“A quirky, cosy riad with 3 apartment suites and sun-trap roof terraces, hidden deep within Essaouira’s medina”
After falling for Essaouira’s relaxed vibe when visiting for a birthday party, British owners Rachel and Nicola spent 3 years searching for a riad renovation project before finding Dar Lazuli. It now houses 3 apartment suites arranged around a central colonnaded courtyard. All have kitchens, sitting areas and some of the comfiest beds (all super-kingsize) which we’ve ever had the pleasure to sink into; most have fires to keep you cosy in winter. Climb up the twisting stone staircase and you’ll come across a series of sunny terraces, with wooden tables where you can dine al fresco and cushioned seats for lazy afternoons. If you’re after a super-smart, slick hotel then stay away; if you want an intimate hideaway with a warm welcome and rates that won’t scare your bank manager, then you’ll love it.
- The quirky apartments mix traditional Moroccan elements with nice little touches (iPod docks, CDs and books, candles with matches) to make you feel at home
- Rachel and Nicola boast that the beds at Dar Lazuli are “the best in Essaouira” - from our experience it’s no exaggeration
- The medina location means you’re right at the hub of things, with plenty of restaurants nearby, and only 2 minutes from the beach
- The 3 terraces (including one on the roof) are real sun-traps - sit back on the cushioned benches and doze off to the sounds of Essaouira life all around you
- The alleyway in front of the riad is dingy and a little smelly, and there’s some street noise from outside
- Rachid and Latifa are friendly and hugely helpful hosts, but they don’t speak much English; make sure you brush up on your French and take a phrase book with you
- The rooms can feel a little dark and damp in the colder months; make sure you request one with a fireplace
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Riad Hotel
- Breakfast (+ self-catering facilities)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
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.
- CD player
- Coffee / tea making
- Cots Available
- Extra beds
- Ipod dock
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.
- Coffee / tea making
- Dinner by arrangement
- Restaurants nearby
- Wander along Essaouira’s huge swathe of sand - you can amble for miles, watching surfers take to the waves, though it’s often too blustery for sunbathing. At the end of the beach are ruined fortifications dating from the 16th-century Portuguese occupation - the ramparts offer an excellent vantage point for soaking up the coastal views
- Head to the harbour and watch fisherman unloading their catch from the mass of bright blue wooden boats, then sample freshly grilled sardines from the array of vendors who line the quays at dusk
- Go camel riding, quad biking or pony trekking along the coast to the sand dunes at Sidi Kaouki - Rachid and Latifa can help with arrangements
- Wander through the tangle of narrow streets and souks in the medina, stopping to watch craftsmen producing the thuya woodwork and lacquerware for which Essaouira is known
- Visit the town’s main art gallery, Gallerie d'Art Frederic Damgaard, then browse the many artists’ stalls in Place Moulay Hassan
- Go surfing (in winter), or kite surfing (in summer). You can rent equipment from Ocean Vagabond, but the windy conditions mean Essaouira isn’t the best place for beginners
- Follow the coastal highway south towards Agadir to see the strange sight of goats climbing trees in the argan forest; if time permits, detour up the winding road to Immouzer des Ida Outanane for a swim in its waterfall
- Borrow one of Dar Lazuli’s books, make some mint tea and head up to one of the roof terraces for a lazy afternoon under the sun
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Horse riding
- Shopping / markets
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)
Family friendly accommodation:
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.