Having been to Marrakesh before, there is a temptation to say that I have “been there done that” with Morocco. However, as any map or travel guide will tell you, Morocco truly is a vast mass of land; stretching from the sunny Mediterranean coast deep into the warmer Saharan African heartland. When the opportunity came up to explore the northern coast of this melting pot of cultures, it was impossible to turn down; cue a visit to Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay.
Nestled on Morocco’s north-eastern coastline, just over an hour east of Tangier, Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay is the Singaporean brand’s first foray onto the African continent. The resort itself is nothing short of spectacular; an architecturally perfect reception area towers over the never-ending driveway that splits the 92 all-pool villas that sprawl along the coast. Long corridors of arched doorways, hand-cut mosaic tiles and wrought ironwork decorate most walls and facades, making the Banyan Tree feel authentic, yet well-manicured. The check-in process is a breeze thanks to the incredibly helpful and well-mannered staff; within minutes we were being chauffeured to our Courtyard Villa on the back of a golf cart as we gawped at the Rif Mountains in the distance behind us.
We were lucky enough to have not one, but two, Courtyard Villas for our stay; one for living in and the other for photographing in. Each self-enclosed space was designed to feel light and airy, with typical Banyan Tree styling and detailing creating a homely yet clean feel. The living area seamlessly transitioned into the sleeping area with a huge King Size Bed looking out to the courtyard and private pool and Jacuzzi. Navigating the room, a set of double doors on the other side of the bed opened up to a more-than-adequate bathroom with his-and-hers sinks and the world’s biggest bath. It wasn’t surprising to learn that some wealthy individuals move into these villas and then decide not to move back out for weeks at a time.
On-site, there is a spa designed in the style of a Spanish courtyard, hiding hydrothermal thermal therapies, a hammam and treatment rooms. The dining options are as diverse as the Moroccan culture, with plenty of options within a short walk (or golf cart ride) of the villas. At Tingitana, chef Georges Roche served us the most decadent introduction to Moroccan and Spanish cuisine, with the beef and lamb tagines being an absolute standout dish. In a nod to the Bayan Tree’s Singaporean roots – and keeping up tradition across the portfolio – the Asian restaurant Saffron is headed up by chef Sukkasem, who served us up a Thai masterclass on our final night. The trio of desserts being a favourite here, inducing a mixture of surprise and awe for the taste buds.
Staying at the Banyan Tree for three nights, there was of course a chance to explore the surrounding area on a couple of excursions. The nearby UNESCO towns of Chefchaouen and Tétouan, both had their own draws with the former sitting atop a hill and, being bathed in the most satisfying blue, providing plenty of content for Instagram. It must be seen to be believed; every single corner we turned providing a photo opportunity. Tétouan is slightly less touristic; a true barometer of Moroccan culture if you will. A trip through the ancient Medina is a world away from the comfort of the Banyan Tree and there is a real assault on the senses from all the sights, sounds and smells that inhabit the mazy alleyways. We were fortunate enough to have an excellent guide in Jamal, and I would probably advise utilising the Banyan Tree’s services unless you happen to have a near-perfect internal GPS. Google Maps won’t help you out here.
Having only unearthed a few of Northern Morocco’s hidden gems, we have plenty of reasons to head back to Tangier and use the Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay as our base. It offers an unmatched level of tranquillity, cuisine and service that allows you to delve into the chaos of Moroccan culture while retreating to a calmer climate. There aren’t many places where you can experience the perfect marriage of Moroccan and Andalusian cultures while doing laps in your own private villa pool.
I would like to thank Nicholas, Angelika and the rest of the Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay team for their incredible hospitality and for hosting us during our stay; it was a real home away from home.