Dar Kamal Chaoui – Bhalil Village – Morocco
Dar Kamal Chaoui – Bhalil Village
Dar Kamal Chaoui – Bhalil seems a simple Moroccan village located on the sunny slopes of hills with olive orchards and ancient caverns. Even though it is overshadowed by the cultural attraction of Fes, Bhalil is still amazing both by the uniqueness of the troglodyte houses and the tradition of nearly 1,000 women who usually crochet buttons for djellabas (traditional Moroccan clothing) in the street.
Bhalil is also unique for its traditional olive oil production, baking bread in earth ovens, local pottery, and unspoiled wedding customs. In this special environment, Dar Kamal Chaoui guesthouse stands in the heart of the fourth-century village. The Berber house sits right on the main street in the medina, a street going to the great Mosque Jamaa-Kbir.
You leave your car outside the medina and start to walk from the parking lot situated under the trees in Asfalou street. Then, you follow the directions of a signpost located on the blind wall of an old house. Soon, locals will start to smile and ask if you go to “Kamal?” Don’t worry too much! If you get lost, someone will kindly show you the right direction to go.
The main street climbs through the old medina (the center of the village). Several steps mark the difference of level and continue to climb uphill. A signpost announces you have reached the long-waited guesthouse. On the left side of the street, an open ground floor decorated with marquetries invites you to stop. A massive double-wooden door carved in Berber-style imposingly guards the entrance. The ancient entrance door looks like a passage into another world.
Dar Kamal Chaoui – the House
Fifty years ago, Kamal Chaoui built the house on the site of a Berber, old house initially embedding several rooms refurbished in a cave. The ground floor of the new house is built of local stone. Robust walls host an ample space for dining and an open kitchen equipped with wooden furniture. Next to the main entrance, a private room overlooks the street. Then, a solid staircase, made of massive wood, climbs to the upper floors. In between the first and second floors, a wooden old door decorates a wall. Kamal bought the door in a souq (old bazaar) in Fes, and he told me it was brought there from the Southern part of Morocco. Now, a small library with books genuinely fills the space behind the door.
In the Berber tradition, there are rooms only for men, women, or guests (who are very important). Kamal has carried on this tradition and turned his new home into an authentic guest house. Four guest suites are placed on the upper floors. Each of them has a name (Bea room, Sophia room, Adam room, and Adil room). Several rooms open up to the street, while the other ones open up to the backyard. All rooms have two to three beds, and each one has a private bathroom. Modern furniture with imprints of traditional Moroccan style has replaced the specific oriental arrangement of a U-shaped sofa on three sides of a room.
Dar Kamal Chaoui – Interior Design
The walls of the house have two layers of brick and glass wool for thermal insulation in between. Heating distribution for winter runs under the floors. On the ground floor, a wood fire boiler stands in a kitchen corner, well hidden behind a wood-perforated panel. The flooring of the rooms has white cement finishing with various additives according to the desired color, further brushed with a wire brush. Walls of the recently restructured bathrooms, sink holders, and bathtubs have tadelakt finishings. Tadelakt is a plaster made of cement-limestone, color additive, and water, with three layers of polishing creating a satin-refined looking.
Solid wood shutters ensure privacy for the guest rooms. All rooms have a three-layer insulating glass for windows, the best choice for a 950-meter-altitude mountain village. Moreover, rooms feature traditional motifs, from Berber curtains and blankets woven by Naima with sheep wool to local wooden furniture and Berber carpets. Abdul Latif, a local carpenter and antiquarian who has his workshop in a nearby cave, has made all the furniture in the house. Decorative wicker baskets have different sizes and belong to Uncle Basha, a former barber, supported by Kamal to revive the basket tradition in the village.
After making several improvements, the unused rooftop terrace has become an outdoor space for relaxation and dining. A wooden pergola and a rush matting cover protect the rooftop terrace overlooking the Jamaa al-Kbir Mosque. On this terrace, decorative vegetation creates a small, lush green oasis. Also, furniture of raw wood and raffia ensures a calm and tranquil atmosphere. In this environment, sheep wool Berber blankets are the best remedy for cool mountain evenings.
Dar Kamal Chaoui – Personal Experience
When I entered Kamal Chaoui Guesthouse in the fall of 2015, I noticed the traditional Berber elements in the house right away. Even though Kamal built the house only fifty years ago, it has an antique atmosphere and a local Moroccan vibe. The interior design transposed me into an authentic world, with Moroccan artisans, traditional furniture, and furnishings in Berber style. Naima cooked traditional food, used only local products, and her dishes smelled tempting in the kitchen. Every evening, the owners – Kamal and Beatrice, had dinner with their guests. Whenever I met Kamal’s mother, she always smiled and asked me: “Ca va ?” full of kindness.
As Kamal attracts great people around him, I found myself in an unplanned meeting of travel writers in Bhalil. In the afternoon, we went together to Sefrou and had a kefta sandwich at a local eatery. The following day, we explored the village and had breakfast with the troglodytes inside a cave. Nothing could have been more authentic than that!
Dar Kamal Chaoui can be found on booking, tripadvisor, and their website.
More photos from Dar Kamal Chaoui in Bhalil (Morocco):
If you want to read more about the road trip through Morocco, here are all the Travelogues from Morocco (x21).
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I always enjoy reading about new places that I’ve never heard of before! What a wonderful place to have been able to visit!
I’ve never heard before Bhalil either before visiting Morocco. The place is amazing and Kamal is a wonderful person.
Hello Sophie, I found your nice comment A year after you posted it, Thank you for enjoying our village, I decided to answer and give you more info about our village and house, I hope to see all of you soon, I’m ready to give you all the good tips and historical info about my region !
Enjoy this article : http://www.grumpycamel.com/dar-kamal-chaoui
I like your guesthouse and it seems all the decorations and arrangements are Moroccan style which is amazing. I also like the door design and colors they used.
It is authentic Berber style, that’s a great combination of colours.
Great information in this. Always wanted to go to Morocco, but heard mixed reviews. Great pics too!
You definitely should go to Morocco. It is a very conservative country with fantastic traditions. Berbers are awesome.
I’ve always wanted to go to Morocco ! This looks like a really nice authentic place to stay.
Morocco is a very safe country. That’s what all the locals told me and I travelled there for 6 weeks all by myself. You definitely should go to see it.
I absolutely love staying in guesthouses, and truly getting that local experience. And it looks like you really got that at Kamal’s place. Do you have any other recos for Morocco?? It’s definitely on my list but not sure how to tackle it! 🙂
I can recommend you a traditional riad in the heart of Fes’s medina. You can read about it here: https://travelingauthentic.com/index.php/casa-aya-medina-fez/
I tried to mention especially the traditional elements that represent this architectural style. I hope that you like it, too.
I have hundreds of good authentics places to visit and to enjoy in my region,
I’ll be happy to host you soon in our Guesthouse in Bhalil (www.kamalchaoui.com), then from our village, I can design a tailored tour for your filled with what you like according to your profile.
while you are thinking about it, enjoy reading the Washington Post Article published the 30 August 19: https://beta.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/in-morocco-44-hours-of-lingering-in-a-small-village-leaves-a-big-impression/2019/08/29/48406eb6-9f6d-11e9-9ed4-c9089972ad5a_story.html
I love Morocco! I would have loved to visit a traditional, non-touristy town like this and see the real country. The culture, people, and sights just amaze and thrill me. I loved reading about your trip to Bhalil!
I strongly recommend you visit the troglodyte houses and meet them too.
If you liked reading about Iuliana’s Bhalil Trip, a traditional, non-touristy town in Morocco, then you would like reading this Washington Post article published about Bhalil the 30 August 19, you better hurry to visit this Gem before other tourists…. don’t worry we are still far from being a place crowded with tourists :
I’ve always been a little bit intimidated by Morocco. I feel like I don’t know enough about its culture to get the most out of a visit. But a guest house like Kamal’s is such a brilliant way to learn about the country and Berbers specifically. I love the idea of an environment that’s authentic even though it’s intended for visitors.
Kamal’s guesthouse is more than an authentic environment for tourists. He has done more for the village either and for the locals. I could write a novel about this if I had time. 🙂
it si so amazing to see what else is out there. thank you for sharing!
You’re welcome. It’s a place I liked it very much.
What a beautiful find. I really love the ornate wooden door to the bookstore and the rooftop garden. 🙂
I think that door is a great invention of Kamal. It was very interesting for me either to see it.
Dear Luliana, have some news for you, maybe you can update your Blog
1/ You seem to like our Cedar Furniture, please be aware of the fact that since a year I’ running a 200m² Carpentry giving a job to 2 greats Carpenters -Artisans,
We have made several new doors as well as renovated old doors and Cedarwood furniture.
We have several amazing unique big Moroccans doors for Sales.
If you ask, I can make and send you pictures of those doors.
2/ I have added a wonderful room, please connect to my facebook page, ask me for friendship and be part of my Facebook friends, enjoy all my New room’s picture. https://www.facebook.com/kamalchaoui
3/ We had been honored by a great Washington Post article 3 days ago :
Dar Kamal Chaoui is our Guesthouse located in Bhalil, 24 south of Fez & 3 km before Sefrou, The Fez Airport is 25min drive with no traffic at all from Bhalil
+212 6 4303 2444 WhatsApp
I love when guesthouses have that authentic look and feel. The rooftop garden is so pretty, I would love to have breakfast there. The rooftop views are also great! I always wanted to visit Morocco, I find it such a fascinating country.
The rooftop is one of the best places of the guesthouse. Anyway, I loved everything there.