Speeding south on Route 212 from Marrakech in a 4×4, my teenager and I let out a mutual sigh of relief. After four days of sightseeing, socialising and haggling in the souk, we were in dire need of a reset. The Agafay desert was calling.
After 45 minutes, the landscape emptied. A few quad-biking and camel riding outfits came and went but other than that, it was rocky barren flats in every direction. According to my daughter (the Grade-A geography student) the Agafay desert isn’t a desert at all. Not technically, anyway. The result of overgrazing and deforestation, it’s a prime example of gross human neglect. Nonetheless our expectations were high. Our Habitas is a hip chain of global tented camps that speaks to a young, hip, eco-minded crowd. A friend recently returned from one of their outposts in Mexico and was raving about the group wellness sessions, the healthy food and the unique sense of camaraderie.
Our Habitas’ manifesto alludes to ‘a world where the only luxuries we need are the ones that expand our minds, and feed our souls.’ As someone partial to a five-star hotel and room service, I was concerned it wouldn’t be my cup of tea at all but when I glanced over at my daughter sitting on a straw-filled Berber cushion, sipping hibiscus tea while our hosts cast frankincense resin over hot coals (said to cleanse the soul), I smiled to myself. This was the type of experience a London-bred digi-teen needed. Earthy.
Guests sleep in 40 canvas tents dotted across five hectares. They were all occupied at the time so we couldn’t look inside them (it was October half term) but safe to say, if you like glamping, you’ll love them. On site, there’s a dome-shaped yoga pavilion lined with love-worn Moroccan rugs, extensive veggie gardens (potatoes, beans, lettuces, radishes, turnips, bell peppers and pomegranates), two small unheated pools, a communal firepit area, a glass-fronted library, a chic emerald-tiled juice bar and an indoor-outdoor thatched restaurant. On the far side, they keep animals: camels, goats, sheep, chickens, peacocks, rabbits and horses.
After a traditional lunch of chicken and olive tagine with home-baked flatbreads, my daughter and I donned leather chaps and headed into the desert on horseback. We rode across the parched terrain, the sun hanging low in the sky, for more than an hour and, save for the faint silhouette of a train of camels, didn’t encounter another soul.
It was the peace and quiet we’d been craving. The gentle rhythm of the horses’ hooves nudging us onto a calmer setting; minds emptying to match our surroundings. Our enigmatic guide, Idam, either had very limited English or very limited interest in us. Either way, his wordless candour was appreciated. How often is the world quiet enough to hear the soft creak of a leather saddle?
Back home in London, the memory of that horseback ride is something I turn to in moments of stress. It reminds me to slow down. To breathe. To inhale the sweet scent of frankincense and reset my intentions… It might only have been a day trip to the desert but for an overstimulated British mother and teenager duo, the Agafay left an indelible stamp.
Tents at Caravan Agafay by Our Habitas in Morocco start from £190 including breakfast. For more information, visit www.ourhabitas.com.