The most romantic night of my life was spent at a luxurious desert camp in Morocco.
All by myself.
I travel around the world looking for the most romantic riads and palatial hotels, the best beaches, spectacular waterfalls. I love finding beautiful places (especially the lesser-known, still secret spots) that couples will love. But rarely do I ever have my own exciting rendezvous with a lover, partly because I’m a workaholic and in love with what I do.
Instead, I tend to explore these places alone. I find immense pleasure describing in great detail and with utter delight the stunning places I find that I know my readers will be absolutely crazy about.
Meet Dar Inacamp
I am thrilled to share with you an utterly charming, yet sophisticated luxury camp, not deep in the South of Morocco where most of the more famous glamping experiences await visitors, but a quick, 35-minute drive from Marrakech.
For years I have been listening to Moroccans who insisted that no place, not even the rocky deserts of Zagora and M’hamid, could possibly compare to the great, golden dunes of the Sahara.
Of course, the Sahara desert is stunning. But, it is at least a 10 hour (and often hair-raising) drive through and around dangerous, narrow mountain roads and cliffs.
So, for years I’ve tuned out anyone who mentioned that little desert called Agafay, just outside of Marrakech.
Oh, how wrong I was.
You know how you ignored that mousy, shy, nerd who sat next to you in high school, the same nerd who shows up at your reunion 20 years later driving a sexy convertible, looking so damn good in a tailored, black Armani suit? Who knew there was such a suave, debonaire James Bond type hiding behind those horn-rimmed glasses?
Yeah, that’s Agafay.
Neglected, ignored, and mocked by all of those chichi bourgie, cosmopolitan types from Marrakech. But quietly, patiently waiting for you discover just how elegant and posh and smooth it is.
Tucked away behind those stately, rocky hills, behind the madness of Marrakech, directly in front of the Atlas Mountains, giving you the perfect view is Agafay.
If you’re already planning a trip to Morocco, there are various ways to get to your accommodations as there are many different forms of transportation in Morocco no matter which airport you arrive at, but this is especially true in Marrakech.
When you exit customs, claim your bags, and step outside the arrival doors you’ll be surrounded by taxi drivers shouting and haggling to negotiate a price to whisk you away to your hotel or traditional riad, should you decide to stay near the mosques and monuments and close to shopping centers on your first night.
Most people who arrive in Marrakech choose one of the hotels in the “new city” or Guiliez, or if they’re lucky, la Mamounia or Royal Monsuer, two of hotels often on lists of “Best in the World”. Others choose to stay in the medina, in or around Djemaa al Fna Square (think Times Square in NYC. But different).
Or you may want to go directly to Agafay. And sure, you could hop in a taxi. However you decide to get to your destination, you’ll see Moroccans offering and using vehicles with wheels and legs we don’t often see back home.
You might see wrinkled, old Bedouin women, or men with tanned faces ambling by on donkeys carrying wooden carts filled with olives or apples.
There are ebony steeds, magnificent animals with kohl-darkened eyes pulling carriages filled with tourists and locals around Jemaa al Fna and in the medina.
Away from the city, you’ll find camel cowboys leading dromedaries up and down and around endless desert dunes.
But I have no interest in these charming means of transport.
Oh, I love pretending that I’m the type of traveler who can easily adapt, that I can roll with the punches, that I’m low-maintenance and simply need a basic bed and meal and I’m fine.
This is a lie.
Over the years, I’ve realized that I am a princess. At least, I love luxury.
I crave comfort and class and elegance. I long for the glamour portrayed in old black and white classic films, often fancying myself posing in a shimmering, beaded evening gown, lounging on duvets, flicking an opera length cigarette holder Audrey Hepburn style.
I’ve traveled the world; Paris, London, Rome, in an effort to capture the jet-set lifestyles of the rich and famous. To glimpse even momentarily, that feeling of being pampered and catered to, and to have every whim and desire satisfied.
To have every wish granted.
And the most elegant, splendid, romantic night of my life began when I was picked up in a luxury 4×4 at the airport and chauffeured to Dar Inacamp, secretly tucked away in Agafay.
The moment I stepped out of the airport and into his sleek car, I sunk back into the plush seats and relished the feeling of being a VIP client.
The person who drove me, and each staff member I would meet from the camp’s team, take immense pride in doing their job to perfection, making sure their guests are thrilled and want for nothing.
I felt like Cinderella riding in her glass chariot to the castle. The King of Morocco could not have felt more like royalty than I did.
The night could not have been more perfect for romance as the clear sky lit up the road, guiding us. I sat quietly during the drive, sinking back against my seat as I sighed, thinking again for the millionth time, “This is my life”.
The entrance to the camp did not give away just how sensual and exotic the camp actually is.
The stars lit up my surroundings and I held my breath as I walked through the gate, past the main dining tent and kitchen. I was led toward a smaller, private tent that reminded me of a Vogue magazine photo-shopped cover story.
I assumed that I was being brought to my private chambers, but I was wrong. The first stop on my descent into the desert was only a secret dining chamber where I was about to have my mind changed about everything I had assumed regarding Moroccan gastronomy.
I sat at the exquisitely set table, similar to one that you might find at one of New York’s finest 5-star dining establishments.
Crisp, white linen tablecloth, fine china, and fairy candlelit lanterns flickered around me, but they couldn’t possibly compete with the stars for my attention. They did, however, add to the ambiance, complementing the luxurious surroundings.
The waitstaff spoke English perfectly. Their words were tinged with a mixture of Moroccan and French accents that many locals have here. How smooth and silky, and oh, so sexy their accents sounded to me.
But I was not here for that.
I was not seeking anything other than to know the feeling a couple might have if they were here on their honeymoon, or on a romantic vacation to re-ignite their passion or to perhaps celebrate an anniversary.
Few places I have been to can compete with the romance that Morocco, and Dar Inacamp, offered me that night.
Soon after we sat down to enjoy our surroundings, the waiter arrived with the meal.
I had insisted that I had eaten before my flight from Spain and that I wasn’t very hungry, partly because it was late and I did not want to make the staff work at this hour. But to be honest, it was because I am not normally a fan of Moroccan food.
Believe me, this makes writing reviews for Moroccan hotels and restaurants extremely difficult for me! I want to be positive and I’m usually liberal in my praise, and I always tell my readers when I have been comped for accommodations, food, or products. But my loyalty is to my readers, first. I strive to be very honest and specific, and when I don’t like something, I need to be really transparent about it.
Those who know me or who have been following this blog for a while know that although I am crazy, passionately in love with Morocco, and I am a food addict, I have never been fond of Moroccan cuisine.
Give me some spicy Thai food, or the kickass, peppery Nigerian dishes I used to devour, or even the subtle nuances of Japanese entrees when created by an artist/ Master sushi chef.
But the simple, healthy, but what I considered bland Moroccan tagine or cous cous? Nope.
That changed the second I took my first sip of the harira placed in front of me.
Harira is a type of Moroccan soup.
I hate soup. I have always hated soup. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why anyone would like a bow of spiced water that may or may not have some vegetables or leafy greens added in.
Give me a nice piece of juicy, roasted chicken, or sauteed salmon, or my favorite; grilled lobster dripping in butter.
Why would I want to fill up with soup when such decadence is being offered?
But the minute the creamy concoction touched my lips, my eyes widened. Well, damn, this was good.
And it was only the beginning. I slurped that baby down and could have easily eaten two or three more bowls of whatever it was the fancy waiter had served me.
But since I was on this “make-believe date” I was pretending to myself that I was on was real, I made an attempt to be classy and demurely accepted the next course without begging for more.
After the badass salad and spectacular soup, it was time for the entree; the tagine.
Now, I have been to many 4 and 5-star luxury camps, hotels and restaurants, and I was absolutely positive that I would not like the tagine that was proudly placed in front of me. I wondered if there was any way I could ask for more soup and politely reject the large plate of food served in the lovely, cone-shaped, traditional clay tagine dish.
I dislike tagine even more than I hate soup.
Oh, once again, I was wrong.
I have eaten tagine many, many times. Not by choice, but as a guest in Moroccan homes, or on tours when it is included, or at weddings.
Tagine, to me, is the equivalent of beef stew. Oh, it may be chicken or fish instead, but basically, it’s a pot of vegetables that are slowly simmered over a fire all day; mostly potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. Sometimes it will be fancy and have boiled eggs, apricots or dates, or other vegetables included.
But always, I cannot stand it and never quite know how to politely decline and ask for something else.
It looked like tagine. It was served like tagine. It had the ingredients of a tagine. But my god, this was something far, far different from any tagine I’d ever eaten.
I swear if the manager had not been there in his elegant clean white button-down shirt and freshly pressed trousers, and talking to me in his refined voice looking so damn classy, I would have wolfed that meal down fast and asked for seconds and a doggie bag.
This heffer had no shame (as many of my former dates can tell you).
But alas, this was no date, even if in my head I was imagining this fairy-tale, ultimate romantic experience to be.
This was my career, and I aim to be as classy and professional as possible. Besides, I did not want this stranger to see me as the secret glutton his chef had made me become, at least in my heart as I lusted over his creations.
I dipped my fork daintily and slowly lifted it to my lips, hoping he could not see the pure lust and hunger in my eyes, and only saw the soft, demure, ladylike facade I was attempting to exhibit. Hopefully, he did not see beyond that to the ravenous, hungry heffer I had turned into thanks to the meal.
I sat there primly, glad that Miss Manners had taught me which forks to use and that I had no escargot to deal with, ala Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,”.
I attempted my Mona Lisa smile once again, nodding my head ever so slightly, in a last-ditch effort to let my colleague believe that I am the consummate professional.
The man across from me spoke, but I heard nothing as I sank deeper into my fantasy, filled with electricity and excitement at this most exotic, erotic, romantic night of my life.
It didn’t even matter to me that I was completely alone. Well, aside from the handsome and charming staff surrounding me, catering to my every need.
Happily, I listened to him as he discussed tourism and various types of camps at different deserts in Morocco. I loved the passion and pride the camp manager expressed as he shared the story of how he came to be involved in tourism, and in particular what made him choose Dar Inacamp.
This lifelong desert-dweller’s love affair was obvious as he lit up when he described the unique design, the beauty of the surrounding landscape, or the ecological reasons this camp is special. Even if he did not express the many reasons the entire staff here each do their job to perfection, it was obvious that they each took pride in their work with the same level of joy this man had for this special camp.
I realized as we chatted that while I was in love with love and thrilled to be on this solo journey, the camp manager in front of me was also madly in love; with Dar Inacamp.
I, too was totally smitten.
Even before I’d seen the place I would be sleeping that night, I was at peace here, surprised that I could be falling in love with a dessert as I have always been a water baby, needing to be near the ocean. But here I was breathless and happy to be here under the stars.
To dine under the glittering stars was romantic enough. But to be welcomed and served by white-gloved, uniformed staff in the wee hours of the morning, enjoying the most delectable meal on the finest china by such attentive employees, and to be surrounded by such opulence and beauty was quite overwhelming and wonderful at once.
The employees were so attentive, it almost felt as if the staff at Dar Inacamp were psychic, giving me the first clue that Dar Inacamp was special.
Every single one of the staff seemed to know exactly what time, where, and how I would prefer to sleep, wake, dine, and be alone. I barely had time to wish for something when it would appear.
I was led to my tent after dinner, loving the long fairytale bridge and stairs that led me across the sand to my private quarters.
Slightly nervous, (because I am a city girl, after all,) but more thrilled at the huge amount of space and privacy that surrounded me, I walked slowly, not wanting this night to end.
I was enthralled with the flickering lanterns leading the way, and the view of the sky, free from the skyscrapers and pollution I was used to back home.
I enjoyed my mini trek to my tent. I truly felt like a fairy princess as I walked past the flickering lanterns that led the way. The view of the sky was spectacular, free from the skyscrapers and pollution I was used to back home.
I stood there alone in the bedroom section of my tent in awe.
This was not the first luxury camp I had visited, but still, I was stunned. The room was exquisite.
I loved the simple, yet elegant décor, the furniture, the colors, and how spacious the room was. The ambiance was something I previously had assumed you could only find in fake, photoshopped magazine photos. Like a postcard or that Instagram model your brain wants to believe actually looks like that, but deep down you know it couldn’t possibly be reality.
And yet, this room was very real, and it was all mine that night.
The natural hues, and the crisp, white linens, bedding and towels were plush. The bed felt even larger than a king, and although I often claim that since I love romance I’d love to experience trips with a partner, the truth is that I absolutely loved climbing into that bed alone, able to stretch out completely and still have tons of room.
I was crazy about the white, bamboo, and earthy sand tones. At the foot of the bed was a fur runner between the bamboo frame.
The bathroom and seating area were just as exquisite; simple, yet refined, and elegant.
My only concern (besides dessert scorpions and snakes) was when I saw that there was no lock on the tent door. But the manager assured me that not only was the camp incredibly safe in general and quite secluded, but there was also 24-hour security on-site at all times.
I had the most peaceful, relaxed sleep that night.
I found myself smiling when I awoke. I was in heaven and could not wait to see the dessert in the daylight. Outside of each lodge, a stony cabana fitted with comfortable cushions and the uninterrupted Atlas Mountains views where you can lounge on sunchairs and couches as you dine, read or sunbathe awaits you.
The view in the morning left me breathless.
Moments after I woke and unzipped my tent door, I was surprised to find an elaborate breakfast had appeared on my outdoor balcony. There were tables and several sofas, and lounge chairs for lying in the sun, or for star gazing at night.
And if that wasn’t enough, I gasped when I saw the view behind the huge spread in front of me.
I woke up much later than my normal 5:00 am internal alarm clock usually gets me up, so I missed the famous sunrise visitors to Moroccan deserts all rave about, but oh, was this morning unbelievably beautiful.
As I sat there sipping my “nous nous”.
Moroccan coffee, especially nous nous, I swear must have something special added to it because it seems to have some kind of magical, powerful hold over me. I’m like a crack addict with nous nous.
My surroundings were competing hard for my attention that morning, distracting my from what is usually my first love; food (not that it’s easy for anything to compete with my heart when it comes to amazing meals), but I sat there for a long, long time, praying and meditating, thanking The Creator.
I was only at Dar Inacamp one night my first time. But one night was all it took for me to have all of the stress and inner chaos that I had been struggling with back home in NYC dissolve completely. Finally, I was able to relax and re-focus and get my balance back.
It was love at first sight.
I was in love with my surroundings, but by allowing myself to be seduced by the romance and allure of the luxurious ambiance around me, I was able to remember to be loving and attentive to myself. To relax, meditate, and to be thankful.
One incredibly romantic night was all I needed to fall in love with me again.