At last, we left behind Morocco’s dirty cities and reached Morocco’s beautiful countryside. We began our day by driving to the heart of Dades Valley, for this image:
From Dades we detoured to the Valley of Roses, where the High Atlas Mountains meet the Dades Gorge. This area was given its name due to the massive amounts of roses that bloom during cultivation season. Sadly, we weren’t there during the peak season, but the area was beautiful nonetheless. From the Valley of Roses, we proceeded to the town of Ouarzazate to find our “home” of the night, Kasbah Dar Daif.
Ouarzazate doesn’t seem like much while driving through it, but upon entering Kasbah Dar Daif, my opinion changed completely. We walked into our own private oasis in our very own kasbah. After another long day of driving, we were in complete awe of how owner Jean-Pierre created an atmosphere similar to that of an old caravanserai, a place where travelers could relax and heal after a long journey.
We were upgraded to Suite 11 and taken to our room. They opened the doors, and we couldn’t believe the space we had been given! Upon entering the foyer, we could turn right or left. If we turned right, there was a modest room with a twin size bed, a toilet room with sink, and a large washroom with an even larger tub! A perfect tub in which to decompress from the day’s events.
When exiting the bathroom and continuing back past the foyer, our suite opens up into a beautifully decorated living room filled with sunlight.
There was a comfortable sofa, four cushy chairs, and a small table – an area perfect for lounging and taking a break from the African heat. Walking through a double door, we were shown our beautiful bedroom. A king-sized bed, desk, armoire, and small sitting room, make this bedroom extravagant. If Dar Daif and their activities offered weren’t so incredible, I would have loved just curling up and hanging out in our suite.
Dar Daif isn’t your typical riad, as the staff truly goes above and beyond to make you comfortable. We met Jean-Pierre on Dar Daif’s exquisite terrace for tea and pastries (delicious almond and rose pastries at that!).
Afterwards, I was given the grand tour of Dar Daif and told about all of the “discoveries” offered on site – from sunrise walks to birdwatching to ATVing to canoeing, and horseback riding; they also organize a fantastic tour into the Sahara, that I will be sure to attend in the future. To be honest, I’m having trouble articulating my feelings because I’m so overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the staff at Dar Daif.
He continued to explain the activities that Dar Daif offered day and night, specifically related to spa-treatments. Dar Daif not only has its own masseuse on hand, but also its very own “Beldi (traditional) Hammam” and scrub treatment too! A hammam is a wet steam room consisting of three parts: the first, the apodyterium, is at room temperature (typically used for dressing/undressing), the second is a bit warmer, and the third, the caldarium, is hot. The hammam has been used traditionally in Muslim cultures to relieve stress and release toxins through sweating (very similar to a sauna). It provides an inexplicable form of relaxation, as the steam flows through your body.
Anyone who knows me knows that my body is constantly in a state of tension, so I was excited for this unique experience. I was directed to the undressing room, where you’re to strip down to your bathing suit or underwear before being guided inside. Put all of your dignity aside, as the lady scrubbing you will scrub…everywhere (sorry guys, it’s woman-woman and man-man). Every place you can imagine, she will scrub. It hurts, yet feels remarkable all the same. 45 minutes later, my skin had never felt so smooth! My “scrubber,” for lack of a better word, was incredibly nice, even though we didn’t speak the same language.
I had returned to our room, ready to soak in our bath-for-two, when our phone rang. A staff member suggested that I have a massage to follow the hammam scrub for even more relaxation. No need to twist my arm! A few minutes later, I was lying on a massage bed being covered in lavender scented essential oils. Who knew I was in for one of the best massages I ever received?! The masseuse covered everywhere, head to toe, giving ample time to both forehead and stomach too.
Relaxed as could be, my massage ended right in time for our 20:30 (8:30pm) dinner. After being requested to remove our shoes and wear slippers, we were served a multiple course, traditionally Moroccan, meal in the main house. While being serenaded with some very relaxing live Moroccan music, we were given a flavorful soup of Moroccan spices, a shredded carrot and spice salad, chicken tangine, and apple pie for dessert. Dar Daif understands the risks of Moroccan tap water for its guests and provided us with liters of mineral water, free of charge. After devouring such a fantastic meal (and completely forgetting to photograph it!), we had some Moroccan tea (the best tea in the world), and returned to our quarters. We had agreed to meet Jean-Pierre at 5:45am for a light breakfast before walking to a nearby lake to see sunrise over the kasbahs.
I had had a terrible bout of food poisoning all night from our previous hotel (pigeon and I clearly weren’t meant to be friends); I made sure, however, to be up for Jean-Pierre’s sunrise walk. Despite feeling like I was going to hurl with every step, I am thrilled that it didn’t keep me from witnessing such beauty. A short walk from Dar Daif is a beautiful lake, a beautiful lake that produces a sunrise progression like this:
I was astonished by the colors and the reflections, causing me momentarily to forget my sickness. I was extremely grateful to Jean-Pierre for giving me an opportunity to experience something so unique to Morocco, and for his suggestion for us to join him. Along with the tour, we went birdwatching and canoeing. Jean-Pierre has a great DSLR camera and incredible telescope, allowing us to get up close and personal with all of the different species of birds in the lake.
To get to the canoeing area, we had to trek through high, muddy reeds; so be sure to wear waterproof shoes, long pants, and layers! Worth it? Absolutely! I actually had a blast navigating the reeds and getting covered in mud. [More than that, when I arrived back at Dar Daif, a staff member even cleaned my mud-filled hiking boots that I’d left at the front door, which was just so kind and thoughtful.]
When we finally arrived at the canoe area, my food poisoning wasn’t doing well, and so Jean-Pierre offered to have one of his friends drive me back in their 4×4, which I truly appreciate. The boys stayed for the canoe ride with Jean-Pierre and said that it was a great time (meanwhile, I tried to sleep off the sickness). When they returned to Dar Daif, the staff had procured a fantastic breakfast spread that I sadly had to miss out on.
As the staff didn’t see me at breakfast and heard that I had to leave our morning escape early, they came to check on me in my room. Not only to check on me, but to bring me tea meant to settle the stomach. How thoughtful was that?! Later in the day, when I hadn’t yet left the room, there was a knock on my door. This time, a different staff member brought me plain broth and rice so that I could try to get some food into my system. I was so grateful and blown away by their generosity and thoughtfulness. I was able to keep the soup down, and slowly began to feel like I could move around a bit.
At last, when I was feeling well enough to get up, we realized that we’d have to get moving onto our next destination: Marrakech. Jean-Pierre printed us maps of the area and drew us directions so that we wouldn’t get lost – he even told us a more scenic way to get to Marrakech from Ouarzazate. We shared one last tea, and he sent us on our way with doggy bags in hand for when I could stomach food again, liters of water, and photos to remember the experience. I will forever remember Jean-Pierre and the remarkable staff at Dar Daif. I truly cannot wait to return and join them on a tour to the Sahara. Until next time Jean-Pierre!
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**Special thanks to Jean-Pierre and the staff of Dar Daif for kindly offering me a complimentary stay. As always, all opinions are my own.