I don't normally devote an entire post to a hotel-stay, but if there is ever a place where I wish I could spend another day or two (or ten), it is L'Ma Lodge in Skoura, a unique, well-designed riad that combines the best of Morocco with the best of France.
I must admit, when we arrived in Skoura and made our way to the riad via a narrow dirt road in what didn't look like the best of neighborhoods, then pulled up in front of a mud wall that didn't look very promising, I was feeling a bit disgruntled. I'd just spent two nights in a tent in the Sahara, for heaven's sake!
But like all our riad experiences, when the front door opened it was like leaving Dorothy's tornado-tossed little gray house and stepping into Oz, a metaphor I've used before but which was never more true than at L'Ma. L'Ma means "water" in Arabic and pays homage to the critical role water plays in this desert region. The owners are a French couple who had been living in nearby Ourzazate and had purchased the property and then built it from the ground up.
Rather than a single building with a central courtyard, the typical riad architecture, L'Ma is two stand-alone buildings surrounded by gardens and enclosed by an adobe wall, creating an environment meant for strolling, exploring, and relaxing.
The lodge, where we checked in and where we ate dinner and breakfast, was a cross between a luxury ski lodge and a Moroccan palace:
It included several areas for lying lazily about, sipping juice and popping olives into one's mouth. Unfortunately, we arrived just before 7:00 p.m. and had plans for an early departure the next morning.
We made our way to the guest house, which includes four regular rooms and three suites. I love the wooden railing on the stairs:
We had a regular room, and it was magical.
The rug used to keep the bugs out was weighted down with rocks. Even that was unique and lovely:
We had been driving all day, and we were tired and hungry, so after we settled in our room, we made our way back to the lodge for dinner.
The dinner was one of the best meals we had in Morocco. As noted earlier, the owners are French, and no one does food like the French. Many of the ingredients come from their own gardens on the property, including the olive oil which is pressed from olives from their own trees.
We started with an assortment of nuts and olives:
. . . followed by a hot salad of tomatoes and onions, spiced with Moroccan flavors and held by a phyllo dough cup:
The main dish was a lamb and apple tagine--relatively simple, but SO good. The apples, which were halved, were absolutely perfect, not too mushy and still tart. This was the best lamb we had on the trip:
Dessert was "lemon milk"--a layer of sweetened lemon juice on the bottom and flavored whipped milk on top. The owner told us it took her weeks to get the proportions just right so that the milk half would rise to the top. I've never tasted anything like it. AMAZING:
We peaked into the kitchen. Wow. I have since learned that they teach cooking classes here. If I ever go back to Morocco, I'm coming here:
We made it back to our room for a delicious sleep. There were screens on the windows (rare) and a ceiling fan, so we were able to take full advantage of a cool evening:
In the morning we spent some time wandering around, admiring the gardens and the many creative touches:
When we entered the lodge, there was a line-up of fifteen different homemade preserves waiting to fill our French and Moroccan crepes, along with other options including cereal, eggs, pound cake, etc. It all looked good, but we stuck with the crepes and these tantalizing jars:
Much too soon, breakfast was over, our driver had arrived to pick us up, and it was time to leave. We said good-bye to our hostess (the woman on the right below), her staff, and her cute puppy named Cacao (on left below), and headed off to our next destination:
Oh please, can we go back???