Queen of Retreats founder Caroline Sylger Jones and her team explore spas of all kinds around the globe. This week she made a stop at Hotel Tigmi in Marrakech, Morocco to test their relaxation methods
Along an open road leading away from the city of Marrakech and towards the epic Atlas Mountains lies Hotel Tigmi, a hotel with a simple spa and hammam (traditional Moroccan bathhouse) set on the edge of a rural Berber village. It’s an unlikely spot for a hotel, which part of its appeal, and deeply peaceful place – you’ll see a goat herder passing by each morning, and hear the Adhan (call to worship from the mosque) twice a day.
Built with the help of 150 local craftsmen, the hotel blends seamlessly with its surroundings, for it’s made in the same way as local houses with mud and straw covering a strong wood frame, zig-zagged eucalyptus wood ceilings, wonderfully heavy doors, white limestone walls and warm terracotta floor tiles.
it’s made in the same way as local houses with mud and straw covering a strong wood frame
The spa is tucked away in one of the central courtyards, with a small concealed entrance that opens into the softly lit reception. You might be greeted by one of the therapists, or just find yourself tip-toeing in and taking a seat until someone senses you are there. Only one of the team, Imane, speaks English, so you might find yourself drawing on whatever French you have or using sign language to be understood. You’ll have booked in for your treatment, so they’ll know why you’re there, but the nuances of what you’d like might need to be translated or in Imane’s absence communicated in other ways.
The hammam is a must for the sheer luxury of being bathed by someone else. The first step is a soap down with the silky soft ‘black soap’, which has a high content of olive oil and literally slips all over your skin, and is often scented with lavender or geranium essential oil. Then you can opt for a jolly good scrub down or a body mask, and you’re led into the next room, which is heated to around 40C, where you lie on a warm bench to relax. After 10 minutes or so you are given a nice water down in the original wet room, which faces onto a large square bath, in which you wallow for another little while before having a final wash down, a hair mask if you’ve asked for it, and a rub down with a towel – which is reminiscent of having your mum dry you off when you were a child, yet perhaps a little more gentle.
Other treatments you can choose include massages of various strengths, sugar waxing and a 100% natural facial, manicure or pedicure using a traditional Berber recipe of Rhassoul clay mined near the Atlas Mountains and locally harvested wheat and olive oil. Or go for a treatment package, which can be taken either over the course of three days or altogether on one divine day of pampering. Choose from Berber Rituals, Moroccan Seduction or the Sultan’s Treat (for men!).
Tigmi means ‘my house’ in a Berber dialect from the High Atlas mountains, and it quickly feels just that, as you are taken care of by the friendly, patient staff
Tigmi means ‘my house’ in a Berber dialect from the High Atlas mountains, and it quickly feels just that, as you are taken care of by the friendly, patient staff and their father-like manager Jean-Paul. Rest in either a Berber Room, Suite or what they call the Private Residence, which are more like mini apartments set over one or two floors. Beds are comfortable, with good quality sheets as white as the walls and sumptuous coloured cushions. Interior decor is stylishly minimal, with traditional details such as wall hangings woven in-house. Depending on your room, you might have a fireplace or terrace with chairs and loungers, and an asparagus-like chimney ‘growing’ up through it.
You can wander around this place all day, finding small stairs to hidden roof terraces, flower-filled courtyards or soft daybeds with bookshelves strategically placed within arms reach. In between spa time, laze by one of two pools, one of which is large enough for swimming lengths, or head up to the roof terrace for a spot of yoga or movement. There are mats, blocks and bolsters there, as the venue regularly hosts yoga holidays run by companies such as Yoga Explorers and Yoga on a Shoestring.
You can wander around this place all day, finding small stairs to hidden roof terraces, flower-filled courtyards or soft daybeds with bookshelves strategically placed within arms reach
The restaurant turns out rather good Moroccan-French inspired dishes, freshly made with local and seasonal ingredients. There’s a wine list (a local bottle costs upwards of 170DH), rather naughty desserts (you can always have fruit) and lashings of mint tea (which you can ask for without sugar).
A Berber Room costs from 1350DH for two people, bed and breakfast in low season months (Jan/Feb/July/August). The same room costs 1200DH if you stay alone. http://www.tigmi.com/
Caroline Sylger Jones is an author and freelance journalist who travels the world checking out spas, retreats and healthy holidays for international newspapers, glossy magazines and websites. She is the founder and director of wellness travel site Queen of Retreats.
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For more wellness travel ideas check out Caroline’s brilliant site Queen of Retreats, a curated collection of retreats brought to you by trusted writers and wellbeing buffs at www.queenofretreats.com.