Room service: A retreat with equal style and substance

Fellah Hotel, Marrakech

Every afternoon at Fellah Hotel, at about 4pm, a man sits under a sunshade by the pool and plays a kora, a 21-string instrument that resembles a lute but sounds like a harp. The guests are encouraged to gather around him. Mint tea and sweets are served.

"He plays the story of his life," Shaden El Badaoui, the general manager explains. I couldn't tell you what the story was about (my Arabic isn't too hot) but the tune was tranquil, as though his life's journey had been a smooth one. As it turns out, this can't be said for most of the staff at Fellah. El Badaoui is keen to emphasise the hotel's philanthropic credentials, and explains many of the employees had no job nor even a home before they were employed here.

The founder of the hotel, Redha Moali, is a former stockbroker. He was raised by a single mother who had emigrated to Paris from Algeria. They weren't wealthy and Moali received support from the French government to go to university. On his return to North Africa, he was keen to "give something back" and in 2010 he set up an artistic centre around 20 minutes' drive outside Marrakech in the village of Tassoultante. This has since bloomed into Fellah Hotel, which opened in September.

The name translates as "peasant"; a slightly uneasy acknowledgment of the hotel's reliance on local staff and produce. However, Moali has taken time to find out if his staff had any special skills and then worked them into the concept. There's a cooking area by the pool called Touko Place, named after the first person that Moali employed and who now cooks grilled food here.

The hotel is part of – and supports – a larger not-for-profit cultural centre, Dar al-Ma'mun. Yoga teachers, artists and academics stay free of charge in return for hosting classes for the guests, translating library books and offering lectures. It was set up with the intention of fostering international contemporary art and culture, as well as supporting local education.

A stay at Fellah hotel is quite a different prospect to the bijou riads in Marrakech and opulent palace hotels that surround the city – you interact with locals and if you have a skill, you are encouraged to share it with the other guests. Plus there's the added glow that comes from knowing your money is going towards something worthwhile, which staff will be certain to impress on you.

There's also a small farm of rabbits, chickens and donkeys as well as a kitchen-garden bursting with mint, verbena, tomatoes and other edible plants. All the food in the restaurant is either grown or reared on the site, or bought from local farmers. The dining room is the hotel's main hub, with outdoor and indoor seating, a large wooden dining table at the centre surrounded by a random assortment of patterned comfy chairs. Food is a less-inspiring mix of tagines, burgers and Italian dishes, but the cocktails are rather more imaginative. The signature verbena cocktail, made with foliage from the garden, tasted far too healthy to be alcoholic.

The hotel is still in its infancy, but is already attracting a distinctive crowd of bohemian solo travellers and well-heeled families looking for something a bit different. The kids' club has an emphasis on art and education, with the opportunity to milk cows, make sweets, help with the gardening or even indulge in a spot of yoga.

The layout is designed to foster a sense of community, so there are several areas where guests can socialise: by the pool, within the modern villas; even at the large, welcoming reception area where a grand dining table, ready for tea to be laid out for weary arrivals, is your first sight upon entering. Beyond this are views of the Atlas Mountains and the well-kept gardens which surround the property. Narrow stone pathways wind through the villas, with dry, grassy areas of palm trees in between.

At night, when the air smells of dust, smoke and farm animals, the paths are lit atmospherically with huge fires in modernist steel drums.


The Fellah sits between the Atlas Mountains and Marrakech, by the Ourika Valley. It's well placed for excursions into Marrakech. The hotel has a driver, Abdou, who's on hand for excursions. He's a polyglot who'll happily banter in several languages. I opted for a four-hour wander to a Berber village, followed by a trip to a cooperative herbalist in the mountains to buy some argan oil, followed by lunch and a short hike up to a waterfall (€70).

Horse-riding in the desert and hot-air ballooning over Marrakech are also available.


The 65 rooms are spread across 10 villas, with four to eight rooms in each, arranged around communal areas including kitchens, living rooms and a pool. You can either book them individually or take over the whole house for larger parties. All the rooms are different, but there's a well-defined modern Moroccan style running throughout: metal sheets cut through with Moroccan zellige tile designs and quirky accessories such as old wireless radios and wooden rocking horses. The bath tub in the zellige-tiled bathroom deserves a special mention – capacious and round with high sides, it took an age to fill but was also large enough for three of us to get in and soak our sun-sore skin.

A choice of massages is available at the hammam, which also operates as a training school for Thai Wat Po massage techniques. Guests can choose from either a rather brutal Thai massage, or a relaxing one, both good in their own way. Otherwise there's an elderly woman who strips you down and scrubs you with a scouring pad glove until you shed several layers like a snake.

Travel essentials

Fellah Hotel

Km13 route de l'Ourika, Tassoultante, Marrakech, Morocco (00 212 5 25 06 5000;

Rooms ****

Value ***

Service ****

Doubles start at €170, including breakfast

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?