Travel: A true oasis in the desert – Inara Camp, Morocco

You may not be surprised to find out that as a travel writer my tastes edge more towards luxury boutiques than camping. Believe me, I have tried all manner of camping variations worth writing a press release about, including the dreaded ‘glamping’ subgenre, a term derived from the combination (and indeed oxymoron in my eyes) of glamorous and camping. Indeed, it was particularly dreadful woodland camping experience in Croatia that scarred me for life and I vowed never again. 

Sadly, though, this has made certain exotic terrains off limits, in particular the desert, so I resigned myself to the sad fact that there were to be no Lawrence of Arabia style expeditions in my future. That was until the invite to Inara Camp in Marrakech came my way, so confident were they that my glamping ban should come to an end (and so beautiful their imagery) I had to put my preconceptions aside to give it a go.

Rustic interiors and all the home comforts at Inara Camp

Situated in the Agafay desert, a mere 30 minutes from Marrakech airport, beyondthe phenomenal hustle and bustle of the ochre city, everything has a beautiful stillness. A disclaimer – you shouldn’t expect sand dunes from this mineral desert, but from your prime location at the foot of the Atlas Mountains the sheer expanse of the terrain is mind-boggling.

After following a seemingly random assortment of unmarked tracks, slowing down for periods to navigate rockier patches, you reach the edge of the ten-hectare camp. Only with a closer look do the series of cream safari-style tents make themselves known from the landscape, but the piercing blue of the pool draws you in immediately. 

If you’ve ever seen an oasis paradise depicted in the movies, I am pretty sure it looked like the Inara camp.

Dusk in the Inara Camp, Marrakech

Dusk in the Inara Camp, Marrakech

The camp consists of two parts. The lowest area is the bivouac accommodation. I was staying in one of their top-of-the-range suites – think safari-tent chic with all the trimmings of a boutique artisan hotel. Four-poster bed, your own bathroom and all the crafted design touches you could hope for from local artists or creatively transformed everyday objects. 

Designed by Vincent Jaquet, great inspiration has been taken from nature and the history of the bedouin tribes that originally made this area their home. A visual treat, every corner reveals repurposed pieces which effortlessly mix functionalism and indulgence. 

The trick to true comforts seems to come from the camp’s ability to adapt to its environment. With climate conditions similar to the Sahara, the temperature is prone to extremes, but this is easily counteracted by in-room woodburning stoves (expertly crafted by the onsite team, as it’s safe to say I wouldn’t know where to start) or, on the opposite end of the scale, sweet relief can be found in the evaporative air cooler on hotter days. 

My favourite moment of the camping experience could be found at sunset on the tents terrace, a private space not overlooked by other guests, taking in the vast silence, next to an expertly set roaring fire.

If you should be unlucky enough to not find the time to stay, the high part of the camp includes a restaurant which welcomes guests passing through for lunches, dinners and events. They were also setting up for a wedding during my visit., I couldn’t imagine a more spectacular affair – think a Burning Man-style party with all the class and interior finishes of Soho House. I did hang around for a while hoping in vain for an invitation…

Desert dining at Inara Camp

Desert dining at Inara Camp

The food, courtesy of chef Mustafa, is a refined take on traditional Moroccan cuisine. Expect a flourish of tagines and local delicacies, while the team welcomes you with unrivalled hospitality, making your stay the most comfortable and effortless camping experience you will find.

With such a large site, there are a multitude of activities that can be organised, depending on how adventurous you are feeling: camel or horse rides, quad or mountain biking. Or for those feeling more reflective, sunrise yoga, cooking classes, guided star gazing and local storytelling is available. 

Surprisingly for a desert, water babies won’t be disappointed either, as only 14km away is the Lalla Takerkoust Lake, offering canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing and hover boarding. Or, of course, there is the pool on site for the more sloth-like water lovers, perfect for a cooling dip in between your desert adventures.

So after a personally imposed camping drought, my experience at Inara truly was like finding an oasis in a desert. What is so refreshing is the camp’s respectful approach to a location steeped in cultural history, while seamlessly intertwining it with all the luxury touches a modern traveller could hope for. Maybe my ban was a little rash…