Today I’m working from bed. And no, thanks for worrying, but I’m not sick, I’m just traveling and I need to get some stuff done. I think the myth that travel writers frequently work on the beach has been thoroughly debunked – too much sun, sand, and distractions holding a surfboard. However there are some spots that I think excellent for writing while on the road and one of them is a hotel bed. Especially when said bed comes in Queen Elizabeth’ court size and is way too grand to be only used for sleeping. Sometimes you get hotel rooms that are just so amazing that you hondestly wish it would rain all day, so you could stay inside and do nothing at all. Well, at least I do – I love hotel rooms if you can’t tell. Right now, though the opposite weather scenario is true and with 44 degrees outside, I have lathered myself in orange blossom lotion, cranked up the AC, and happy for a good reason to stay here – welcome to Fellah Hotel!

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After two days in the middle of the Marrakech medina, the souks, the vendors, the noise, the heat, I am ready for a little tranquility. A short 30 minute drive from town, down Route de l’Ourika a true desert oasis awaits me. I am welcomed with a cold scented towel, a table full of food, and a scrawny kitten to share it with (albeit I fed it secretly under the table because after all I am at a fancy place now and know how to behave myself!).

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Fellah Hotel can probably best be described as a designer eco lodge, yet that description bears too many cliches and doesn’t do its amazing concept justice. Located next to the village of Tassoultante, Fellah wants to be part of its community through employment and the opportunity for guests to emerge themselves in Moroccan lifestyle. In addition part of the guests’ revenue goes to Dar al-Ma’mûn, a UNESCO recognized art center and library that provides cultural education and activities for the village.

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As well as connecting with the locals Fellah encourages to connect with the environment as well: all produce is locally grown in their very own gardens and if you feel like getting your cowgirl on, you can gather your own eggs or learn how to milk a goat. Water is scarce in this part of the world, so you are asked to use towels twice, keep your showers short, and rather take another lap in one of the extensive pools if you need to cool down.

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After napping working in bed, I make my way to the main pool, because after all my new bikini needs showing off. And to my dismay there is no one but children, lots of them and…they are French! No offense to any of our French readers, but after working right next to a French school for 6 years, I really believe they are the loudest of them all. But Fellah is a very kid friendly hotel, which if you think about it is part of the charm. Even though I don’t have any of my own, I find hotels that explicitly state a no children policy always a bit off-putting.

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Lucky for me I find a little gazebo, a tree house platform, to hang out in the shade a bit further away from the pool and can hide in peace and quiet. The French kids’ soccer skills aren’t good enough to reach me here and their voices are nicely muffled by soft chill out music coming from somewhere in the bushes. Behind me the magnificent backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, hidden by cacti and today shrouded by dust – after all we are in the desert.

In my little nest I do absolutely nothing. It seems Fellah is one of those places that just instantly calms the big city girl in me, gives her a virgin cocktail – verbena is the new basil smash!– and tells her to do a bit more of absolutely nothing. I happily, sleepily oblige and immediately forget why I’m here and what day of the week it is.

What I don’t forget is dinner. Pool side view, a kitten left, a kitten right, and once my king prawn carpaccio is served a kitten on my plate. Served with some local wine and a bit of romantic thunder, I am a little bit sad to eat on my own, but luckily there is great wifi even in the middle of what seems nowhere. So I can discuss the question whether I need to reprimand the naughty kitten with Europe via Skype (the answer is no, let the kitten have a treat too).

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Once I crawl into bed I’m not so sad anymore to be alone, because it means I can stretch out in each direction and use all four pillows too. I sleep so well that I find myself not only up at 7am, but excited like a kid on Christmas morning. To make the most of my day I decide to go for a run. I am laughing at my foresight and optimism, because while it has been years since I went running, I did actually pack my running shoes, Essaouira’s long beach in mind. But now I am here with space all around and I am wide awake unlike anybody else, the air is still fresh, and so next thing I know I’m waving the porter goodbye and fly (or so I think) past walls covered in bougainvillaeas. Next is a swim in the completely empty pool and with the kids still asleep it is mine alone. I can even pretend for a moment that I am a very fancy person in her private home.

If one is still eager there is a fitness centre and a boxing coach and a class called Stretching avec Freddie, but while I like the title, I decide that it is already to hot for more movement. It is however not too hot to eat pain au chocolat and Moroccan pancakes and drink more sweet mint tea. While my room is being made up, I decide to work from the restaurant inside which is frequently lathered in water mist to keep guests cool. This intention however gets promptly interrupted by – you guessed it – a kitten on my lap and then on my laptop. Seriously don’t come to Morocco if you don’t like cats, they are just part of the furniture everywhere!

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Hungry? Again? Of course, after all that’s what holidays are for and I ran and swam and feel deserving of, yet another, treat. Off I go to my cooking class with Touco, the self-proclaimed resident rockstar. And this rockstar is hard to please: my vegetable chopping skills don’t seem to cut it for him and also when it comes to artfully arranging them in the tagine, he corrects my carrot placement. I’m happy that my mother can’t see me and concentrate on my French instead by counting out loud how many times the tomatoes should be sliced (trois if you want to know, so you get quatre slices). What I’m much better at is tagine eating and cocktail drinking and I appreciate that the bar tender is always asking whether I want it with alcohol. Since it is not even 1pm and 35 degrees I decline, but it’s nice to have the option without being judged.

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In all regards Fellah is wonderfully undone, something I love about a hotel. Like an out-of-bed hair-style that looks effortless and nonchalant, but actually takes great effort and style to get just right. The staff here is friendly and efficient, yet not stiff (clue me feeding kittens on under the table), everybody knows my name, first name that is, and unlike staying in a regular hotel, here I feel like I’m part of it all. And that is exactly what owner Redha Moali had in mind when creating Fellah; to not just have a hotel, but to create a traveling experience that is rooted in meeting new people, learning new things, and exchanging ideas. Think renowned artists meets local farmer meets Travelette in dusty heels.

The next day I have to pack those dusty heels, down one last verbena cocktail, and bid farewell to the kittens and the donkey, who seem a bit sad just like me. At least that’s what I like to think. It seems too hot to go anywhere but back into the pool and I consider my options: will they hire me to be their second in command liberian? Or can I quickly pitch a novel storyline to stay on and become a resident artist? Maybe I can stay at their spa and finally learn the art of Thai massage… Idea after idea comes to mind, but too late, a friendly person is already taking my luggage and me to my waiting car.

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While it feels like another world, Fellah is not far from Marrakech and in no time I am being dropped on the roadside next to the bustling medina. I just stand there for a second, eyes closed and take a breath. I can still taste the verbena on my tongue, feel the desert wind on my face, and I think I have just found a new home away from home.

 

All images by Annika and Fellah Hotel.