Whispers within as lanterns flicker, casting silhouettes on white canvas. Stars without, winking from an ebony sky at the palm grove beneath. All is silent but green leather leaves rustling in a restless breeze.
Since I was a child, Hollywood has fueled my love affair with tents. Though Tarzan never slept in one, the adventurous women on African safaris did. So did leading ladies in my favorite romantic movies–Beyond Borders, The English Patient, Lawrence of Arabia. At Manzil La Tortue my adult fantasy of nomadic nesting made chic by sheiks was finally fulfilled. Merging my love for camping and country (Dad’s only idea of vacation involved a campfire, and our grandparents took us every Sunday to visit relatives on farms), my stay at this rural retreat was heaven. As Paula (see video below) said after welcoming me with mint tea, “This is our own little piece of paradise.” I’m so grateful they shared it with me.
I had booked a Sunday pool and lunch day with friends the weekend before. My fish was delicious, the molten chocolate cake amazing, and the pool was perfect.
I couldn’t wait to return for a weekend stay when I’d wander and photograph the property. When I arrived last Saturday with my friend, Jasna, who photographed me for this post, Paula walked us past the herb gardens. Outside our tent we could smell the orange and lime trees, but the breeze also carried mint, thyme, lavender, rosemary, and scented geranium which reminded me of home.
As we passed the hen house I thought of my cousin, Sonjia, who showed my sister, Penny, and me how to gather eggs. I remembered my cousin, Brock, who showed prize rabbits as we passed the thatched area where bunnies were munching on breakfast.
We passed through a gate to a private area where our tent awaited. I hadn’t looked online to see if because I wanted to be surprised. My mind flashed back to last fall when my friend, Monica, and I rode camels to a campsite in the Sahara Desert. I had expected a white canopy cloud blowing in the instead. Instead our guide disappeared to fetch dinner so we stumbled by the light of my phone into a pitch-black tarp where we slept on 2- inch burlap mattresses tossed on the sand.
As I walked inside, I was stunned. By contrast, Manzil La Tortue provided so much more than I expected… glamping at its finest.
Tour the deluxe Koutoubia tent in the video below– an immense 61 square meters/656 square feet. Waking up to morning light illuminating the colorful canopy was as delightful as falling asleep to the wind’s breath causing the canvas to rise and fall.
The rest of the weekend I felt like a kid again in my own secret garden.
As a Southern girl who values beauty breaks in bucolic settings and family, I love that this peaceful place is owned and run by a team of great people: Fouad Housni and his wife Meriame, manager of two companies, Unitours Moroc and Morocco My Way, providing excursions for guests; Fouad’s mother, Paula; and two adorable girls, Lina and Salma. I enjoyed hearing Paula’s romantic story (video below) of passing through Casablanca in 1970 headed to Canada but never making it. She moved to Marrakesh with Fouad in 1981.
Tents of many sizes are available as are rooms in the villa or even “camper cars” for those who want to rough it.
Breakfast is included, and half board and full board is also available for lunch and dinner. As a mom who grilled nightly on my deck in Tennessee and a girl whose dad grilled on every camping trip in Kentucky, I was excited to try their specialty, Planchas, plates of food grilled by guests at the table. Not quite sure what to do with so many olive oils and spices, I was assisted by Brahim, the waiter, then Chef Abdelhaq, who showed me how it is properly done. From Abdessamad, pool tech and security, to Naima who served breakfast, the staff made us feel welcome.