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What is a hotel?”

Thierry Teyssier posed the question in March of 2017, as we watched the sun disappear behind a vermillion-streaked canyon from the deck of Maison Rouge, the Studio KO take on a Sahara-style stone house outside the southern Moroccan village of Aojou. I had come to this remote Berber enclave to interview Teyssier, only to find the peripatetic Frenchman more interested in looking ahead than back on his considerable hospitality accomplishments, among them Dar Ahlam, the 200-year-old casbah turned 14-room hideaway in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains run by Berber villagers that has become the toast of travel world for its ability to connect luxury with simplicity.

Teyssier wanted to talk barriers, specifically how to tear them down. “Hotels no longer need four walls, a rooftop bar, and suites with 2,000-square-foot bathrooms,” he insisted, arms waving into the crisp North African evening. In a charming mélange of French and English, he waxed romantic about the new ways of bringing travelers more authentically into otherwise inaccessible places. The former theater actor spoke of high-flown notions like finding unscripted backdrops for his storytelling, and his plans to transport guests across time and space as we scanned the atmosphere for shooting stars. I secretly wondered what the hell he was talking about.

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