In an extraordinary turn of events, Home & Decor travel writer DEVANSHI MODY’s typical assignment to Morocco turned into an extensive three-month quarantine. Find out what happened and what the country has to offer in times of a pandemic.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

I am scheduled to begin a month-long assignment in Morocco on 5 March. Amidst the growing global alarm over Covid-19, my brother strenuously urged against travel. He warns, “By 15 March this will explode, there will be a pandemic, airports will shut, flights will be cancelled, you will be stranded- maybe for months. Don’t travel!”

My 72-year-old mother, who has medical complications, is meant to travel with me and she is violently opposed to the trip. However, Morocco’s grandest ultra-luxe resorts, which I am on assignment to review, assure that Morocco is perfectly safe. The travel industry, including tour operators and the airline we are booked on, urges that if all travel writers stopped travelling and the media announced advisories against travel, tourism would collapse with terrible economic repercussions.

So, I land up in Morocco, coercing my mother into the trip, to crusade for its tourism. Ironically, just after I land I find myself attacked by a tour operator, who says the common cold takes more lives than Corona virus, but the “sensationalist media” is inciting trip cancellations, engendering economic harakiri. “The media is more dangerous than Corona!” He barks.

Nevertheless, we spend a splendid 10 days luxuriating in Marrakech’s pleasure palaces. Mother’s anxieties intensify but I am absorbed in Marrakech’s vertiginous pulsation of bazaars, the romance of riads, sultry hammams and groomed gardens, whilst tour operator Cristian Martinus, owner of Sun Trails has me discover architectural jewels, like the fabled Bahia Palace, Pasha’s Palace and Saadian Tombs, with their mesmerising splendour of mosaics, intricately sculpted ceilings and doors, splendid artefacts and inner courtyard gardens lavish with orange trees.

Then, precisely on 15 March, things “explode.” Just as my brother predicted. Flights are cancelled suddenly. Morocco goes into lockdown. Hotels shut, expelling guests. Homelessness looms. We transfer to Casablanca. Here, a humanitarian young Moroccan, Ali El Hajouji of MyTravelKeys. com, is helping stranded tourists and rescues us with an apartment in Casablanca’s chicest quarters Anfa.

Surprisingly, of all the Moroccan cities I visited, Casablanca I enjoy most, even if I know it only in the context of the lockdown. I manage to go on long evening walks before the evening curfew and explore elegant neighbourhoods. If a city can enchant you even during a lockdown then there is something to be said about it and indeed its people who sustain us for three months, ensuring we want for nothing.

Most remarkable is Ali who says we are like family and hosts us graciously, waiving months worth of rent. Moreover, the Indian Association provides us home-cooked meals, personally delivered by the Association’s secretary, whilst the charitable AINKD Association assists with sundry and other requirements. Confinement in Casablanca is a period of inviting introspection. We have come to regard travel, luxury, liberty and life itself in such limited ways that being stranded in a lockdown can actually be a refreshingly liberating experience.

When lockdowns keep extending and flights don’t resume, we finally write to the Indian Prime Minister (my mother is an Indian citizen and we currently live in India), who speedily organised a repatriation charter.

We are finally home after three months. Now that we are safely back, and after a good night’s rest in my own bed, I am able to reflect on the design highlights of the trip. For those interested to give this destination a visit when the lockdown ends, here are some spots worth checking out.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room

Many parts of the country are still beautifully conserved.


A sprawling city rises out of the barren desert.

Ali El Hajouji from MyTravelKeys.com
My Reading Room
My Reading Room


You’d think that Humphrey Bogart had conferred eternal romance upon Casablanca but whilst the eponymous Hollywood classic enjoys eternal fame the city it was set in blipped into oblivion. Curious, given that this maritime city, Morocco’s commercial hub, is the most sophisticated city in the destination with almost a Parisian chic about it splashed with North African hospitality. And nowhere will you savour it better than if you check into Vacation Rentals Casablanca and interact with founder and host Ali El Hajouji who can indeed transform into a God-sent angel if you happen to be stranded in Casablanca, homeless and helpless. Not only did he volunteer to host (yes host, without charge) stranded tourists in his clutch of high-end apartments scattered around the swishest parts of town but he has been known to extend the stay, for months on end, for tourists unable to exit Morocco post lockdown. You wouldn’t complain being locked into one of these smart addresses, which Ali decorates “a ma facon,” (in my way) he says. Expect interiors worthy of a Parisian apartment with muted colours, sleek sofas, fluffy carpets offset by funky artwork recalling a Manhattan apartment. What you won’t find in Paris or Manhattan, however, is hospitality like Ali’s.

My Reading Room


Streaked by the mighty Atlantic, wreathed in lush lawns, this sleek marbled edifice distinguishes itself amongst Morocco’s ultra luxe numbers by being resolutely modern and unapologetically international in its feel. The lobby’s decorative paraphernalia includes showcases displaying high-end jewellery, the colours of the precious stones evoking the vibrant colours of bougainvillea gushing over the walls of Casablanca’s luxury villas. The Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca passes for a business hotel and yet it boasts North Africa’s only Bulgari spa. Just the place to snug up into after your long and winding wander through the plush and leafy purlieus of Anfa Hill atop which the hotel is perched. Suites can be small but stylish. The real luxury comes in vast marbled bathrooms, endowed with Bulgari blue tea toiletries capturing the breezy freshness of the hotel’s seaside location. Housekeeping at this hotel is especially good.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room



This resort merits braving Covid to reach Morocco, you will surely decide, as your butler checks you into a stunner pool villa the size of a small country with outdoors jacuzzi enshrined in moorish architecture and a shower-room that turns into a sauna. In the living room a bottle of Ruinart lazes coolly on an ice bed, to the swoon of myriad exotic Moroccan home-crafted delicacies made with almond paste, rose water, l’eau d’orangier and saffron. Come evening, your butler escorts you to supper on Ling-Ling’s enchanting terrace overlooking a pool set in glorious gardens exuding the mystique of Morocco. As for the spa, now this is the most beautifully architectured moorish spa you have seen, a masterpiece of architecture recalling classic Moroccan heritage in a suave contemporary space.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room


This the King of Morocco’s own hotel. And considering its regal trappings, it has lured everyone who is anyone from statesmen and the literati to the glitterati. This hotel is a stupendous achievement in hand craftsmanship, indeed a gallery for the exhibition of Morocco’s grand arts and crafts executed by artisans assembled from across Morocco. Accommodation is unique-here, you have free-standing duplex riads (at USD$3000/night the priciest five-star lodgings in Morocco) scattered across sprawling gardens. These riads, although much celebrated, can sometimes feel tight and smell musty. Never mind, drink up the champagne- the higher categories of riads come with a bottle of Billecart Salmon champagne. It’s easy to finish a bottle of champagne over a poolside lunch as you watch guests laze around opulent lawns. Supper at the hotel’s much-vaunted Moroccan restaurant La Grande Table Marocaine is an exercise in dinner theatre. The restaurant is a little beauty. Expect servers in splendid Moroccan garbs aswirl around French men and women in haute-couture.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room
My Reading Room


Its facade is deceptively unexciting. Then you enter an oasis of bliss. You feel soothed at entry, there’s a vibe about the place. And the best-ever fresh-squeezed orange juice, besides an eclectic collection of artwork and antiques collected from the world over by the French owners along their travels and tastefully disposed in the luxury riad. The three dining spaces are especially alluring-who needs the fire place when the service is as warm as it is flawless. There are three pools too, including a rooftop number, but the principal pool glitters like a jewel set in emerald gardens. The poolside terrace is where to lunch on avocado salad whilst the poolside al fresco seating is just the place for aperitifs- think Louis Roederer champagne, dainty canapes and the choicest olives, almonds, pistachios and peanuts in Morocco. Dine on ravishing homemade ravioli served with Moroccan wines and culminating in salted caramel ice cream if not dark chocolate tart.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room


This hotel seems to have more marble than the Taj Mahal and Oriental artwork and antiques (the owners’ private collection) than a small museum. Expect an almost suffocating exuberance of Persian rugs, Syrian antiques and Venetian chandeliers. One of the key highlights in the resort is a stable full of impeccably groomed Arabian thorough-bred stallions, their manes shampooed, dried and plaited. It was in this stable, that Madonna threw her 60th birthday recently. The hotel Jacques Garcia designed, with its brooding sexiness, has the sexiest suites in Morocco. You’d be advised to pick the all-inclusive plan if only to avail of the best open mini-bar to exist on earth stocked with Louis Roederer, premium nuts and chocolates. The terraces come with views over the longest pool in Africa. Beyond, the Atlas Mountains waver gleamingly in the backdrop. Ensure you are gorgeously attired for supper at their iconic Moroccan restaurant Assyl. This is amongst the most astonishing restaurants with sumptuous seating and enormous glittering chandeliers-enough to outshine the most ostentatious Venetian palace.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room



Sir Richard Branson’s resort in the Atlas Mountains occupies what was the erstwhile villa of an Italian antiques dealer and continues to be a repository of beauteous antiques. What a contrast- this sophistication of art in an indigenous berber space set against the majesty of the snow-draped Atlas Mountains. Accommodation includes berber tents put up in gardens where peacocks dance. If you can brave the cold, breakfast on private pooled terraces with views over verdant valleys. There’s a restaurant with a local feel for supper but arrange to dine privately in the antique-filled library that turns romantic by night. Between meals explore the three valleys with Sun Trails or go off on a trek with the hotel’s capable berber guides.

My Reading Room
My Reading Room



From the people behind Bab Ourika, the much-acclaimed eco-conscious rustic chic luxury haven in the Ourika Valley boasting perhaps the most gorgeous cascading gardens in the Atlas Mountains. Dar Faracha, sensitively decorated, is a private villa that can be rented out. It remains Morocco’s best-kept secret. You can use it as a base from which to explore the incredible surrounds of languid rose and almond-tree valleys, lush hushed palm-groved oases and stark canyons descending into the vast Sahara. The less adventurous won’t despair to linger close to home and venture out but for gourmet picnics- comprising veggies from the property’s own organic gardens.