As the driver pulled onto the property known as Jnane Tamsna, I could immediately feel as if a true Moroccan adventure were unfolding before me. Jnane Tamsna is like no other resort or boutique hotel in Morocco — or maybe anywhere — thanks to the impeccable design sense of its owner MeryAnne Loum-Martin, a lawyer from Senegal who studied in Paris. Together with her husband Dr. Gary Martin, a American ethnobotanist and founder of the Global Diversity Foundation, MeryAnne created an oasis near Marrakech that is now the only black female owned hotel in Morocco. With its 24 rooms spread among five houses on nine acres, Jnane Tamsna has opened its doors, according to Essence magazine, to Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Giorgio Armani, and Donna Karen, but was my home for a week-long Culinary Journey in Morocco led by San Francisco chef Joanne Weir.
The sense of calm is evident upon arrival. With a single palm at the entrance, a series of archways led me through the simple, yet elegant main entrance complete with roses floating in a crystal bowl sitting upon a typical Moroccan inlaid chest. An open book on another invited me to register as a guest.
The living room became a favorite for me and others with its velvet chairs, indigenous art, and soft lighting.
An alcove in the main room invites guests to spend a private moment sipping mint tea offered upon arrival. And books stacked willy-nilly make anyone feel right at home.
Outside, gathering places remain intimate, offering a respite from the jangle of the crowded souks in downtown Marrakech.
A stroll through the gardens reveals native plants marked for ready identification. Natural pathways offer closer looks, especially if they’re bordered by twig trellises and blooming bougainvillea, but they’re also where guests wind down on their way to beautiful lodging rooms.
Some of the houses offer spots for gathering. With their Moroccan furnishings — tapestries, weighty furniture, patterned rugs — guests take in the sensory stimuli reminiscent of the beauty of the area.
Three rooms that I visited were all different. Painted a deep purplish red, one room was a study in contrasts: cream-colored floor-to-ceiling curtains hung loosely and a patterned rug offered more texture and design.
In another, twin beds under a lush canopy awaited guests and offered a sprig of rosemary on the pillows.
Adding drama to this suite called Calligraphie for its frieze of Arabic writing near the ceiling, was an African garment displayed at the end of an arched hallway.
A third room held a welcoming basket of freshly-picked flowers.
Dining, too, is an experience at Jnane Tamsna. At one end of the back dining room hangs a colorful, patterned textile and multiple framed portraits. On the ceiling, twigs woven into a grid form a nature-inspired covering.
It’s no wonder that people book Jnane Tamsna for special occasions — wedding receptions, reunions, corporate retreats, cooking schools, and the like. After all, who wouldn’t want to dine at tables set under the trees overlooking an elegant pool?
Of course, the real treat at Jnane Tamsna is the cadre of people who are ready to serve, to answer questions, to guide you in your travels, and to make you feel at home in this serene oasis right outside Marrakech. I hope you’ll follow along as I share glimpses of my Culinary Journey in Morocco 2018 with Chef Joanne Weir. You can’t help but feel the calm and fall in love with the setting that, to me, was the best introduction to Morocco anyone could have.
For more information:
Jnane Tamsna, Douar Abiad, Palmeraie, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco; +212 5243-28484; jnanetamsna.com
Stunning photos: Follow on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jnanetamsna/
Please join me in this Travel Series: Marvelous Morocco as I share with you experiences from Culinary Journey in Morocco 2018 with Chef Joanne Weir and my travel experiences afterward with my husband Bert as we journeyed to Ouarzazate, the Sahara, Fes, Chefchaouen, and Tangier. Our organizer for the trip was Lauren Medley Gunnels with Ortelius Travel Advisors. — Rusha Sams