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“Was it a dream or was it real?”
Review of Dar Ahlam

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Dar Ahlam
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Skoura
Certificate of Excellence
Los Angeles, California
Level 3 Contributor
23 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Was it a dream or was it real?”
Reviewed August 7, 2010

We arrived at Dar Ahlam only to find out that we were the only guests (summer is the off season) at the hotel and would be upgraded to a villa. The place is beyond beautiful and great attention has been given to every detail, both of the buildings and the grounds. However, it is the service that truly sets it apart from other 5 star hotels. The excellence starts at the top with general manager Fabian, whom I like to refer to as Willy Wonka, because he makes magic for grown ups happen and just when you think it cannot get any better...it does! We told him that the airconditioning wasn't working properly in our bedroom, on our way to dinner and, when we returned from dinner, we were shocked to see that they had moved all of the bedroom into the living room (where the air was blasting in a heavenly manner in the 120 degree heat!) and the living room furniture into the bedroom. That was just the first of many wonderful surprises, which peaked on our last night when we were driven 20 minutes into the desert and served dinner alone on top of a sand dune! Words cannot convey how amazing this was. There was a warm wind blowing, keeping us cool as we watched the sunset and then ate a delicious dinner by lantern light. Wow! We are looking forward to returning during the winter and checking out Dar Ahlam's tents in the Sahara.

  • Stayed July 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Pilotlight2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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169 reviews from our community

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English first
Pittsburgh, PA
Level 5 Contributor
37 reviews
15 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 99 helpful votes
Reviewed June 1, 2010

I'm sure that the above superlative is taken by many with a grain of skepticism, however, I truly have not stayed in a better place. We are Relais & Chateaux 5C members, and the price points and luxury promised are not new territory for us, and this establishment truly rises above many great places and experiences we have had.

If you are researching this place, and wondering about the price and relative cost to other places in Morocco, yes it looks costly, but after staying there for 4 nights (including 1 at their desert encampment) I would say that the value you get for your money, in the time and attention of the staff, the quality of the food, the service, etc., regardless of how you feel going in, you will likely feel much better about the cost leaving.

Getting to Dar Ahlam is a bit of a challenge - we were unique in Moroccan travelers as we were driving ourself in a rental car, and in order to reach Dar Ahlam, it meant calling them from the Ziz gas station in Skoura, and then following the Dar Ahlam truck through a dusty narrow gravel road, through a river bed, eventually to their parking area. From here, a representative guides you through some dark passage ways revealing a truly magical hotel environment once your eyes adjust.

You are greeted by the manager, Fabienne, who, during your stay is continually making sure things are going well, and addressing any needs you might have. He explains, that in the hotel, there are no set meal times, no set menu, and that during your stay you will never eat in the same location twice (at least for lunch and dinner, breakfast is not as staged as the other meals). All meals are included, all alcohol, beer, cocktails, etc. (except French wines and Champagne - and I had no problem with the Moroccan 'Medallion' wines offered). There are snacks available regularly throughout the day in the living room of the place - that also serves as the meeting point when you are ready for a meal. You head to the living room, and you are asked if you are ready for lunch/dinner, etc and they show you to your table.

The living room area, and the porch outside facing the pool have pretty good Wi-Fi access, with the actual pool loungers being a stretch (1 bar). Elsewhere in the property, you are supposed to be disconnected from technology anyhow, as rooms do not come with Clocks, radios, TV's etc.

Our room was on the second floor of the Kasbah structure, and had a bedroom, living room, and large bathroom, with separate tub and shower, two sinks, and nice products. Additionally, the candles, especially the scented ones are very unique and pleasing to us. We also had a pair of patio lounge chairs on a open air private terrace off of our bedroom.

Included in the stay is your first set of spa services, for which we took advantage of a couples massage. Unlike most of traditional Morocco, this establishment is run by the French and the ownership group in Paris exerts a fairly strong control from what we saw. The massages, and other services (Hammam/Scrub) were performed by women for both me and my wife, which for me, made it a much more enjoyable experience (than the man on man experience that tradition would dictacte elsewhere). We also enjoyed the Hammam scrub whiel there, although sitting on the stool while getting doused with ladle after ladle of water, was eerily reminiscent of the scene in Casino Royale, with 007. The scrub was very enjoyable, with mint tea and cookies served afterwards, although, my wife had a skin reaction to what we suspect was the black clay.

There is a gift store with many eclectic items in the Spa 'riad', somewhat expensively priced by Moroccan standards, although it seemed the pool/beach bags were almost a necessity for most other guests we saw there.

The meals here were the best we had in Morocco, and the chef and his crew relied on produce sourced from the gardent on the premises, as well as one off-site, so they had control of the ingredients. While there is no menu, they make sure to establish your dislikes/allergies at the introductory meeting to make sure you don't go hungry. The dinners usually alternated from Moroccan to continental in food style from night to night, and even the Moroccan food was a breath of fresh air from the tajine fatigue that sets in fairly quickly for most Moroccan travelers. It was always fresh produce, and the finest ingredients. It is truly a mark of distinction that I would trade every other meal I had in Morocco for any of the 4 dinners we had during our stay.

Dinners were always an event.. Local musicians from a two piece Oud and Gimlly performer to a 30 person berber tribal musical group that played a happy hour prelude for guests, that led up to a traditional Berber Lamb roast, where the Lamb was cooked in a covered earthen pit in the garden area. The dinner locations were always special, with tons of candles/lanterns. In general, Dar Ahlam uses a ton of candles, and whether you are eating in the courtyard near a fire pit, or under tents on pillows elsewhere on the property, it was always exciting and special to see where you were going to eat. When you see the staff setting up different dining locations around the property during the day and the attention to detail in making each setting something special for just one couple, it's really unbelievable, and one reason why I see such high value.

The trip to the Sahara was unbelievable as well - though be prepared - it's a long day in the car, and while the scenery and picnic lunch are wonderful, a sandstorm delayed us a little, and there was some question as to whether we should continue on, as the desert may have zero visibility. We continued on, and after an 8 hour travel day, still had enough visibility and light to have fun on the dunes, although, the lantern lit path to a dining table on the top of the dunes was postponed until breakfast, the candle lit dinner in a nearby dining tent, with the wind howling outside was still pretty special, and a cloudless morning for sunset really made us not question our decision to stay despite the conditions the night before. It's still about a 4-5 hour drive back (more if you have your driver stop in Tazneczt (sp?) for carpet shopping) but you are back in time for another spectacular lunch.

The staff went over the top with a wonderful kitchen tour by the Chef the next day (we had purchased a set of cookbooks from the hotel with recipes used during our stay) and the Chef was kind enough to sign them and give us a wonderful tour, and great amount of insight into the food process at Dar Ahlam. The Chef truly cares about his profession and being from the local village of Skoura, is committed to excellence at the property. You can sense the air of professionalism and leadership in the interactions he has with both guests and his staff.

As we readied to make our way north to Marrakech, they gave us a picnic lunch in a lunch basket as we we left which made for a great roadside lunch on the way up the Tizi-n-Tichka pass.

I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel to anyone, and my only suggestion would be to figure out how long you want to stay at Dar Ahlam, and then add a day or two.. You'll not want to leave.

  • Stayed May 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
5 Thank ColdCava
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cologne
Level 3 Contributor
19 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
Reviewed February 15, 2010

Five mails later,with cryptic error messages we give up.We had similar issues with other
hotels in this region,but they all recovered their form and provided a good to excellent booking service.So going up here,miss this establishment,and go to Les Jardins de Skoura
or to Tourmalines in Quarzazate-they will respond to you,and engage.
Very disappointing -this looked so good on the web.
D&CG

  • Stayed February 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Service
Helpful?
6 Thank claesgoer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NYC
Level 4 Contributor
44 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
Reviewed February 9, 2010

In the land of a thousand casbahs - this place , a combination of two restored fortress homes , was magnificent On our honeymoon - We spent a night camping in luxury in the desert as well - truly extraordinary - expensive and worth every penny . At Dar , stay in the main house , and stop to buy carpets on your way back from the desert - more fun and relaxed than the big cities .

  • Stayed October 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank seriouslyours
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NYC
Level 5 Contributor
71 reviews
69 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 201 helpful votes
Reviewed June 21, 2009

This is "hotel as theatre," in which you need to just turn yourself over to the management and let them work their magic. We found each guided tour we went on to be wonderful--from the sunset ceremony atop a ruined fortification, to the walk through the oasis valley in which Dar Ahlam is located. As others have noted, each meal is magically arranged in a different location of the building or grounds, gorgeously decorated and illuminated with Moroccan lanterns, musicians atmospherically yet tactfully playing a hundred yards away. We also loved lounging by the beautifully minimalist pool. Throughout, the design is gorgeous, and changes day-by-day, which is all part of the magic of the place. The rooms themselves are, to my mind, a bit spartan, not the sort of place you'd want to hang out, but that's fine, since the common areas and the pool area are so lovely.
We also booked the "night in the desert" excursion, which was the highlight of our entire trip to Morocco. Be warned, it's a grueling drive, but to our minds, was worth it, given the beauty of spending the evening in the dunes, in tents with beds, and a thrilling dinner next to a bonfire, candles-in-lanterns artfully positioned atop each crest of the surrounding dunes. I agree with others that the food is uneven, as were the massage treatments and the bedrooms themselves, but the overall experience is so unique, thrilling, beautiful, and, I'll say it one more time, magical, that we all felt we were getting our absolute money's worth, and none of us had any regrets at all about the cost in relation to the value of this incredible experience.

  • Stayed September 2007, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank DaneP
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Austin, Texas
Level 5 Contributor
41 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 133 helpful votes
Reviewed October 15, 2008

Mom, Dad and 9yo daughter enjoyed two spectacular nights at Dar Ahlam in the middle of a 3-week June 2008 Moroccan journey. Couldn't have chosen a more serenely magical place to spend 2 days of down time mid-journey. We stayed at some stunning places in Morocco (L'Heure Bleu, Amanjena, etc.) but this place is in a class by itself. We were there at a very uncrowded time (only two other parties), but I doubt the service would suffer with more guests, and certainly the property would not. It truly is a dream. We enjoyed one of the princely villas at the back of the property with its own private courtyard and plunge pool. Every little detail was perfect, and one thing we especially enjoyed was the surprise location of every meal: we never knew whether we would be dining in a private nook of the garden, at a poolside table, or even on cushions on the lawn. The food was some of the best we had in Morocco, and that's staying quite a bit--this is a country for food-lovers! My daughter and I both thoroughly enjoyed our massage and facial (a deux, moms), though only I partook of the hammam experience (spectacular, and I sampled them all over Morocco).
Do not be put off by the approach to the hotel--prepare to be surprised! You arrive by driving across a desolate wadi ("sometimes" river), which was completely empty when we were there in the summer. One of my favorite experiences was walking solo one morning, across the wadi, back into the little town. I made friends along the way, and thoroughly enjoyed my wander through the main street of the little town.
Another special experience was the henna artist that the hotel arranged for my daughter. This is the place to do it--the artist was lovely, she did a beautiful job in a magical setting . . .I recommend this over the jemaa el fna experience. Also, you will save yourselves a lot of hassle in the towns if you can hold up your already-hennaed hand in reponse to the women who approach you.
The pool was lovely, and the staff could not have been better. This is a place that will make your visit anything you wish it to be.
Anyone interested is most welcome to look at our travel website with maps, photos, reading lists, and tons of photos (beyond what I'm posting here). We are at http://web.me.com/laurieorman
Enjoy!

  • Stayed June 2008, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
4 Thank RoamATW
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
LA, CA
Level 3 Contributor
10 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed January 1, 2008

Beautiful setting...gorgeous property...rooms are lovely...tour guide and driver were very nice...service staff is friendly, charming...

Primary issue...price to value...

The hamman is nice...but an overview for guests as to services and to organization of hamman would be appreciated...Very limited choice in meals...menus are set with little flexibility...Overview of services (tour, activity options) is needed...it is very difficult to make decisions based on a a 5-minute verbal overview (provided later in stay)...Visitors should be aware that the property is located near the
stone desert...the sand desert is a 5-5.5 hour drive away (each way)...

Highly recommend the private charter return flight to Marrakesh...
pilot is excellent and scenery is amazing...

  • Liked — Setting, flexible dining times, outdoors
  • Disliked — Information dissemination re activity options, set meals
  • Stayed December 2007, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
4 Thank Kate3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Dar Ahlam

Property: Dar Ahlam
Address: Douar Oulad Cheik Ali, Skoura 45502, Morocco
Location: Morocco > Souss-Massa-Draa Region > Skoura
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Skoura
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Dar Ahlam 4*
Number of rooms: 14
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