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Independent Minds: Thierry Teyssier, Dar Ahlam

Rebellious by nature, visionary hotelier Thierry Teyssier has thrown the traditional hospitality rule book out the window by adopting a bespoke approach to each and every guest at Dar Ahlam, which more than lives up to its Arabic translation as the ‘House of Dreams’. Bringing a sense of showmanship learned during his days as a French actor to his Moroccan Kasbah, all the world’s a stage for Thierry when it comes to creating unique experiences for his guests. With no check-in or check-out times, no restaurant or menu, and an entire team dedicated to making your every wish come true, this desert oasis delivers luxury without limits.

As the founder of the world’s first wandering hotel, the freedom which comes with Thierry’s nomadic concept is very much present within the terracotta walls and fragrant grounds of Dar Ahlam, a 14 suite Kasbah in the palm grove of Skoura, on the fringes of the Sahara Desert. Guests are invited to dine in the dozens of private spaces dotted in and around the hotel at any time they so desire, while meals are crafted from local ingredients sourced from the souk or grown in the hotel’s garden. Sleep under the stars amongst the sand dunes, ride over more than 1,000km of desert routes by camel or on the back of an Arabian stallion, or sit beside the shores of Ouarzazate Lake beneath a private tent with a personally prepared picnic spread. No request is too big or too small, in a place where every whim will be catered for, “where you can choose to do anything and nothing.”

What does being ‘Independently Minded’ as an hotel owner mean to you?

To be independently minded means to think out of the box. To me, it means to be guest-centric instead of thinking about my hotel organisation. It might sound simple, but too many hoteliers don’t care about their guests and prefer to put so many rules in place, even if this becomes the opposite of ‘hospitality’.

What was the inspiration behind the hotel, and where do you continue to find sources of inspiration?

I decided to create my own hotel because I was tired of all these rules: check-in after 2pm, 3pm or 4pm, check-out before noon or 11am…I wanted to create a place without any limits where you can choose to do anything or nothing, where there is no restaurant but a special set up just for you, and where you can live unique moments dedicated to you in absolute exclusivity – where you are, there are no other guests. Today, it seems obvious, but when I created Dar Ahlam 20 years ago, imagine the reactions! My sources of inspiration are just normal life and wishes. When you fall in love, you don’t need a marketing department to tell you what to do…

How do you think your hotel stands apart from other boutique hotels?

No rules, no limits, no check-in or check-out, every single breakfast, lunch or dinner in a different location with different scenery, a car, driver and guide dedicated to you, no programme in advance – just come and leave the rest to us. After a stay with us, you will understand what freedom means!

If you only had 24 hours to get a taste for your hotel experience, what would you recommend a guest must do?

There is definitely nothing you must do at Dar Ahlam, this goes against our philosophy. Just come and we’ll see what you want to do together. We will prepare a special programme just for you. It will depend on how you’re feeling, if you are tired or not, if it is your first trip to Morocco or your twentieth, if you have been travelling for three weeks or if you have just arrived, if it is windy or not…I hate to organise anything in advance. My hotel is one part of the story. Each guest is the most important part.

How would you describe your own perfect luxury experience?

For over 20 years, I have been creating my own perfect experience. A mix of simplicity, authenticity and people. Today, journalists call it “new luxury” but it’s just my way of thinking and living. Going with a fisherman on his small boat to pick sea urchins, to open them on board with a glass of wine…you don’t need anything else at sunset!

Do you have a vision for the future of the hotel?

I want to give back tourism to locals. I launched a new project two years ago, 700’000 Heures, which is the first wandering hotel in the world. I promote micro-hospitality operated with local communities to help them to become independent. We want to share local cultures and traditions in a new simple way. Circular economy is also part of the equation. I don’t believe in big hotels anymore, and I want to prove small houses are more profitable for everyone than large establishments.