Arriving at the secluded Le Jardin des Douars is truly a unique moment for the senses. As the name suggests, this property is set within a beautiful botanical garden and you are distracted immediately by trees, exotic plants and even wildlife! We walk past a resting tortoise and hear a peacock in the distance before checking into our room.
Our bedroom is inside a douarias (Moroccan style terracotta house) with its own outdoor area. The room style is rustic and filled with Moroccan fabrics and furniture. There are no televisions or telephones but Wi-Fi everywhere.
As we step out to explore, within seconds we are at one of two outdoor heated pools (this one for adults only). When we managed to leave the pool, we find the hammam, a restaurant with a large alfresco area and a “couples restaurant”. The views from here are of Argan streets and the Ksob River.
There is a real sense of space and privacy here. There are just 19 bedrooms and 6 suites in total and five luxury villas, each with their own heated swimming pools. You never feel like you are on top of other people and that just adds to the relaxation.
As the sun sets we gather in the bar for pre-dinner drinks. There are various menus which showcase Moroccan dishes, French dishes and fusion cuisine. We tried some lamb shanks and a Beldi chicken tajine with olives, orange reduction and saffron. There are plenty of vegetarian options too and a decent wine list. After dinner you can enjoy a cocktail under the stars.
We wake up to peace so the peacock must still be asleep. We head to breakfast which is served alfresco. After breakfast with a view of the surrounding countryside, the hammam is calling again! Le Jardin des Douars offers a varied hammam and the spa treatment list not typical of most hotels. Treatments include the skin exfoliation Hammam with Smimou salt and local Argan oil. Both will leave you feeling totally relaxed.
The hotel which is run by an energetic and super helpful French couple. Make sure you take advantage of the hotel shuttle service to Essaouira which takes 15 minutes. Essaouira combines beach life and medina life wonderfully. Get a shuttle back soon though as you never quite want to leave Le Jardin des Douars.
Top 5 Essaouira Experiences within shuttle distance from Le Jardin des Douars:
1 – Kite Surfing on the beach – In the winter visitors can stroll or take part in water sports and in the warmer months the sun beats all day (in fact Essaouira has 320 days of sunshine). Ocean Vagabond on the beach in Essaouira, is one of the coolest and most affordable places to dine whilst watching the waves. The laid-back terrace is the perfect backdrop after a day learning to kite surf. Ocean Vagabond offer several kite surf options. https://www.oceanvagabond.com/en/essaouira-morocco/restaurant/
2 – The walled medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site – Here you will discover the most laid-back medina in Morocco, compared to larger towns and cities. Combined with traditional craftsmen and women creating authentic Moroccan pieces on sale in many stalls and shops, you will also experience many contemporary new restaurants, shops and galleries. Essaouira’s medina is smaller than those in other Moroccan cities meaning you can explore and shop without getting lost. A great place on Rue al Yeman is Mega Loft, popular for its night-time live music, this large restaurant is full of unique cool furniture and local art. https://www.facebook.com/Mega-Loft-1443595715937040/
3 – Meet the artists – Essaouira has always been free spirited and artists are drawn here because of the unique coastal atmosphere. As we walked around the medina we meet artists in their studios. Most of the artists are local and self-taught inspired over the years by the light and beauty. The Galerie Damgaard, located at the gates of the medina, showcases Arab and Berbere cultures with a creative power of gesture, wide variety of themes and plenty of jubilant colour. http://www.galeriedamgaard.com/
4 – Fish – The large working port by the medina, is picturesque and where restaurateurs go every day to get fresh fish. One of the most famous dishes in Essaouira is the Monkfish tagine. The outdoor fish grill stands are a lively option for lunch. We arrive and the place starts to fill up. Located at the port, the relaxed stands sit side-by-side and offer a truly unique dining experience with chefs attracting you and inviting you to sit as they display their magnificent selection of fresh fish. You simply pick from a selection of freshly caught fish, this is then cooked on the grill and served with salad and bread. The food is authentic and delicious and you are in the heart of all the action. http://www.muchmorocco.com/locations/essaouira/
5 – Eco retreats – Nature may not be the first thing that springs to mind when planning a visit to Essaouira. But, Essaouira is home to the famous Argan trees found across forests just inland from the Atlantic coast. The Argan is a true symbol of the region surrounding Essaouira. Southwest Morocco produces this highly prized oil which is extracted from nuts and these have been used across the world in beauty products and spa treatments. Jardin des Douars will book a guide and car so you can find out about the origins of the Argan tree and explore the Moroccan countryside. We did this over a half-day and saw a completely secluded part of the country and our guide knew the area inside out and we met a local inside his pottery studio and enjoyed some mint tea. http://www.jardindesdouars.com/fr/autres-plaisirs
Essaouira becomes easier to reach from October 2019 with Ryanair launching flights from across Europe including on Tuesdays and Saturdays from London Stansted. Direct flights will also launch from Brussels and Marseille.
To discover more, visit: jardindesdouars.com
By Peter Sousa