Kasbah du Toukbal is a British-run boutique hotel located in the mountain village of Imlil, one of the main gateways to trekking in the High Atlas Mountains. Your clients can go on a day trip from Marrakech, less than 90 minutes’ drive away, and stay for lunch, soaking up the mountain scenery from the rooftop dining area, or use it as base for longer treks in the foothills of Jebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. Combined with a few nights in Marrakech, it makes an ideal twin-centre holiday.
When our taxi from Marrakech stopped in Imlil, we were quite surprised to be told we needed to get out and walk the remaining 20 minutes through the village and up a steep dirt track to the Kasbah, which sits on a rocky ledge, 100 metres above the village. Thankfully there was a mule waiting to carry our heavy bags, but warn your clients to wear flat shoes!
As we entered the grounds of the Kasbah through a heavy wooden door, we had the impression of walking into a Tibetan monastery. Indeed, the hotel was actually used as the backdrop for a Tibetan monastery in Martin Scorsese’s film Kundrun about the life of the Dalai Lama. The main building, once a local chief’s summer house that was reconstructed in the 1990s, consists of a small reception area, a rug-filled living/dining room where guests are offered glasses of sweet Moroccan tea while completing the check in process, and a long, cosy library.
There are just 14 en-suite rooms, plus three family suites, some of which are in a two-storey block overlooking the hotel gardens, and others are villa-style, built into the hillside. There’s also a self-contained house.
We stayed in two deluxe rooms, one (pictured below) with a large terrace, which had the benefit of being right next to the hotel’s traditional hammam (Turkish bath), and one with a large balcony overlooking the mountains. The first, with a terrace, was smaller but it had everything we needed; a comfy double bed, nice, clean, warm bathroom, a mini bar filled with soft drinks, and tea and coffee making facilities. The second, with a balcony, was more spacious and had the benefit of a larger window, making it brighter. Both were traditionally furnished, Moroccan-style.
A traditional breakfast, included in the room rate, is served in the dining room, where guests sit on individual low tables. Cereals, tea and coffee and orange juice are laid out on a sideboard and a waiter brings guests individual trays laden with freshly-baked crusty bread, boiled eggs, fruit, local yogurt, jams and honey. A set lunch is available at an extra cost, and can be taken on the large roof terrace surrounded by the mountains, while a delicious set dinner consisting of local soup, a meat, chicken or vegetable tagine, cheese and fruit is served in the dining room. On chilly evenings, two wood-burners provide welcome warmth.
Out of respect for the local, mainly Muslim, population, no alcohol is served in Kasbah du Toubkal, but guests are welcome to bring their own bottles of wine.
The hosts can hire guides to take guests on short or long treks, tailored to their requirements, or they can make their own arrangements with the Bureau des Guides office in the corner of Imlil’s main carpark. We hired a guide with a mule and a muleteer for a three-day trek to the neighbouring valley, which included a two-night night stay at the comfortable Azzaden lodge owned by the same company.
Guests are free to use the small but lovely hammam, which consists of a steam room and a little plunge pool, but you need to give staff an hour’s notice to fire it up. There’s also a studio that can be used for group yoga classes or by study groups.
What we loved
The location, with wrap-around mountain views, is unbeatable and the food delicious, but we also loved the fact that Discover Ltd, which owns the hotel, is contributing to the local community. Money from filming Kundrun was used to set up a charity, the Association des Bassin d’Imlil to provide vital services for local villages, including a 4×4 ambulance, rubbish collection, a community hammam, provision of safe water, and an internet café.
Guests pay a 5% surcharge that goes to the Association des Bassin, which also provides accommodation for girls to enable them to attend secondary school as part of the Education for All charity.
Rooms start at €175 for a standard double room, or €270 for a deluxe room. Dinner costs €20 per person.