On Friday afternoon I made the short trip back to Marrakech for a quick overnight turn around, before heading to the sea port of Essaouira the following morning.
I woke on Saturday morning in my teeny tiny riad in the middle of the medina, where the sounds of pipe music and prayer competed with each other in the distance. A cocktail of talcum powder and cigarettes wafted through my open window, giving me only the slightest headache, before I enjoyed breakfast of crêpes and a strong coffee on the rooftop terrace. Scanning through my emails, I found one from the sweetest woman who I’ve met just a handful of times in my life.
She wrote that she enjoys my blog before going on to add that she isn’t sure how she found it in the first place. I know this feeling well – I too, have a habit of finding things and not knowing how I found them in the first place. I read on with tears in my eyes as she commented on my strength and honesty – two things that I feel marry with each other particularly well.
I draw strength from being honest, and through writing I feel as though I can do things I didn’t know I was capable of doing. When I feel lost, or alone, I find myself gazing into the distance in cafés or out of the windows of taxis – most of the time probably looking completely deranged, as I conjure up thoughts about that moment, and how life could be completely different if I’d allowed it to be. Then I write about it.
The way in which my life has panned out thus far is 100% the opposite to what I had envisaged ten years ago, and while I don’t think I’m particularly strong, I will agree that I’m honest- in measures (probably) to my detriment most of the time. In my life that isn’t children, pets and vast spaces filled with old friends and most of all, my family, I am able to do things and think things, that may otherwise, not be possible.
About nine months ago, I discovered Berber Lodge in one of those aforementioned moments where I found it, not knowing how I found it. Maybe I caught a glimpse of a Berber wall, built from the pinkest earth peeking through an olive grove, or an emerald green bedspread draped over endless white Egyptian cotton sheets – I’m not sure, but I started to follow them on Instagram, making a promise to myself that I would go there one day.
‘One day’ arrived last Wednesday.
Situated just 45 minutes outside of Marrakech, Berber Lodge is nestled in an ancient olive grove with stunning views across open, barren plains which grant breathtaking views towards the tips of the Atlas Mountains. When I arrived, I was met with a thousand smiles and my suitcase disappeared across a courtyard filled with cactus and a smattering of Mediterranean plants. Mint tea followed, before I fell into a dark green cane chair in the front garden for a lunch of mouthwatering lamb chops, hummus and cous cous and a glass of biodynamic Moroccan red wine, washed down with fresh fruit salad for pudding.
At dusk I walked to nearby Oumnass, a village where call to prayer echoed through the valley while children chased a football along the road as shepherds moved their herd home for the night. As the sun began to disappear, stars decorated the sky and the tips of the mountains turned from pretty shades of pink, to the darkest of blue.
‘It’s a like family home, non,’ my host explained over dinner as I showered him with compliments littered with adverbs. I think it was Stephan King who said that the pathway to hell is paved with adverbs- which makes me think he’s never visited Berber Lodge.
Romain Michel Ménière is the humorous and clever witted force behind this charming place. With a creative and talented eye, he, and his equally warm and stylish godmother, Cosette, had me wanting to stay for more than two days, from the very moment that I arrived.
It was just like a family home. Every meal was prepared with ingredients from both the garden and suppliers not far away. Each person who works alongside Romain and Cosette is from Oumnass, only moments away, and the house dogs are as friendly as their owners. The lodge is always busy, with guests coming from each and every corner of the world. Some are famous, and others, quite regular. Here, everyone is welcome and each lodge on the property is beautifully designed and pared back, embracing everything that is Berber with subtle nods to 20th century design.
In a world where we aspire towards everything being bigger- from houses and cars to hairdos, throughout the 48 hours I spent at Berber Lodge, I found myself transported to a place that embodied everything that I am slowly learning is ‘my big’. Nothing was a problem, the smiles were real. A new garden was establishing itself under ancient trees, and in seemingly empty corners found around the property, there was actually so much to appreciate – an occasional courtyard here, a carefully designed reading nook there. Old met new, in a fusion of so much that was as stylish as it was true to its environs.
My camera is overloaded, and this little place just outside of Oumnass will always be deeply embedded in my memory.
Just like so many things in life, I’m not sure how all of this all came be, but I’m utterly grateful that it did. It took a little bit of planning, but the rest is history.
When I remarked that I was sad to be leaving, Romain made the very valid point ‘yes, but you can just move around, non, it is hard for people to do that, non, look at you like a character out of a Agatha Christie novel propped up in the garden,’ in the same moment that Cosette drifted in, her perfume wafting behind her, looking chic and glorious as ever.
A formidable duo, who are magnificent custodians of a very special place.
Pictured: one of many beautiful spaced to relax at Berber Lodge.