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Sahara Expedition Part 4: Engulfed by the Desert

Tue, 10/08/2013 - 09:57 -- Jnane Tamsna

The desert has engulfed us within fifteen minutes of our departure from Merzouga but we have a two hour camel ride in front of us. Our final destination will be a campsite set up by relatives of Hassan and Hamid, nomads who spend a large part of their life in the Sahara and occasionally come out to border towns such as Merzouga and Hassilabied.

Since we left at 5 p.m. the desert is much cooler than we anticipated. The camel ride is actually very enjoyable as we roll up and down sand dunes while enjoying the views at the peaks and admiring the sheer size of the dunes in the troughs.

Having seen Lawrence of Arabia a few weeks before our journey we thought this would be a real adventure that would seriously test our resilience, but this part of the Sahara is very mild at this time of year. A t-shirt and jeans are perfect for the daytime, and a simple sweater sufficient for nighttime.

It is hard to tame this part of the world with modern technology, since the continually shifting dunes make it hard to build roads and four-wheel drives tend to get stuck or turn over on the steep slopes. But our camels just stroll through the desert as easily as anyone would stroll along the historical ramparts of Marrakech.

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Sahara Expedition Part 3: Entering the Desert...

Sun, 10/06/2013 - 17:58 -- Jnane Tamsna

Once we drive into Merzouga (a small village on the edge of the Sahara), we find many locals offering camel rides into the desert. After speaking to various individuals and negotiating a little bit we meet Hamid, a very friendly Amazight willing to bring us into the Sahara for 30 Euros.

Hamid is so nice that he shows us the nearby village of Hassilbiad and tells us where we can get lunch for a reasonable price. After we finish our meal, he leaves to prepare for the journey.

We meet him again at five pm. He introduces us to his friend Hassan, who will bring us to the camp site, and the three camels we will be riding. Shortly after, we start riding into the Sahara.

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Sahara Expedition Part 2: Merzouga

Thu, 10/03/2013 - 17:10 -- Jnane Tamsna

The next morning we wake up early to have breakfast on the roof of our guest house. The view is truly breathtaking. The Sahara is known for its amazing beauty, but the scene in front of us goes beyond our wildest imagination.

It seems as though we are standing on the edge of civilization and facing one of the few places that appears to be completely untouched by humanity. Electricity lines and small roads come all the way to our small town and connect it to the rest of the country. But they do not continue into the Sahara as it is one of the few places that cannot be tamed by civilization.

In front of us there are enormous dunes, the tallest of which reach 150 meters high, and an amazing blue horizon. We decide that our travels cannot stop here and start looking for ways to enter the desert. 

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Nomadic Art

Tue, 09/10/2013 - 11:53 -- thaismartin

Growing up at Jnane Tamsna had its perks. As a kid, I’d go on lengthy bike rides through the palm grove accompanied by my trusty dogs to discover our surroundings.  But I did not even have to leave our property to expand my horizons. When I was in the 4th grade, I would run up the stairs of the Moussafir Pavillion as soon as I got back from school. Once at the top, I’d look down from the rooftop terrace into the garden, where painter Phillipe Deltour would be crouched over a large canvas spread out on the ground. At that time, the Belgian artist was using charcoal to draw on recycled cement bag paper. Having always had a passion for art, I just loved being perched on the roof watching him work until the sun went down.

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Casblanca's Iconic Mosque

Fri, 08/16/2013 - 12:38 -- thaismartin

Though our calm haven in the Marrakech Palmeraie is the only place we would chose to live in Morocco, weekend escapades are always a breath of fresh air. The last couple times we ventured to Casablanca, we visited its most famous monument: the Hassan II Mosque.  Built in celebration of the former king's 60th birthday and opened in 1993, it rises high above the Atlantic coast, embodying the Koranic verse stating that God's throne was built upon the water. It can hold up to 25,000 worshippers inside and has space for 80,000 more in its courtyards and squares. Designed by French architect Michel Pinseau, its minaret is 210m-tall. Though the monument’s design stays true to Islamic tradition, a laser beam shines from the top towards Mecca at night, exemplifying Morocco’s move towards modernity. I took great pleasure in photographing the traditional woodcarving, zellij (tile work) and stucco moulding.

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Wed, 06/19/2013 - 09:58 -- Jnane Tamsna

Morocco has four imperial cities. The one we visited this week is Fes. Six hours after leaving the Marrakech Palmeraie and driving along some of Morocco's most beautiful backcountry roads we arrived at our destination. Just like Marrakech, Fez has a unique charm that differentiates it from the rest of the country. It has the largest medina (old town) of Morocco and is home to the world's first university.

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Shopping in Marrakech

Tue, 06/04/2013 - 17:07 -- Meryanne

I have always been a fan of vintage stores, because for me there is nothing more elegant and feminine than fifties fashion. My mother, my aunts and their friends looked like Hollywood stars with their fabulous dresses, skirts and tops. When I was a broke New Yorker in the early eighties, working hard and partying like there was no tomorrow, I discovered vintage stores, which allowed me to have the most diverse and elegant wardrobe with amazing cocktail dresses for only $20.

When I found out there was a vintage store opening new options for shopping in Marrakech, I was thrilled. Topolina has breathtaking clothes, with custom-made fur coats, dresses, hats, clutches and shoes. Isabelle, the owner, also uses unique hand dyed fabrics from the Sahara and makes wax fabric coats, as pictured here. Marrakech caftans are known to be some of the best, but once you've picked up one or two, stopping by Topolina is a must. The shop is full of charm, with skilled Moroccan embroiderers working in front of you. She has an eclectic, bohemian chic vintage apartment above the store where she lives. She is opening a new location for the summer in Tangiers. Get ready to shop!

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Bine El Ouidane

Tue, 05/28/2013 - 11:37 -- Jnane Tamsna


Marrakech is surrounded by stunning regions easily accessible by road. One we visited this month is Bine El Ouidane.  After a three-hour drive on backcountry roads that expose the breathtaking landscapes of central Morocco we arrived to our destination.

The region has a large water reservoir set in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, surrounded by rolling hills and lush vegetation. After settling down we took three of the kayaks offered by the hotel to explore the lake in front of us. For dinner we enjoyed a delicious chicken tajine prepared with fresh local produce.

The next day we visited the Cascades d’Ouzoud, an area that has a gorgeous waterfall and caves that we unfortunately did not have time to visit. This area of Morocco has some of the most beautiful landscapes we have seen in the country. We highly recommended to anyone wishing to go on a one or two day trip from Jnane Tamsna, our boutique hotel in the Marrakech Palmeraie.

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Mulberry paradise

Sun, 05/19/2013 - 14:20 -- Meryanne

Walking through the garden of Jnane Tamsna, our boutique hotel in Marrakech, I find that the early summer heat has ripened an explosion of mulberries. The mere picking of these subtle berries from the trees gives me a taste of paradise. We use them in the kitchen to add a burst of flavour to breakfasts, fruit salads and desserts. 

I run into a family whose children giggle, their little mouths spotted with mulberry juice. Their father says that he had never stayed in a hotel where he could pick things to eat straight from trees in the garden. Yesterday Lamia, the art teacher, had a workshop with 7 little ones, aged 4 to 7 years old, in the garden. Her students were Dutch and English, and while the Dutch were too young to speak English, every one communicated through drawing and eating mulberries!

The bird song is loud and a gentle breeze blows through the trees. I find a client reading under a tree with a bowl full of mulberries next to him. He smiles and says, “I am in paradise.”


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