Dar Beida

Essaouira & Atlantic Coast, Morocco Book from £128

Re-done by retro-design pros in smart 60s fashion, this stylish medina house may be the coolest place to stay in Essaouira (sleeps 2-8)
Imagine a cross between Barbarella’s boudoir and a swinging 60s love pad and you’ve got a picture of Dar Beida - one of the funkiest spaces we’ve come across in Morocco. The 4-bedroom house is like a curvy white spaceship with a mix of mod plastic furniture and animal skins and skulls… a pre-historic pop-art cave. An incredibly clean and bright cave, mind you. Owners Emma and Graham deliberately avoided dusty, moody Moorish overtones but hung onto their expertise in retro interior design - the house is filled with groovy 60s finds like mushroom lamps and a Mulberry beanbag chair.

Essaouira is an established set for the swords-and-sandals epics that are so popular post-Gladiator, so the house is often booked by film folks. Ridley Scott’s DP stayed here when filming Kingdom of Heaven, with the town filling in for 12th century Jerusalem. But Dar Beida’s idiosyncratic style is not stiff and formal - it's fine for families and groups of friends. Think the Jetsons á la Maroc and you've got a sense of the fab fusion this house exudes.

Highs

  • The ultra-cool feel of the house with its genuine furniture and pieces from 60s and 70s designer legends
  • Set in the heart of Essaouira's medina, just 10 minutes walk from the long sandy beach and 2 from the harbour
  • Complimentary babouches - the comfy Moroccan slippers, perfect for padding about
  • Dar means house and Beida is just that - not a trad riad, but a mod house with a daily maid, house guard and meals on request
  • This is a house rental, so you get the whole place to yourself - and there are reduced rates for a smaller group

Lows

  • A 7-night minimum stay, and during Peak Season a minimum of 6 guests must stay
  • The very white interior and just-so arrangements of retro relics might be daunting for those who like things a bit slapdash
  • All 4 beds are doubles
  • Usual no-car problem for a house in Essaouira’s medina, but there is a parking area 1 minute away
  • Heating is fireplace and plug-in radiators only so it can be chilly in winter, though temperatures in Essaouira are rarely low. You'll want to kee the windows closed anyway though, to stop all the stray cats wandering in!

Best time to go

Spring is a magical time to be here: from March onwards you are guaranteed good weather and the coastal wild flowers are spectacular. There's a music festival in June (book well ahead) but avoid August when the town struggles to cope with the huge influx of visitors from home and abroad. Winter can also be a very great time to be in Essaouira: days are often sunny and mild and the light at this time of year has a unique quality. Also bear in mind the dates of Ramadan, the month-long Muslim day-fast.

Our top tips

Essaouira is famous for its quality inlaid woodwork made from thuya, a local hardwood. You can visit the workshops where you will find a selection of furniture, bowls, chess sets and boxes.

Great for...

Beach
City Style
Family
Great Outdoors
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Riad Rental
  • 4
  • Self-catering (+ meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

Dar Beida means 'The White House' and it certainly lives up to its name. Even the floors are whitewashed. Despite its ice-cream cool shape, Dar Beida is solidly built. It has been plastered from floor to ceiling - the support arches and columns actually had their plaster removed, revealing intricate symbols from the Portuguese colonial period of the 1800s and adding a nice sandstone trim to the all-white interior.

There are 4 double bedrooms: one on the first floor with a private walk-in shower room and 2 on the second floor, which share a large shower bathroom. These upper rooms also have access to a pueblo-style terrace, complete with hammock, cactus and a rather ingenious awning made of bamboo sticks. The fourth bedroom at the very top has sliding glass doors and its own roof terrace with a handy sink.

The dining room opens off the all-mod-cons kitchen and afterwards, the cosy living area complete with stereo, is perfect for lounging. Along with the 2 terraces on the upper floors, the ground floor has a quiet courtyard with meditative tinkling fountain so there's plenty of space to chill.

All rooms have fireplaces (the top bedroom has a plug-in radiator) ensuring the house is still cosy when it does get really chilly on winter nights.

Features include:

  • Wifi internet
  • Phone
  • Cd player
  • Ipod dock
  • Internet access
  • Wifi internet
  • Central heating
  • Fireplace
  • Cots Available
  • Full kitchen
  • Fridge
  • Oven
  • Beach towels
  • Daily cleaning
  • Info pack

Eating

Dar Beida's kitchen is sleek and long, with a creamy tadelakt (polished plaster) worktop and open shelving, displaying beautiful dishware made in the nearby town of Safi. Step through a white archway into the dining room with its iconic ‘tulip’ table for supper and then chill with postprandial tunes in the living room’s music area… in summer, it’s warm enough to have a mint tea on the roof terrace, or in the hanging cane chair beside the patio fountain.

The well-equipped kitchen is crying out for would-be gourmets to try their hand at creating a fancy couscous and you will find supplies like a bowl of fruit, bottles of water, tea, coffee, milk, oils, salt and pepper on hand when you arrive. The house is close to some good bakeries and fish and vegetable markets that are not too touristy. However, when you tire of cooking, Emma's excellent cook/cleaner can prepare a scrumptious Moroccan meal in her home and bring it round whatever time you feel like supping - now that’s service!

Dining out will present only a problem with choice: Essaouria is replete with restaurants and its proximity to the Atlantic means that seafood lovers are especially indulged. There's a restaurant guide in the house.

Features include:

  • Children meals
  • Meal delivery service
  • Cooking Classes
  • Full kitchen
  • Fridge
  • Oven
  • Walk to restaurants
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Ask Rachid, the house guardian, to recommend a seafood restaurant that's not filled with tourists

  • Head down to Essaouira's huge sandy beach - it's a 10-minute stroll from the house. Ideal for a long walk but the strong winds make it unsuitable for sunbathing (for that you are better off lounging on Dar Beida's roof terrace)

  • Windsurfing and kitesurfing is popular in summer (May-September). Equipment can be hired. Surfing is better in winter

  • The bustling fishing harbour is a delight to behold, and its freshly-grilled sardines on the simple pavement stalls are something of an institution

  • There is an excellent music festival in June, with Gnaoua and other tribal performers

  • Horse riding can be arranged from nearby stables, as can quad-bike rides and camel treks in the sand dunes

  • Afterwards, unwind in a traditional hammam

  • Go shopping at the souks (markets): friendlier, cheaper and often better quality than in Marrakech. Emma is happy to take you, free of charge

  • Emma can also book yoga and cookery lessons; just ask

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Kids activities nearby
  • Cooking Classes
  • Horse-riding
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Kite/windsurfing
  • Yoga
  • Shopping
  • Hammams
  • Quad-bike riding
  • Camel Treks

Kids

Children are made very welcome, and this house works well for an extended family party or two families holidaying together. There's a baby cot, which is free of charge. Essaouira is a great destination for families with a fascinating souk, colourful port and long beaches. At Dar Beida you're centrally placed for easy access to all sights and only 10 minutes from the beach.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

All four bedrooms have double beds. The mezzanine room is best suited for children as its double bed is a little smaller than the others

Baby equipment:


  • Baby cot (top sheet provided so please bring own sleeping bag or blanket)
  • Steriliser

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The house has everything you need for self-catering. The housekeeper, Amina, often cooks for guests on the first night (children eat for free). There are plenty of child-friendly restaurants, Emma can advise where to dine out

Kids Activities on site:


  • Toys including a box of Lego
  • Board games

Kids Activities nearby:


  • The beach is 10 minutes walk away
  • Visit the bustling port
  • Horse riding and camel trekking on remote beaches and through the forest
  • Quad biking
  • With advance notice Emma can arrange for guests to use two pools outside town, one has a special BBQ on Sundays
  • Surfing, kite-surfing and windsurfing on Essaouira beach
  • Picnics
  • Trips to the waterfalls and to a beach covered in fossils
  • Visit the local souks

Families Should Know:

Be aware that Dar Beida has an all-white interior and some valuable design pieces so it may not be the best abode for smaller, messy ones. There are also quite a few stairs

Distances:

  • Airport: 15 minute drive
  • Hospital: 5 minute walk
  • Shops: 2 minute walk
Kid Friendly:

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