By Hannah Walhout
June 09, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Kasbah Tamadot

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

North Africa and the Middle East are home to their share of significant global cities — but this swath of the world also offers plenty of wilderness. There are forests of cedar and frankincense; teeming reefs and thousands of miles of coastline; commanding mountain ranges, some dry and dusty, some dotted with ski resorts; the rolling red-and-orange dunes of some of the largest deserts on earth. No wonder T+L readers love this region, where they can escape the hustle and bustle — and stay at some of the world’s top resorts.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

One resort destination on the rise in the Middle East is Oman, the Gulf state that’s home to two of the top five properties on this year’s list, including No. 2, the Chedi, a luxe beach resort just outside the capital city of Muscat. The other is Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a recently renovated resort that really does occupy an actual palace, one that was built for the late Sultan Qaboos in the 1980s. Readers praised Al Bustan’s top-notch service and its prime beachfront location facing the Gulf of Oman.

Outside the two Omani beach getaways, though, inland resorts dominated this year’s voting. Secluded but accessible properties, all reachable from major gateway cities, rounded out the list. At No. 5 this year is Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, an oasis less than an hour by car from Dubai. “It’s a short drive from the city,” one reader said, “but a different world, close to nature. Beautiful.”

The No. 1 property for 2020 — and for the second year running — isn’t on the beach or in the dunes, but in the rugged mountains just outside one of Morocco’s main tourist destinations. Read on for the full list of the top resorts in North Africa and the Middle East.

1. Kasbah Tamadot, Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Credit: Courtesy of Kasbah Tamadot

Score: 95.57

More information: virginlimitededition.com

“The best place I’ve ever been,” said one reader, describing this palatial Moorish-style property in the High Atlas Mountains of central Morocco. Once the home of antiques dealer Luciano Tempo, the manor was purchased by Sir Richard Branson in 1998. It now offers 28 rooms and suites — including 10 tented villas inspired by Berber camps — and can also be booked for exclusive use. Part of the Kasbah Tamadot magic is its somewhat isolated location, an hour-long drive from the Marrakesh airport through winding mountain roads. “Once you’re there,” another respondent said, “everything on property is perfectly thought out and executed!” It’s ideally located for seeing Morocco’s more rustic side: excursions include hiking and mule trekking, visits to mountain mosques and Berber villages, and volunteering at local workshops. Guests can wrap a day of exploring with a treatment at the hammam before dinner at the on-site restaurant, Kanoun, where Maghrebi dishes with Moroccan wines are served at low-slung, majlis-style tables.

2. The Chedi, Muscat, Oman

Credit: Courtesy of The Chedi Muscat

Score: 92.80

More information: ghmhotels.com

3. Beresheet, Mitzpe Ramon, Israel

Credit: Getty Images

Score: 91.84

More information: isrotel.com

4. Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Muscat, Oman

Credit: Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton

Score: 91.80

More information: ritzcarlton.com

5. Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

Credit: Courtesy of Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa

Score: 91.50

More information: marriott.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.