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Feature: Chic of Araby: Kasbah Tamadot

Jack Smith

Upon first glimpsing Sir Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot (www.virginlimitededition.com), you have to wonder what the caliph who built it a century ago was thinking: A kasbah, by definition, is a rural fort and thus should appear forbidding. However, Tamadot seems to have been confected from gingerbread, with delicate, onion-bulbed spires rising from turrets, intricately carved arbors, and zellij covering every inch.

In 1998, Branson traveled to Morocco to launch a circumnavigation of the globe in a hot-air balloon. The expedition was a flop but not the journey to Morocco. During the trip, his mother, Eve, discovered Tamadot in the Asni Valley, about 40 minutes south of Marrakech, and persuaded her son to add it to the Virgin portfolio of luxury experiences.

Antiques dealer Luciano Tempo owned Tamadot before Branson acquired it. Tempo was renowned for his flamboyance, which, considering that this is Morocco, is like being known in the NBA for being tall; he filled his fantasy fort with antiques, furniture, and objets d’art from India, Italy, China, and Africa. Many of those furnishings remain and are available for guests to purchase; Tamadot maintains a warehouse full of Tempo’s former possessions to replenish the kasbah whenever an item is sold.

Though now part of a business empire that includes music, air travel, and luxury resorts, Branson’s 17-room Moroccan hideaway epitomizes eclectic. The public spaces are kaleidoscopic, with intricately carved and painted wooden ceilings, mosaics, ancient chests, fanciful statuary, carved armoires, and leather armchairs. Every step from the bedroom to the swimming pool to the spa is softened by carpets.

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