Smack dab in the middle of the north African desert, a quirky "eco-retreat" is rising from the queen of quirk herself, French product designer Matali Crasset.
The Dar HI lodge in the tiny village of Nafta, Tunisia, is a sort of spa-cum-walled city -- a compound with 17 units, ranging from brick caverns to dune-like rooms designed, per the breathy press release, to resemble "open spaces that the wind would have sculpted."
The Dar HI is Crasset's first foray into architecture. Crasset -- who looks like a latter-day Joan of Arc and behaves like a "kind of E.T." (her description, not ours) -- is famous in France for her peculiar products: coat racks that double as beds, UFOs for the living room, etc. Dar HI is her latest and perhaps most ambitious experiment.
And it's got all the amenities needed to lure cashed-up Frenchies, the obvious target customer here: a steamy geothermal hammam, an organic garden, and views onto date groves and palm trees galore. Local cooks will prep food, and yoga and Ayurveda masters will be on hand to lead "well-being" sessions.
A lifetime membership buys you six months at the place each year. The cost: 100,000 Euros or about $140,000. Which sounds totally mad, until you realize that $140,000 for people who can vacation six months a year is couch-cushion money.
Is it us or does the whole thing sound like a rich man's Jonestown?
Dar HI is expected to open later this year. For more information, visit www.dar-hi.net/fr.