On the northernmost tip of Morocco sits Tamouda Bay, perched on a coast of dazzling blue water where the Strait of Gibraltar meets the Mediterranean Sea. Largely an unexplored region, particularly for those seeking ultra-luxe escapes, the Mediterranean coast of Morocco is experiencing change with the recent arrival of renowned hotel group Banyan Tree. The Tamouda Bay resort is the first of its kind in this area, offering high luxury to sightseers, sun seekers and spa-lovers.
Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay is an hour and 20 minutes’ picturesque driving from Tangier, which is served by Air Arabia from London Gatwick. The arid, scorched landscape provides an atmospheric journey to the resort, which appears like a mirage out of the dusty red earth. Taking the region’s traditional architecture as inspiration, the resort’s buildings are highly elevated examples of Islamic geometric moucharaby construction, contrasted against imposing archways washed in a blinding white; meadow-like ornamental gardens with blossoming flowers and azure pools.
The central building, which shines like a beacon come evening, is where the reception and Banyan Tree Gallery are situated; the latter features a curated collection of objets d’art from various Moroccan regions, outside which an ornamental pool surveys the Mediterranean sea, reflecting the cloudless sky. This focal point at the heart of the resort is surrounded on two sides by a village of small, beautifully manicured streets lined with sage plants and vibrant flowers. On each of these streets sits a row of villas – each one expertly designed, referencing Morocco’s rich history while offering a contemporary, Arabesque edge. There are 92 luxury villas in total, all featuring private pools of varying sizes, surrounded by outdoor chairs and sofas for guests to chill out and soak up the sun. The fact that Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay offers villas rather than typical hotel rooms lends an easygoing ambiance to guests’ stays – and means that those looking for a few days of quietude will have much to savour.
While the opulent surroundings of the hotel are steeped in a Moroccan aesthetic, diners will find influence from across the world – a reference to the Banyan Tree group’s global presence. A total of four restaurants offer a varied selection of cuisines and ambiances; those looking for an authentic eating experience will enjoy the Eastern Mediterranean-inspired dishes at Tingitana – where local chefs cook up flavourful tagines, stews and Moroccan spiced vegetables in a luxurious but relaxed setting. Guests can break up a day by the pool and beach with a visit to the Azura Beach Restaurant – specialising in simply cooked, freshly caught fish and seafood, and pizzas and flatbreads prepared in the traditional clay oven. Find a table on the beachfront terrace – where the stunning views out to sea should be paired with a glass of a crisp white Moroccan wine. For an evening of gastronomical exploration outside of the country, opt for dinner at Saffron – Tamouda Bay’s sexy signature restaurant, which serves up plates of contemporary Thai cuisine in low-lit, romantic surroundings. Moroccan nights are balmy, so eat al fresco – or wander through the manicured lawns post-dinner towards Volubilis for a nightcap. This gold-tinged bar is a whiskey and brandy lover’s heaven – though cocktails are also available, as are premium quality cigars.
Food and drink, clearly, are central to the experience here. Luckily, Tamouda Bay has plenty to offer in the way of fitness facilities. As well as private pools in the villas, a gargantuan infinity pool surveying the Mediterranean is the perfect place for a quick dip or a few lengths – and the in-pool sun loungers make for an unparalleled spot for relaxation. Parents can keep a close watch on their kids with a separate, safer pool – and can even enjoy some peace and quiet with the aid of a kids club (ages four to 12) offering activities such as face painting, movies and sand castle building. Don’t want to get out of your fitness routine while on holiday? Hit the gym which offers top of the line equipment to guests, while aspiring yogis can find their inner zen with the help of expert teachers in the dedicated yoga studio.
One of Tamouda Bay’s key offerings is the luxury spa, which takes the time-honoured traditions of Eastern therapies and wellness and brings them to Morocco. The design of the spa captures the serenity the team here aim to instil upon guests, through a range of Asian-inspired treatments including massages with aromatic oils and indigenous ingredients. For a truly unique spa experience, opt for the signature Rainforest Experience – a hydrothermal circuit featuring water therapies, a steam room, vitality pool and hammam.
With so much on offer, there’s no chance of cabin fever – but it would be amiss not to experience some of the picturesque towns within driving distance of the hotel. Top of the list should be Chefchaouen – a blue jewel perched in the heart of the Rif Mountains, some 90km away. Known for its blue-washed buildings (said to repel insects while keeping houses cool), it also happens to be a hot rock of hashish production – one of the country’s most popular (though illegal) exports. The fact that there are few tourists here is a blessing – and makes the experience of wandering the narrow alleyways and bustling souks that much more fascinating. Try expertly prepared breads sold at the street-side bakeries, or dip into one of many family-owned restaurants serving authentic local plates.
Stays at Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay start from £386 per villa per night on a bed and breakfast basis. For more information about Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay, visit http://www.banyantree.com.
As featured in Mayfair Times’ August 16 edition.