|A baby goat, 1 day old|
I first read about the Kasbah du Toubkal in 1843, the Economist Magazine's lifestyle supplement. The article was about high altitude lodges and the description of the Kasbah in Morocco captured my imagination. It offered an "off-the-grid" experience (though not literally. We had reliable cell phone service in the Kasbah and on the hiking trails. Wifi was intermittently available, but not very fast or very consistent.). Morocco seemed like an exotic destination but reasonably safe for western travelers. We enjoy mountain hiking. The Kasbah pays attention to environmental sustainability. It also works to enhance the well-being of the local Berber villagers; a 5% charge supports local projects including a program called Education for All which promotes educational opportunities for girls in the region. And, it was reasonably priced.
So it was, shortly after reading the article, as we planned a trip to Europe, I showed my wife the info about the Kasbah and asked if it appealed to her. It did, and we decided to fit it into our itinerary. The package we bought included 3 nights at the Kasbah and 2 nights in Marrakech. It would have been fairly easy to fly to Marrakech from any of the other cities on our itinerary. We opted to do it after our stay in Lisbon.
Discover Ltd. is a British travel agency that specializes in travel to Morocco. It also owns the Kasbah du Toubkal. Our package included transportation during our stay, the room and meals at the Kasbah, and a room in a riad in Marrakech. Our driver met us at the airport, as we expected. The ride to the Kasbah took about an hour. You arrive in the village of Imlil. There your luggage is loaded onto a donkey and you hike up to the Kasbah. (If you don't want to walk, they will provide a donkey for you to ride. But if you're not going to hike, why come to the Atlas Mountains?)
|Hiking through a Berber village in Morocco|
The Kasbah strives to immerse the traveler in traditional Berber hospitality. When we arrived, we were invited to sit down and have a glass of mint tea and snack on some nuts before being taken to our room. The room, and all of the facilities at the Kasbah, was plain but comfortable. I thought it was consistent with the descriptions I'd read online. My wife thought it was more rustic than she expected.
Our package included breakfast and dinner. Travelers who want lunch generally buy it in Imlil or any of the villages you might be hiking through during the day. We enjoyed the meals at the Kasbah very much. Breakfast was quite hearty. It included bread, cheese, yogurt, fruit, granola, and an omelette, if you so desire. Dinner each night was a tagine. It is a set menu, you don't have any other option. The 3 tagines we had during our stay were chicken, beef, and lamb. On the night they served lamb, the couple seated next to us stated that they don't eat lamb. But they were satisfied with the bread and side dishes (mostly roasted vegetables and couscous) that were served with the tagine.
No alcoholic beverages are available for purchase at the Kasbah, consistent with the prevailing Muslim dietary rules. However, the staff will serve wine to guests at dinner if the guest brings it along. We observed a few of the other guests who did that. Most, like us, did not imbibe.
Each evening after dinner, most guests gather in the Kasbah's library. That's your best bet for connecting to the wifi. They also have a selection of board games (including backgammon) and some books to peruse.
We took a guided hike on each Day 1 and Day 2. On Day 3, we hiked on our own back to one of the villages that we'd passed through on Day 2. There we did a little bit of shopping before returning to the Kasbah. One option that we did not do - the staff will arrange a guided, overnight hike that includes going to the summit of Mount Toubkal which is the highest peak in North Africa. It's not supposed to be a particularly difficult hike. But we didn't want to do the overnight stay.
Besides hiking, we enjoyed just relaxing on the Kasbah's rooftop terrace, reading, snoozing, and enjoying the views. From our high vantage point, we could see several villages, and in the evening, you'd hear the imam from each village's mosque call the faithful to prayer. It was both eerie and awe inspiring.
|Moonrise, as seen from the Kasbah's rooftop|