The Resident Magazine
Posted on March 30, 2009 by James Robbins
Top Five Spas in Stunning Settings
If we could be sustained on views alone, these spectacular offerings would keep us going all year round. Escapism at its very best.
by Lydia Williams – March 2009
The hotel: Described as “a small hotel made of mud and imagination” and voted best small hotel in the world in 2007 by GQ; we’re obviously not the first to have fallen for this little gem’s charms, but boy did we fall hard.
Tigmi is not for those in search of pristine perfection, but search for soul and you will find it in abundance. The boutique, 21-roomed hotel will leave its mark on you, its elevated vantage point, nestled in the berber hamlet of Douar Tagadert, 24km outside Marrakech, will keep your mind arrested throughout your stay (we lost hours simply staring at the view), whilst letting your bodily self slip into total repose. With two pools, countless gardens, roof terraces and courtyards, around every corner is a quiet corner for contemplation, a good book or an afternoon snooze. The simple organic tones of the mud walls are brought to life by the abundance of tapestries and soft furnishings, all created by the in-house weaver in vibrant tones of fushia, emerald and saffron.
Run by James Robbins, on behalf of his father who bought the converted 19th century berber-style hotel eighteen months ago after falling in love with it during a visit to Marrakech – this is the level of emotion a visit to Tigmi will evoke (fiscal funds permitting).
Brownie points go to Robbins green credentials for installing solar panels, digging wells and his sensitive development/restoration of the hotel, employing local artisan workmen in the seamless expansion of the hotel last year; and with 90 per cent of the staff being employed from the hamlet, he is not boosting local economy, he is the local economy.
The room: Standard and deluxe rooms, suites and even a private three-bedroom riad are available to let. Tigmi has cleverly balanced an authentic sense of Morocco whilst still delivering luxury – the beds are divine, there are ample fluffy towels, air conditioning and creature comforts but they have done away with the typical hotel room clutter: shoe horns, sewing kits and TV’s – not only are they not missed but the pared down ethos is rather catching as we remember our abilities to read, converse and put on our shoes unaided. The bathrooms are the masterpiece here, with smooth limestone walls (a local skill called tadalakt), circular brass basins, drench showers and locally produced toiletries
The spa: Renovated and reopened this spring, the spa at Tigmi is an authentic North African hammam. Enter through a swath of drapes into the hushed, tranquil haven scattered with day beds, colourful cushions, open fires and the hammam itself. The spa manager, Karima, may not have the slick, honed skills of her Western counterparts, but the treatments she offers are intuitive and seriously good. Usinglocal Moroccan skincare products containing indigenous herbs, fruits and oils, Karima got to work in an almost maternal fashion first softening our skin with black soft soap, then with real gusto, sloughing away a good couple of layers with a traditional Moroccan mitt. Finished off with a lavender oil massage and we emerged into the daylight unable to do much other than nod off in the shade of an orange tree. Treatments start from £12.50.
The view: From the pool gaze over the immediate vista of shepherds, animals and rural daily life to the distant city of Marrakech. The picture postcard shot however is from one of the hotel’s towers to the rear, of the plains, rolling uninterrupted, until they reach the High Atlas Mountains. Spring is the perfect time to visit as the mountains are topped with snow, juxtaposed with the comfortable 20-something degrees at the hotel.
The food: Although the hotel has recently launched a B&B tariff, I would stick with the reasonable half-board rate as dinner is fantastic. A simple, rustic feast of authentic Moroccan dishes – we sampled traditional fish parcels, pastilla, and the daily changing Tagine including one of lamb, new potatoes and peas which was superb.
The service: Second. to. none. Summed up by Tigmi’s policy: There are no set dining times here. If the weather is good, breakfast is packed up and moved onto the roof terrace to make the most of it, similarly, if you find a particular corner of the warren of gardens, terraces or courtyards that you’d like to commander for lunch/dinner, that’s fine, too. The place is rambling, so finding a member of staff is sometimes a game of cat and mouse, but when you do your every whim is catered for.
The clientele: A mix of Euro chic and ‘in the know’ English. A city boy hired the whole hotel for the weekend to celebrate his birthday, whilst a writer has just enquired to take a room for six weeks to work on her latest novel.
The memories: Nursing a G&T wrapped up by an open fire watching the stars with great company is one of those ‘snapshot’ memories that keep you going on the Monday morning commute to work.
The details: Tigmi is offering four nights for the price of three until 31 May, with 20 per cent discount on all spa treatments until further notice. Deluxe rooms start from £140 per night on a half board basis during the low season (July-September).