“A quirky, cosy riad with 3 apartment suites and sun-trap roof terraces, hidden deep within Essaouira’s medina”
All apartments have white-washed walls offset by colourful blankets, and wall niches daubed in vibrant shades of hot pink, sea green and nautical blue. Arched windows, intricate metalwork lanterns, tiled floors and stone pillars add an element of Moroccan charm, while unusual trinkets (a Mickey Mouse plate here, a collection of antique keys there) provide quirky touches. Each has a kitchen and a sitting area, plus an enormous bed (handmade in Fes) with Egyptian cotton linen, a snugly duck-down duvet and a divine memory foam mattress.
Our favourite is Calima, an airy space on the upper floor with light streaming in through ceiling windows and glass-brick walls. The mosaic-tiled kitchen and seating area are warmed by an open fireplace in winter (bellows and logs are provided) and the fabulous pebble-floored bathroom has a curvaceous stone shower. The bed sits on a curtained mezzanine level above. Ghibli, set just off one of the terraces, is smaller but also has a fireplace. Its bathroom is painted Majorelle blue and the bedroom has a tadelakt wardrobe and a raised bed with pink throws.
We stayed in Alizee, the only apartment without a fireplace - fine in summer, but it can get damp and chilly during the colder months. Split over several levels, it has a staircase from the kitchen area and bathroom to the bedroom, then a further (very steep) set of stairs leading to a small sitting area, with a green-washed floor, pink alcoves, cushioned benches, and space for an extra child’s bed. When we visited we were kept awake by a very noisy boiler, but since then it has been walled in and put on a timer switch, so it shouldn't be a problem anymore.
Every apartment has books, games, CDs and an iPod docking station. There’s no air-conditioning, but the riad’s thick walls keep the interiors cool and you’re unlikely to miss it.
The apartment kitchens are rustic rather than sleek and modern, but they’re kitted out with everything you need to prepare simple meals: a hob, a fridge, a kettle, pans, cutlery and crockery. If you’re coming from Marrakech, you’ll pass a hypermarket called Marjane as you leave the city (it’s around 15 minutes from the airport, just after the Afriquia petrol station), where you can stock up on food and wine.
Within Essaouira itself, the medina is brimming with market stalls where you can haggle for meat, vegetables and spices, and Dar Lazuli has plenty of well-thumbed cookbooks for culinary inspiration. We enjoyed browsing the line of fish vendors who set up along the seafront at dusk and buying just-caught whitebait, sardines and calamari to take back to the riad. Takeaway pizzas are also available from the town’s main square, Place Moulay Hassan.
Breakfast is included in the rates and, with a little notice and for an additional charge, Rachid and Latifa will happily whip up Moroccan feasts for dinner and deliver them to your apartment in the evening. Make sure you take a French phrase book if you have any special dietary requirements, as their English is limited.
If you want to eat out there are plenty of options nearby. Chez Sam is an excellent fish restaurant on the seafront, while Taros serves Moroccan fare and steaks (with a rooftop bar, a club and a fashion boutique also housed across its 4 floors). Elizir on rue d’Agadir offers tasty meals blending Moroccan and Italian influences, with a funky retro interior and art-lined walls; unlike many Essaouira eateries, it also has an alcohol license. For lighter meals and lunch head to Casa Vera on the main square for a wide array of tapas, or sit back and watch the surfers take to the waves from the beachside café at the Ocean Vagabond hotel.
Children of all ages are welcome at Dar Lazuli, though the tiled floors, balcony areas and stone stairs mean it’s not ideal for toddlers.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Alizee can take additional twin beds on its mezzanine level (bear in mind that this is reached via a steep, almost ladder-like staircase). Two baby cots are available and can be added to any apartment for a small additional charge.