I went to Marrakech in search of magic

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Dome houses on Airbnb
Photos: Chieko Kato

Why your next trip should be to a dome house

It's like Airbnb's version of a retreat.

by Rebecca Willa Davis | 04.04.2019

It’s 9 p.m. in the middle of the desert, and my friend says the exact thing you should probably never utter if you’re staying in a dome house: “Do you think there’s someone outside watching us?”

I peered out the windows—emphasis on windows, because we were surrounded by them, practically 360 degrees-worth of massive, angled windows that, when we first checked in earlier that day, looked out onto cacti, straggly bushes, miles of dirt-sand, a line of wind turbines, and in the far-off distance, the San Jacinto mountains. In that moment, all we saw was seemingly endless, inky black.

If there was someone outside, we’d never know. But it’s a thought I’d rather put out of my mind. In part because, ugh. But also because, other than that split-second of fear (you can take the girl out of the city…), I realized during my stay that there are few things more simply blissful than a vacation spent in a dome house.

Dome houses on Airbnb

Okay, sure, an hour-long massage on the beach is nice. So too is an afternoon at an Ayurvedic spa. Or a week at a retreat.

But while not everyone is willing (or able to) splurge on vacation extras like massages and spa trips, a simple fact of travel is that, wherever you go, whatever your budget looks like, you’ll probably need to put a roof over your head. And in this Airbnb era, where the options expand way beyond hotels to include everything from charming cottages to forgettable attached suites, you might as well opt for something that will elevate your R&R. Finding a dome house to stay in is definitely it.

The one we checked into—the Palm Springs Dome House—was set on five acres, just outside of Palm Springs en route to Joshua Tree. Originally built in 1956 and renovated in 2016, this dome house was actually two: A small white dome positioned right by the driveway (it looked like it housed the building’s electrical equipment), and then the back dome—larger, grander, and truly breathtaking. With 26-foot ceilings, bright white paint, and the desert landscape at its windowsill, walking into the main room meant entering what felt like an orb of energy.

Dome houses on Airbnb

Our itinerary was packed, and yet the moment we pulled down the long dirt road (good luck getting consistent GPS signal here) and pulled up to this dome in the desert, nothing sounded better than the thought of just lounging in the main room, stretched across the mid-century modern sofa, and alternating between staring at a book and staring out the window.

How could a simple shape create such calm? There’s some history here: From churches to mosques, you can’t throw a rock without hitting some centuries-old house of worship with astonishingly breathtaking cupolas and arched roofs. “Since the days of Achaemenid in ancient Persia, rulers have built domes because of a deep symbolism. The circle represents the heavenly and divine,” explains writer Rachel Siegel. “As an infinite form, with no end or beginning, it stands for the eternal. For centuries onward, people have found spirituality in geometry, with the circle considered the most perfect shape.”

But there’s also inherently a sense of light and air in a dome house. The feng shui is impeccable—sharp corners are impossible, after all, so all that good energy can just freely flow and circulate. On a more visceral level, a dome house stands as the antithesis of modern, urban life: it’s the un-cubicle, the un- apartment facing an airshaft, the un-house packed with a bit too much with stuff. A dome house simply can’t be packed with things—closet space is, after all, limited when you’ve got a wall of windows.

Dome houses on Airbnb

And if I’ve learned anything from binge-watching Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, it’s that the things that fill and surround our home affect us on an emotional and spiritual level; finding somewhere to stay that is truly transparent to the outside world, with just panes of glass separating you from nature, allows you to just be you. As Kondo herself has written, “The inside of a house or apartment after decluttering has much in common with a Shinto shrine…a place where there are no unnecessary things, and our thoughts become clear.”

I know I’m not alone in seeking out this feeling of clarity. Just check out Airbnb, which has “dome” as a searchable filter. (At the time of publication, there were 306 listings on the rental site, ranging from Sedona to Ubud.) Some, like Joshua Tree’s Dome in the Desert, is usually booked solid during high season.

Dome houses in Palm Springs

That first night at the Palm Springs Dome House, after laughing off my friend’s comment, I headed to bed—because what else is there to do when you’re in the middle of nowhere than lie in bed and stare out at the stars until you fall asleep at a blissfully early hour?

And when I was awoken early morning by the sun creeping up (I can’t think of a bigger faux pas than drawing curtains when you’re staying at a dome house), I wasn’t mad; I was deliriously happy to have the first thing I saw that morning be the endless desert stretching out before me.

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