Hotel Review: Kasbah Angour

Place: Kasbah Angour, Tahanaout, Nr. Marrakech, Morocco
Type: 4-star Hotel
Operator: Owner and Creator Paul Foulsham
Date of Visit: March 2019

A man with a dream – no, a Yorkshireman with a dream. A geologist working for oil companies buys a barren hill some 40 kilometres outside Marakech and starts to create an oasis, an idyll, a garden on its top. ‘Kasbah’, so the taxi driver tells us, means castle, and the architectural form strongly reinforces the name – or is it that the name reinforces the perception of the architecture? Either way the name is reinforced by the winding track up from the road outside the provincial town of Tahanaout leading to a blank walled car park through which entrance is made, almost like a defensive castle entrance.

Reception desk

Yorkshiremen think of their home county as ‘Gods own country’, but here the owner has created almost his own Garden of Eden in Morocco, shielded completely from prying eyes by the way the architecture works with the location. It achieves a privacy for guest the nearby Richard Branson property notably fails to achieve. Rooms tune their backs onto the valley in the most part, turning instead towards the glorious gardens and the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains not too far away. Those same snow-capped peaks provide a steady supply of water from the hotels own bore hole, control of which ensures exclusivity on this hill top.
Currently just 26 bedrooms, the owner has almost completed purchase of the rest of the whole hilltop and talks of growing to 50+ rooms with maybe an indoor pool and a spa operation. Meanwhile he personally supervises the operation of the existing romantic property having fought his way through three architects to realise his vision. Bedrooms make a semi-circle around the garden and use stone and building techniques recognisable locally. Based on local materials and furnished with locally manufactured products his interiors reflect the Moroccan traditions of carpets and hard floors, stonework, polished plaster and shuttered windows.
A couple of suites provide the towers that punctuate the bedrooms, most of which have individual balconies and patio areas. All open onto the gardens, and oasis of green full of bird and insect life. Certainly, it is the first hotel I have been in where I have been kissed by a butterfly – I say kissed but I think it was an alcoholic butterfly wanting the beer off my lips, but it sure beat kissing the blarney stone…

This is an hotel for relaxation and contemplation with nature. Rooms are free of television, but there is the internet for those who feel discombobulated by the idea of simply listening to the cuckoo call, or simply relaxing on a terrace or by the pool in the quiet of the gardens. There are excursions into the mountains to a local souk or to take tea in a village house, guided walks, camel treks or for those who miss the noise and bustle of the city, an easy taxi ride into Marakech.
For me waking each morning to birdsong together with the ability to just sit and relax in the warmth of the March sun (22° to 29°C whilst I was there) was enough. Bird life is a mix of African and European, and the garden, said another guest, reminded of the winelands of South Africa, and the Moroccan wine on offer was very quaffable too. Food was local, vegetables from the hotel garden (the broad bean is a major local crop, as are of course, oranges although they don’t make marmalade…)
I didn’t intend to write a Review of this hotel – spent enough time doing hotel reviews I my life, but the charm of the spaces and their use of the local vernacular as well as their African feel led to me to write about it again. That an individual can create such a little gem with his own efforts (he even created his own building company) deserves approbation and applause. Yorkshire it is not. God own country? Well its different but maybe this Garden of Eden has a stronger claim to that label than much of our English county.


Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (05) – Hats – Mark Sukhija


No distractions please!

Is what I wrote in my prior post in this series where I summarized som some rules of thumb for great avatars.

Hats can create devastating shadows!

Here an example of a very distracting hat: You can’t see his eyes. Too much shadow overcast his eyes. No chance of recognizing him ever in a crowd.

I’ve met Mark Sukhija (@MarksTravels) in London during Travel Blog Camp last year. As his Twitter shorty says he is a “financial services exile”. In other words he used to be in a corporate cubicle of a well respected London based financial institution…

Now look at this portrait and tell me what do you think of the person without having met him and knowing from me he is a real nice and neat person with a typical London Financial District drawl?

Would it help showing his downsized portrait that he currently uses on Twitter?


Just interested to see your reaction.


Mark’s First reaction:

Mark's First Reaction

Perhaps I’m not supposed to be recognised in a crowd!;-)

Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (04) – Rules of Thumb – Thumbs Rule!


My thoughts about perfect Avatars

I’m an avid amateur photographer and look at the world wide web with the eye of a photographer or – as I sometimes say – through one of my lenses. From that point of view I sometimes like to comment on other people’s Avatar. Sometimes my comments may be a bit direct. Please bear in mind that such may be based on my Dutch directness. No offense meant, only some good humored pun to make a point.

Time to organize my thoughts a bit more.

Avatars are

Little thumbnails that come with websites. See for instance the little icon or favicon in the search part of your browser where you see the url. Next to the url you see a very small thumbnail that gives an indication whose website you’re on. I use my personal portrait and try to be consistent in using the same portrait on all sites where I can place my avatar. Be it on Twitter, FaceBook,, fora, Flickr or what you can think of. So here I go:

1) Use a portrait, no logo and no drawing.

For me that is a no-brainer. You should use a good portrait of yourself. Not a logo and not even a drawing, even if the drawing is a good look alike.

In my view the portrait must be so good that people who don’t know you in real life, must be able to recognize you in a party of a couple of hundreds of people they don’t know, just because they have seen your avatar and it bears an excellent likeness.

Remember that avatars come in all sizes and to test whether the portrait can stand downsizing without losing effect.

For my own avatar I use the portrait you see in the right column. I tested it on downsizing.

2) The photo should show as much of your face as possible.

Either full face, but in most cases a 2/3rd angled face gives a better impression. Everybody has a good side and a better side and mostly you know which is your better side. Almost nobody has a perfectly symmetrical side.

It is better to use a fully recognizable part of your face than part of your collar. The smaller the avatar gets the better it remains recognizable.

3) No Distractions Please!

Distractions can come from several directions:

  • Too much makeup.
  • Spectacles, hats or shadows that don’t allow your eyes to be seen properly.
  • Special effects like clownesque additions work only for professional clowns.
  • Don’t use a portrait of you with your beloved, your pet or your grandchild! I’m interested in you and not in your pet, beloved or grandchild and the smaller the avatar gets the less recognition you get with other elements in the portrait.
  • A background that doesn’t stand out enough or distracts from your face. For my own portrait I used a dark background (just the fence in our garden) to emphasize my gray hair – use a possible disadvantage to an advantage;-)
  • If you want to wear a hat or cap, remember that in a room with hundreds of people you possibly won’t wear a hat, that it can give false or wrong shadows on your face and, most importantly, your hair can’t be seen. If you say, “but I’m bald” do as I do with my gray hair: make it an outstanding asset with a fine outstanding background.
  • Don’t let your hangover or sleeplessness take over your portrait.

4) Smile! Smile! Smile!

As baby you’ve learned as first means of communication that a smile ensures you the best contact with grown ups. For you as a grown up the same rule applies.

5) Color or Black and White?

Personally I would say Color, because color matches real life better that black and white.

6) Don’t change your avatar!

Internet contacts (Eyeballs) are infrequent and fast. The less you change your avatar the less chance you confuse your audience.

7) Look for yourself! Look at yourself and Look Again!

I’ve put an older Twilk Twitter Background above this post. Can you find yourself easily in that photo? Who has an outstanding avatar among the ones you know? If you click the image you’ll get the original format that can make this exercise a bit easier…


After publishing this post I discovered Twilk | Happyhotelier i.e. a page of your own created by Twilk that makes your Avatars Clickable…Nifty! Anyone with a twitter account can do the same at Twilk!


To organize my thoughts I’ve made use of this nice blog post: 11 Rules for Best Personal Branding Results with Avatars | Personal Branding Blog – Dan Schawbel.

And, as always, good exceptions just prove some points I’ve made.

Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (03) – Kevin Luke May

Kevin Luke May Back

Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (03) – Kevin Luke May

I know. It is April Fool’s day, but I’m serious! Seriously!

Kevin blogs about traveltech and travel economics (ROI and so) and travel startups at Tnooz (to pronounce like T-News) that he co-founded.

If he would take the above photo and use it as his avatar (a thumb on social media), the ROI of his Avatar would be guaranteed zilch, zero, nada.

As an occasional hobby photographer I’m probably above average sensible for the use of an avatar with maximum ROI.

Now why did I take the above photo in the first place?

20100310 Kevin at Blogger Summit_MG_4454

In 2010 Kevin was explaining at a blogger conference that he believed the IPhone would cause a revolution in travel. He demonstrated an APP that when you held your IPhone above your head it could recognize you and could let your social media friends know where you were. Just after I took this photo Kevin held the IPhone above his head (see the top photo) to demonstrate this.

Why refer to that today?

For several reasons:

The first is that just by coincidence someone asked me permission to use the following photo in a post about Kevin (The Awesomosity of Kevin May) which I gladly granted:

Kevin Luke May IMG_7365

I’d used this photo in an interview with Kevin.

I’d started it with the observation “Am glad I have a photo of him where he smiles (a bit), because usually he likes to look as stern as possible” implicitly also hinting to his habit of frequently changing his rather stern Avatar. Sometimes I used to tease him with it, because it is my firm believe that one should stick to ones Avatar. If you don’t, your followers most likely will be confused. You might lose them.

When I later met him he admitted that this observation had haunted him (a bit).

The Second reason for this post just today is that Kevin posted about a startup that just does what he explains in the above photo (looking stern because he is concentrated): WhosWhereWhen promises to bring awesome productivity to travel conferences

The third reason is that coincidentally I had a short conversation yesterday with another travel blogger (and hotelier) – whose avatar I’ll shave in a separate post – whereby I referred to Kevin’s current Avatar which I find brilliant:


The reason I find it brilliant is that Kevin is an investigative Journo. The eye expresses the same that a private eye expresses: curious and serious without being too stern. He stays away from the stern in the sense of “too concentrated” like in the following photos:

Kevin Too Concentrated IMG_9419

Kevin Too Concentrated IMG_7350

Kevin Too Concentrated__MG_4425

You see what I mean? If you would use a photo which makes you less likable, it might turn people away from you, but if you like to keep distance and suggest you are serious, really serious, the Eye is a good way of suggesting you are serious without looking too stern. In addition the Avatar stands out in a whole page of them like the Twilk collection. Therefor I suggest Kevin to stick to The Eye for the time being.

What do you think?

WTM, Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (2) – James Craven

I met James Craven (@CravenTravels) for the first time at TBCamp2011. A very nice guy with whom I tweet already some time and whom I very much liked to meet IRL (In Real Life) while the time was too short to talk shop a bit more.

Does he look like his Avatar? Just Look at this Twilk Wall (and click on the image if it is too small for your old eyes):

Craven on Twilk Small

You probably see what I mean.

  1. James is a very nice bloke, but I like to meet him, not the two kids he is on the photo with.
  2. Also nice is that the avatar shows James is conscious of poppy day…however on the wall the poppy is almost as big as his head.
  3. It seems to me the photo used for his avatar is not very recent.
  4. If you study the Twilk wall, you also see that if you want to use a portrait, make it discernible on such wall, much more a close up.
  5. Now especially James: He is a sales person and should know the first impression can kill any deal….I ask you…

My 2 cents


As a sequel to TBCamp 11 Darren wondered whether Social Media are killing discussions on blogs. Sure they do, but you can cut and paste the answers in the post….

Last edited by GJE on November 14, 2011 at 11:57 pm