By Kinisha Correia
Meryanne Loum-Martin, the boutique hotelier of the famed Jnane Tamsna hotel in Marrakech, Morocco, potently embodies the magical sensibilities of the beautiful city and property itself.
She lives an authentic life of freedom, creativity, celebration, intellect and culture – characteristics that are topped off with a strong dose of humility.
Meryanne was born in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa, and has lived in Ghana, France, New York City, London, Paris and Moscow. As a diplomat’s daughter, she enjoyed a privileged upbringing… Her Senegalese father and late Caribbean mother from Guadeloupe, were once both lawyers, and her father also spent time serving as an ambassador of Senegal. However, growing up as one of few Black girls in the spaces she lived gave her an acute awareness of the world’s many social disparities. This became the impetus for her to choose a grounded life.
A creative at heart, young Meryanne dreamt of becoming an architect. But, in college she couldn’t get a handle on the mathematical side of architectural studies. So, she moved on to what must have been an easier option – following her family’s footsteps to become a lawyer.
She eventually became a thriving lawyer in France, where some of her proudest stints were helping political refugees pro-bono. That affinity for giving back, she says, grew from seeds passed on from her great-grandfather, who, along with being a lawyer and French congressman, was also an activist.
Despite those moments of purpose-driven work, the creative itch never left her, and eventually Meryanne began to feel unsettled. “I was actually a frustrated architect,” she reflects. It was the task of buying and refurbishing a home for her parents in Marrakech that would finally push her onto a new path.
That house, which was fully designed by Meryanne herself, would end up being a set of acclaimed villas that was featured in the Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Forbes, Architectural Digest and many more publications. It also became a popular getaway for global elite and mega-celebrities like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Donna Karen, Giorgio Armani, David Bowie, Hugh Jackman, the Princess of Monaco and many others.
With the unplanned success and a rekindling of her creative fire in tow, Meryanne soon decided to step away from law entirely and took another leap of faith – opening her own hotel – Jnane Tamsna.
It’s that same mystery and magic that she wants her guests to live each day they stay at the hotel. “It’s the place where people come to when they’ve dreamed of having a home in Morocco,” she explains.
Meryanne steered the wheel of every element of the hotel’s mesmerizing aesthetics, designing both the interiors and the architecture. The beauty of the place is matched by its deeply intelligent commitment to socially and environmentally conscious living – an ethos embedded in every crevice of its operational configuration.
That side of things can be attributed to her husband, Meryanne notes. He’s an anthropologist and ethnobotanist who studies the connections between cultural diversity and biodiversity, and he’s resolute about thoughtful, sustainable living. The hotel’s organic luxury stance comes from him. “It’s not about having the most expensive faucet,” Meryanne explains. “It’s about a sense of freedom, enjoying the environment, and living simply… with style.”
The hotel is defined by boundless opportunities to be still and slow, and celebrate the treasures of nature, self, family and communion… It’s five-star, steeped in the kind of simplicity that includes no TVs and an abundance of all natural, locally made products. The space is filled with art and community gatherings that celebrate world cultures, with events featuring distinguished creatives and thought leaders from around the globe.
Meryanne describes Marrakech as a magnet for people from all over the world who have converged there to call it home, making it a multicultural mixing pot. She explains that today’s Marrakech is a place where opportunities in tech are bountiful, and provide avenues for upward mobility for many. Meanwhile, young people who were once dispersed throughout the diaspora, are returning home in droves to access and create new frontiers. “Morocco is developing with energy and speed,” she beams, also pointing out that crime in Marrakech is simply an anomaly.
Meryanne opened Jnane Tamsna in 2001, and has enjoyed a successful run since its inception. Though the pandemic has certainly slowed things down and provided some angst, the time away has only given Meryanne an extra dose of freedom to create.
In 2020, she released Inside Marrakesh: Enchanting Homes and Gardens, a coffee table book that showcases beautiful outdoor and indoor living spaces across the city, that are carefully selected by Meryanne herself. “I enjoyed writing it so much that it is likely I will publish a second book,” she beams.
Meryanne believes strongly that all of life is to be celebrated, that people should be treated fairly and that culture is to be fully embraced. She also believes her background and life experiences have given her the gift of fitting in easily everywhere, but yet never actually fully fitting anywhere. “It’s a double-edged sword that is actually a superpower,” she reasons.
This intangible gift has fueled her ability to create a warm and inclusive, intrinsically authentic, experience that is beautiful, intellectually stimulating, simple, cultured, natural and life-affirming.
This is who Meryanne is, and all that is breathtakingly embodied in Jnane Tamsna.