When I first visited Maison Merzouga Seggaoui in December 2009 I was travelling with my kids, aiming to show them the genuine Morocco that I had experienced while living in the country years ago. I found Maison Merzouga through tripadvisor and cannot stress enough how, for once, the reality exceeded my expectations. I have been back to Morocco several times this year and always try to fit in a visit to Hassi Labied and the Seggaoui family. My most recent visit dates to mid-August 2010.
On each occasion I have appreciated how Lahcen, Ali, Amar and the team of extended family who help out in the guesthouse manage to make their guests feel both ‘special’ and, at the same time, ‘part of the family’. Theirs is an innate sense of hospitality (characteristic of Moroccans in general and of the Saharan Imazighen in particular) combined with a genuine and spontaneous interest in their guests and the stories, traditions and experiences they have to share and compare. This balance of cordiality and respect was particularly appreciated on the occasions I was travelling alone, and I have seen how many visitors to Maison Merzouga go on to remain friends of the Seggaoui family over time.
There is a surprising number of things to do in Hassi Labied. Take a walking tour of the village, the palmerie and the khettara (traditional aqueduct and irrigation system) with Ali; check out the activities of the Association Hassi Labied, run by a small group of volunteers from the village who run literacy courses for local women, a nursery school for village children and many other projects; if you’re there on a Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday a visit to Rissani, (ancient Sijilmassa for those with a penchant for al Bakri, Ibn Battuta and Leo Africanus) with Lahcen as he buys supplies at the souk is a must; and don’t miss the 4x4 desert excursion with Amar (travelling on a budget I was hesitant but thank goodness temptation prevailed!). Ali is an efficient organiser and can offer sound advice and practical help with local activities and with ongoing travel.
With regard to the structure itself, the traditional layout of the spacious premises ensures that one never feels crowded while always feeling at home. I can only confirm, without reiterating, the positive comments on the rooms, service, facilities and food to be found elsewhere here on tripadvisor! I would add that the pool is a welcome addition, large enough to refresh and restore without being uncomfortably ostentatious in this desert environment. Finally, if you are concerned about a possible language barrier, do not fear: besides their native Tashelhit, the Seggaoui brothers speak Arabic, French, English, Spanish, Italian, German and even a little Japanese!
My experience at Maison Merzouga and in the village of Hassi Labied in general has been so positive that I will, insh’allah, be bringing a small group of social science students on a field trip in early 2011.