Jnane Tamsna

Marrakech, Morocco Book from

Reviewed by Lanie Goodman
Exquisite country estate offering understated style, pampering and cultural insights
Situated in a 15-acre adobe-walled estate in Marrakech’s Palm Grove, Jnane Tamsna ("Big Garden") is a luxurious country villa with 24 guestrooms, spread over 5 houses, that can be booked individually or exclusively. Big by any measure - scale, style, ambition, heart, range of activities, arches, five swimming pools - yet informal and relaxed, the property reflects the huge knowledge and warm presence of the owners. Charismatic Meryanne Loum-Martin, a French-Senegalese lawyer-turned-designer (and pioneer of understated Moroccan style), and her charming husband Gary Martin, an American ethno-botanist - aim to offer a personalised stay with an unusual cultural slant.

Beyond lazing by the pool, playing tennis or being soothed by aromatic massages, guests may take advantage of their private Diversity Excursions led by local university-educated guides that will take you off the beaten tourist track - behind the medina's closed doors, into herb shops and landmark gardens, or the nearby countryside to learn about Moroccan customs, cuisine and art. But whether you choose to relax or explore, the Martins will go out of their way to ensure your stay in Morocco is an unforgettable one.

Highs

  • The ultimate treat to the senses, from the fragrant flower-lined courtyards, exquisite design and blend of rich colours to the five pools, all of it surrounded by an extraordinary garden
  • In contrast to many other upscale riads, the atmosphere here is not hushed and intimidating; children will feel as welcome as honeymooners and there are imaginative activities on offer for them in school holidays
  • A perfect Bohemian venue for a wedding or private party
  • Delicious food, a fusion of Mediterranean/Moroccan/Senegalese and Indian cuisine utilising organic produce from the gardens
  • The owners' presence is felt everywhere: in the antiques, the artworks, the collection of books to borrow, Gary's botanical tours, Meryanne's dinner recommendations...

Lows

  • The flip side of the peaceful Palmeraie is that taxis are a must, since you’re a 15-minute drive from the centre of town, and getting a taxi to and from the medina can be a bit of a hassle - best to book if you can
  • The effects of an unforgiving climate are noticeable on paintwork and furnishings - this isn't an uber-smart and perfectly polished place - which adds to the relaxed air
  • The rooms don't have TV/DVDs or minibars; but that's not their style - and staff will serve you drinks at any time, lend you a local cellphone or even bring a TV & DVD player to your room if you ask
  • Service is good, but note the buildings are spread out so it can take longer to deliver consequently
  • Unfortunately, the best doesn't come cheap

Best time to go

The estate is open year round. Marrakech is baking hot in the summer months of July and August - a dry but extremely relentless heat beats down on the city - Meryanne advises coming for a week in hot weather so you get acclimatised. The best times to visit are certainly the spring and autumn. By the end of October the evenings are cold, although the midday sun is still warm enough to bask in. The weather in winter, from November to March, ranges from cold and rainy to sunny days, warm enough to sit outside. As Jnane Tamsna is one of the few places in Marrakech to have a heated swimming pool there is swimming almost all year round.

Our top tips

Bring an empty suitcase! Not only is there superb shopping in the medina, Meryanne also has a large room beside the main pool which has good quality goods for sale including carpets, lights, pictures and furniture.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Retreat
  • 24
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
  • Yoga
Room:

Rooms

Decor aficionados, indulge yourselves! The lush grounds hold 5 houses, each of which has its own pool and various luxurious bedrooms categorised according to size and amenities. Many have been designed by Meryanne Loum-Martin, internationally renowned for her sober chic and eclectic mix of styles with an African twist. You’ll find colourful woven Moroccan and Senegalese fabrics and rugs, canopies from Uzbekistan, handpicked antique objets d’art, plump tassels, Syrian chests and tables with mother-of-pearl inlays, ancient carved wooden doors, and Meryanne’s own creations - contemporary wrought-iron lamps, daybeds and low chairs.

The bathrooms are decked out in earthtone tadelakt with shiny copper sinks, and stocked with sweet-smelling herbal bath products. Some rooms boast fireplaces, canopy beds and private terraces, and there’s also a comfy rooftop terrace for lounging, with superb views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains and the neighbouring palm grove.

The Jnane Main House follows the traditional Medina style, with bedrooms arranged around two central courtyards, but with glass doors leading to terraces on the outside of the house they feel lighter and airier than usual. The ground floor rooms have kingsize beds and spacious (though shared) verandas; the remaining rooms are located upstairs with access to the roof terrace.

You’ll find the 4 other houses in Jnane Tamsna's garden. Dar Moussafir ('House of the Traveller') is beautifully styled by Meryanne to represent the craftsmanship of Islamic style from North India to West Africa. Jnane Villa has its own dining and breakfast rooms, plus a living area with library. Meryanne and Gary's house, Dar Ylane, which also has rooms for guests, is just as beautifully decorated. Finally the Pavillion, perhaps the most exclusive option, has just 2 suites (each with fireplace, sitting room and outdoor dining area) and its pool is delightfully placed among lavender and olive trees.

All rooms have air-conditioning and central heating.

Please note that Jnane Tasmna cannot guarantee a particular room or villa, only a room category.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Terrace
  • WiFi

Eating

Most meals are served outside on one of the colourful patios, in the fragrant garden, or in an inner alcove that has its own little Zen garden of olive trees. There's also a monochrome African-themed indoor dining room if it's cooler.

The immense organic garden, a labour of love mostly created by Gary Martin, yields countless varieties of herbs, vegetables and fruit that make their way into the meals. Some of the flour is home-grown and -ground. The result is a delicious fusion cuisine inspired by the owners' tastes and backgrounds, taking in Senegalese, Indian and "modernised" Moroccan recipes with classic fresh Mediterranean fare. Sample lunch and dinner dishes (to whet your appetite) might be lamb tagine with tomatoes and caramelized spring onions; a roasted pepper, cucumber and tomato salad; followed by spiced pears with oranges and caramel sauce. The set menus change daily - we recommend you let them know if you're dining in as the ingredients are bought in daily.

Breakfast is no less delicious. A big spread awaits of juices, cheeses, Moroccan and French breads, amlu (a local speciality with Argan oil), eggs cooked to order, fruit salads, muesli and jams (both homemade).

If this takes your fancy, ask about their personalised cooking lessons with the house chef.

Features include:

  • Children meals
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore Marrakech; Morocco's most exciting city. It's a 15-minute drive to the Medina, the old walled city dating back to the 12th century with its labyrinth passageways - a medieval experience with Moorish masterpieces, spices and crafts from Nomadic tribes. Meryanne and Gary organise excellent cultural and ecological trips through a local company

  • Shop till you drop in the souks - hand woven rugs and berber jewellery are some of the best buys. You may want a guide to show you around initially

  • Golf. Nearby is Morocco's finest golf course, the 18-hole Palmeraie Golf Club designed by Robert Trent Jones. Two other fine courses are within a 15-minute drive

  • There are horse riding stables within 15 minutes drive of Jnane Tamsna. Biking can also be arranged

  • Take a trip to the Atlas Mountains (1 hour's drive); go hiking, visit Berber villages and meet the locals

  • Go to the Atlantic coast - Essaouira is one of Morocco's most relaxed towns (2 hours' drive)

  • For longer excursions, check out the Southern deserts where you can go camel trekking (the hotel can assist)

  • Enjoy a hot air balloon ride

  • Back at Jnane Tamsna, sign up for a Moroccan cooking class, select your own ingredients from the garden and find out how to use all those exquisite herbs and spices

  • Lie or read in an oasis of peace by swimming pools or somewhere more secluded in the enchanting garden

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cooking classes
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Yoga

Kids

Jnane Tamsna is heaven for families, and particularly suitable for older children who don't need too much supervision. There is plenty to keep them amused, from the pool and tennis court to the sprawling gardens, and it's certainly popular in the school holidays with children playing hide and seek and preparing magic and juggling shows for their parents. It is also very accommodating for parents with younger babies and babysitting arrangements can easily be made.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Large Rooms, Garden Rooms and Pavillion Suites have enough space for a couple of extra beds or a cot; if your children are bigger or you need more space, book a large room for yourselves and a Standard Room for them. All except the Small Room have a bathtub.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement, see Rates

Baby equipment:

  • 10 cots
  • 4 high chairs
  • Baby bedding
  • Bottlewarming

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

There is food available all day with a kids menu (pizza, pasta, chicken and chips) and half portions of adult mains for children. They can also have a high tea earlier in the evening, and guests can use a blender and microwave for baby food with some advance notice.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Outdoor heated swimming pools
  • 9 acres of gardens to play hide and seek in
  • Tennis court and coach on request
  • Magic, juggling and cookery lessons
  • Arabic calligraphy tuition

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Marrakech Medina
  • Oasira waterpark
  • Camel riding
  • Horse riding

Families Should Know:

There are some steps but otherwise few hazards. There is mobile phone signal everywhere here. You can buy nappies, food and toys nearby at a local supermarket. Some of the rooms are farther from the main house, so intercom systems may not work.

Distances:

  • Airport: 25 minutes
  • Hospital: 25 minutes
  • Shops: 20 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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