really small, not like Marrakesh where one more guesthouse isn't even going to register. This is the ONLY thing in Tamatert!

In any case, Samra is built entirely in the local style, of pise, or mud brick, and it is rambles down a hillside, a number of structures connected by courtyards, winding stone staircases, covered decks, and terraces with astonishing views.

photo by Jim Di Bartolo

photo by Jim Di Bartolo

I couldn't help daydreaming, in the total isolation of this windswept place, that it would make for an amazing writing retreat! There is absolutely nothing to do but walk on the mountain and sit on the terraces enjoying your own company. And I read that in the spring the area bursts with almond and cherry blossoms. That must be stunning. Because there are no restaurants around, Samra is full-board, that's breakfast-lunch-dinner included, and the food was great!

Electricity is minimal, and there are lanterns on every step, and white-washed lantern niches in all the walls. It's very romantic!

The rooms are utterly charming too, but were hard to photograph with my not-wide-angle lens (I am so getting a wide angle lens one of these days! Check the website for good room pics.) Each room is different; ours was a double-decker. The bed and bath area raised about the lounge, up a rickety staircase.

photo by Jim Di Bartolo

Now, the bathroom. I couldn't do it justice (but the website does)! It consists of two freestanding huts within the room, thatch-roofed, with no electrical lights, just lanterns. I had a candle-lit shower, which was pretty sweet!

Okay, eek! It's 1 am. How does that keep happening?? I'll leave you with this one last photo:

This was the first place we saw -- and loved -- these folk art animals. We kept encountering them at guesthouses, and wanting to know where they came from. Would we get lucky and find out? Stay tuned! 

Oh wait, I lied. One more photo!

And THAT is the end :-)


Evie said...

I'm envious of children's uninhibited selves, toddling around exploring everything with such enthusiasm then phlump! sound asleep...and the baby fashion...omg Clementine's sweater and little leg warmers are so cute!

I'd like to have my family room done in the lounge style at Samra.

Clem discovering the cat peeking from beneath the table linen is priceless.

Fletcher of the Day said...

Great Photos Laini! The light is amazing! I really love the boy with the goat. Great Job. And I love the cat series (of course :) Fletcher LOVES the cats and time stops when they are around.

Beautiful shots! :)

xx Lori

Hello Hoobubby / Alexandra said...

This post is making it all the harder to decide which Clementine photo I want to frame! And the photos are just fantastic Thinnae. Keep posting them! And lastly, you guys have had candlelight showers before- don't you remember???? My studio in LA after PCorps? The candle in the sink???? It couldn't have been better than that.

Jennifer Morian Frye said...

Looks amazing! Cats are interesting.....I have an idea that I don't want to know what they are thinking. Love these photos! The solitude of the mountains would be amazing for awe inspiring. And, of course that daughter of yours is incredibly adorable.

tone almhjell said...

Oh, the room! Finally! It really is marvellous. I just want to lounge on those cushions and sleep. But maybe that's not what common rooms are for, if you're not a toddler.

I love the series of Clementine and the cat. Did she really treat it with as much respect as it appears here? I can't get Mags to stop pulling poor Pims's and Balthus's tails. They're too swishy and pretty and *there*.

That place would make a wonderful writing retreat. I keep dreaming of a real writing vacation. Uh... that is time to write, not vacation from writing. My mother's new cabin might be the spot... But then I'd miss the boys.

andalucy said...

I know what you mean about not wanting to be that person who's in everyone's face with a camera. It seems you got some lovely pics anyway. I love the boy with the goat! Great shot.

Those folk animals are so vibrant! I can't wait to learn more.

melanie said...

What an awesome place to stay. I want to go now just so I can hang out in that room. Oh, and take in the views! Gorgeous. I don't think I'd get any writing done, I'd spend all my time hiking of lounging!

Jane said...

I love the kitty kat photo story!

Laini Taylor said...

Evie, hee hee, yeah, I love that sweater on Clementine. She was just wearing it this morning in fact, though it has gotten a bit tatty from constant wear on the trip (and not a little playing in the dirt!)

Lori, thank you!!! Can't wait to have a photo day out with you! Or weekend . . . or week . . . :-)

Hoobs, the shower, didn't Jim just change your light bulb right away? I can't recall if there was candlelight!

Tone, yes, Clementine is very gentle with animals so far! Yay! And ooh, "mother's new cabin" -- sounds wonderful!

Andalucy, I will tell more!

Melanie, you'd have to give yourself enough time there for a little of everything. But don't bring books to read. Too tempting to just lay around!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...