I am somewhat surprised at the universally rave standard of Tripadvisor reviews for Kasbah Bab Ourika. Yes, it has a lot of good qualities. But there are also a fair number of faults too.
The good qualities first. The grounds are gorgeous, with lovely views. Trees and shrubs planted five years ago are coming to a good size and many of the trees are flowering for the first time this year - in April the air is full of the scent of mimosa and citrus blossom. There is a lovely pool with sun loungers and numerous other places around the gardens to sit and read or otherwise pass the time of day.
Our room was comfortable and having the fire lit as the evenings began to cool was a treat.
There is a wide range of places to have meals as well as the restaurant itself, including most of the outdoor terraces. Especially at breakfast one can sit where one wants. On the whole the food was good - sometimes delicious, sometimes less so.
Admirably, the hotel employs 56 local Berber staff and encourages their families to grow produce for the hotel to buy. This has clearly transformed the local economy.
If so inclined there are lots of optional activities, from guided walks to donkey or camel rides.
BUT our bathroom was intermittently whiffy and later in the season when the weather becomes hotter I'm not sure it would have been OK.
Service was distinctly patchy. Though friendly and willing, quite a few of the waiters spoke almost no English or even French and were unable to explain an item on the menu, and had clearly not been trained to go and find out the answer if they didn't know it. At our first breakfast we had no idea what was on offer and at no time did anyone tell us. It just arrived. Eventually. At breakfast in particular service was very slow - and one evening we waited 45 minutes at our table for a pre-ordered meal, not even being brought a basket of bread.
It seemed to us that there was no effective restaurant manager. Certainly no-one was overseeing either slowness or menu explanations, and no-one had been trained to look to see if anyone was trying to attract their attention. And no matter how slow, there was never any apology. Left over wine was re-distributed to tables at the next meal almost randomly. Several times we were brought bottles with either a lot more or a lot less than we had left the meal before. And though always sorted out, in the end I found this and the slow service annoying.
In the two internal main courtyards around which the hotel is built, rather tacky (and certainly tatty) plastic sheeting is slung over as a quasi roof to keep out the rain. Some rain protection is obviously necessary but it seemed a great shame that in a stylishly designed place they should come up with such an unattractive solution.
Finally, I thought it was overpriced. With an almost entirely local staff, with wage levels extremely low, it is galling to be charged £5 for a beer - much higher than in Marrakech, and even more than one would pay in London. And the optional extras are expensive too. I wondered how much of what hotel guests were paying went to the guides, and suspected is wasn't much.
All in all, I would recommend this place but with quite serious reservations. Had there not been such rave reviews on Tripadvisor I might not have been so disappointed. As it was, it did not live up to my expectations.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Bab Ourika perches majestically on a hilltop at the apex of the Ourika Valley, guarding the gateway to the snow-capped Atlas Mountains – yet it is only 45 minutes from Marrakech’s International airport. With 360 degree panoramic views, this innovative new hotel receives warm sunlight all day, ending in spectacular sunsets. From its unique eyrie-like position it offers a birds eye view of the Atlas, of traditional Berber villages and of the lush river valley below. The Kasbah is one of the most eco-friendly hotels in Morocco; constructed principally from rammed earth, the traditional Berber building technique, it seems almost to have grown out of the rocks beneath. The thick walls provide such good insulation that air-conditioning is unnecessary. Solar panels provide hot water for the hotel and and the underfloor heating in the dining and bar area. Soon a biodigester will provide electricity and compost not only for the hotel but also for the village below. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Kasbah Bab Ourika Hotel Ourika