All photos by: Alana Yolande and Inanc Tekguc
Meet Meryanne Loum-Martin. She is the first Black woman to own and operate an eight-acre impeccably decorated boutique hotel called the Jnane Tamsna in Marrakech, Morocco. The hotel is home to 24 rooms, five swimming pools, a clay-surfaced tennis court, and lush fertile organic vegetable gardens and a variety of plants and herbs.
For Loum-Martin, life has always been about exploring possibilities. She has lived by the philosophy that in the process of overcoming some of life’s greatest challenges one just may unlock their calling and/or greatest joy. When she faced the daunting task of taking the French bar exam five years after completing law school with only a few months to study, she decided to employ a different approach. An approach that helped her to realize that her unique background and way of looking at life was ultimately what would make her successful.
“As people of color, our varied cultural traditions are an incredible wealth. I decided that after understanding the western world’s idea of knowledge I needed to bring my own rich identity and ways of knowing on top of that,” Loum-Martin shared as she reflected on the crossroad that this experience created for her.
She was born in the Ivory Coast’s Cote’ D’Ivoire and also spent her early childhood in London and Moscow before settling or a time in Paris to complete law school and begin her early law career. After having lived in Morocco for close to 30 years, she decided that she felt called to create an experience for visitors to become immersed in Moroccan culture and traditions. She was also inspired by a “life-changing” trip to India back in 1984 that exposed her to an array of traditional Indian spaces and practices. At which time she made the connection of hospitality as a means to create authentic cultural experiences. “My first degree was in law but my heart was always in architecture, design and the arts.”
“At that time, I was a Black woman in a country with a low percentage of black people,” Loum-Martin told Black Enterprise. “I didn’t speak the language and the field of construction was very much a world of men who are known to ignore women. And you know what? We designed everything ourselves. My husband was responsible for the gardens and I was responsible for the architecture, interiors, and floor plans.”
Loum-Martin runs the Jnane Tamsna along with her husband, Dr. Gary Martin, who is an ethnobotanist and the founder of the Global Diversity Foundation. His expertise is also apparent in that most food served on the premises is grown right in their multiple gardens. “People meet me and always ask me how I did all this. But I believe in the power of imagination,” said Loum-Martin. “Everything that enables people to move ahead in life begins with their ability to imagine something different, a better world for themselves.”
Loum-Martin is currently working on a book that will feature 30 years of style, architecture, and garden designs in Marrakech. The book will no doubt be enriched by her own personal experiences and contributions in these areas as she continues to dream and imagine her highest possibilities.
“I want Jnane Tamsna to become the (most) visible place of Black excellence in North Africa,” she explained. For more information about Jnane Tamsna, click here.