Maryam Montague's Moroccan Oasis
See how one writer created a luxurious retreat in the desert outside Marrakech.
Five years ago, Maryam Montague, an American human-rights specialist with a hard-won expertise in negotiating the world’s least stable governments, was searching for a place for her family to call home. Because her career often involves traveling throughout Africa and the Middle East, she and her husband, architect Chris Redecke, chose Marrakech for its central location, beauty, and cosmopolitanism. Preferring the city’s outlying deserts to its bustling medina, the couple formed the notion of taking up residence in an olive grove. "We knew it would be a wonderful life for our two children," says Montague. "It took a while, though, to find the right place. You might be surprised to learn just how few olive groves come up for sale in Morocco each year." When they discovered the eight-and-a-half acres on which they’ve since built Peacock Pavilions, however, they knew they’d found their home.
Over the next three years, Montague and Redecke designed and built something far more than a typical family home. The couple has now transformed a rustic olive grove with views of the Atlas Mountains into a boutique hotel and resort, a luxurious compound that includes three spacioushouses, an 800-square-foot swimming pool, and even an outdoor cinema. On each project, the pair sought to combine traditional elements of Moroccan architecture, such as domed ceilings and eyebrow arches, with the latest developments in eco-conscious design.
In the midst of this endeavor, Montague began documenting her experience on My Marrakesh, a blog that’s now grown into an award-winning resource of news and insight on Moroccan living. Its millions of readers have established Montague as an authority on the region’s culture, and this month, her first book, Marrakesh by Design, will be published by Artisan. In it, the author has crafted a celebration of her adopted country’s style. "While creating Peacock Pavilions, "says Montague, "we’ve attempted to pay tribute to the exquisite culture of Morocco, while reverently searching for ways to reinterpret it, for ways to make this beautiful place a home of our own."