Owner of Sbai Palace
Mohammed Sbai was born and raised between the desert and the oasis of M’hamid El Ghizlane “the door to the Sahara,” in a family with a nomadic background. The beautiful family name Sbai means “son of the lion.” His father, Mohamed Cheikh Sbai was well respected in the region and instrumental in the social and political movement, defending the rights of the nomadic tribes and the local community in M’hamid El Ghizlane. During his dedicated life to the Sahara, he met with two generations of Moroccan kings.
As a young boy, Mohammed was already inspired to be an entrepreneur and started to work guiding travelers through the desert. After a few years, he also became interested in trading jewelry and rugs inspired by the old trans-saharan caravans from Mhamid to Tawdanni (salt mine) in Mali and the shared history of the family.
When Mohammed was only 20 years old he crossed roads with an American who worked with meteorites, learned the business, and traveled to the USA. Once he understood the dynamics of the magic stones he began traveling in Sub-Sahara Africa, Europe, Asia and America.
As he expanded, he organized Nomads all over the world, teaching them to identify the special stones and created a supply chain. That supply chain expanded to deserts in all corners of the world and brought him to many international trade shows. His stones are bought by celebrities, museums, and other places of interest. He was able to share his specific knowledge in international publications such as National Geographic and France 2.With the wealth he made from the stones, he started to buy hotel properties in and around the oasis where he grew up, while employing the local youth of M’hamid El Ghizlane and developing the oasis with agriculture. Sbai Palace is the largest and most grand of the 5 properties. It is supplied by 2 farms and connected to a luxury camp in the dunes.
Sbai Palace General Manager
T. Barnes, Global Lifestyle Entrepreneur and owner of T. Barnes Beauty and T. Barnes Global Travel met Mohammed by chance on a flight from New York to Cassablanca. They became instant friends. He flew from Cassablanca to Marakesh to meet with her travel group for dinner, and he invited them to Ouarzazate to his riad property. They went. T. Barnes created a dinner party with a beautiful decadent decor and customized menus. He appreciated her taste which led Mohammed to invite her back to reimagine Sbai Palace in M’Hamid. They made plans for her to return in a few weeks and then the world slowly came to a halt. At the onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, T. Barnes left the USA with her daughter in tow believing the Sahara Desert would be safer than the USA. Her instincts were right. In the midst of global chaos, she began to re-envision Sbai Palace, changing the decor and business model to offer an opportunity for others to experience the solace she had found in this small desert town. This chance meeting turned into a budding business partnership and a move to the Sahara to create a creative community with long and short term stays, what she believes is the future of travel.