Villa La Diouana

Oualidia, Essaouira & Atlantic Coast, Morocco Book from

An exceptionally peaceful cliffside retreat (sleeps 6-10) with unforgettable views across the Oualidia lagoon to the Atlantic
The small fishing village of Oualidia and its tidal lagoon, home to Morocco’s best oyster beds and some of its most diverse birdlife, remains one of the country’s best-kept secrets. In recent years it has begun to attract visitors during summer but for the rest of the year you could find no more beautiful nor peaceful a place to commune with the ocean.

James von Leyden was smitten by the place’s rare beauty and, on impulse, bought what must be the best positioned house in the village, on a high bluff looking out across the lagoon. He has given the house and its four bedrooms a new lease of life thanks to a masterful refurbishment which placed the accent on stylish simplicity, solid comfort and the celebration of those exquisite lagoon views. To sit in La Diouana’s cosy sitting room, perhaps listening to one of James’ many CDs with a fire burning in the hearth, watching the fishing boats returning with their catch, is simply inspirational and is the reason, perhaps, why guests (and families in particular) return year after year to this unforgettable house.

Highs

  • The views out through the huge French windows to the lagoon, sea and sky, simply couldn’t be bettered
  • The staff – housekeeper Abdillah, his wife Fatima and breakfast cook Fatiha – just couldn’t be kinder. Whatever you want to do, they can arrange it
  • Superb for kids of all ages
  • Beautiful outdoor pool overlooking the lagoon, which has a built-in paddling pool for little 'uns
  • Oualidia has some of the best fish restaurants in Morocco. And its oysters, which come straight from the lagoon, are legendary

Lows

  • Oualidia is a fair way from both Casablanca and Marrakech so to get here you really need your own transport. But transfers can be arranged if you prefer not to drive
  • In recent years there’s been some ugly new development around the southern end of the lagoon. But you see none of it from La Diouana
  • The house’s Moroccan staff speak little English so you'll need to brush up on your French - or resort to gesticulating

Best time to go

July and August are peak season - the village fills up with marrakchi families, and night clubs and camping sites go full tilt, so if you're looking for a peaceful retreat try and avoid these 2 months. On the other hand, the atmosphere is friendly and colourful, and sociable families can make many friends. At any other time of year the village is much more of a "secret gem", especially in the spring when wildflowers cover the hillsides leading down to the lagoon and when it’s warm enough to swim.

Our top tips

Fish for your supper in the lagoon from La Diouana’s small boat. It can be hired for a modest sum and tackle, and supervision if required, are included.

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Family
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Beach Villa
  • 5
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor 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
Room:

Rooms

There are three guest bedrooms in the main house and a fourth in the small annex which is to one side of the palm-lined drive leading up to La Diouana’s main entrance. The master bedroom, with all white walls and bluey-grey coloured doors and windows, shares the same lagoon view as the study and sitting room and has an enormous tadlakt bathtub, big enough for two, from where you can watch the sun sinking over the horizon.

The other two rooms in the main house, which have showers rather than baths, look out to the garden. One is a twin, the other a double with a second mezzanine bed reached via a steep ladder: kids would love it. The subdued decorative style with a predominace of white colours and fabrics, the black-and-white photographs of Moroccan people and places, the subdued lighting and the high ceilings, all impart a feel that is both peaceful and uplifting.

The fourth bedroom, in an independent annex just 30 metres from the house, has its own sitting area and roof terrace. There is plenty of wardrobe space, as in all of the bedrooms, and the same attractive use of natural-coloured tadlakt in its shower room.

The fifth bedroom is a self-contained twin-bed apartment with separate entrance, bath, tadlakt floors and terrace overlooking the garden.

Features include:

  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fireplace
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Internet access
  • Oven
  • Safe box
  • Washing machine

Eating

Even though there are a couple of excellent restaurants in Oualidia you may feel loathe not to eat all meals at La Diouana. There’s a cosy dining area at one end of the sitting room from where you look out to the lagoon and a second shaded table in the garden with those same amazing views.

Fátiha, the breakfast cook, arrives around eight o'clock and busies herself preparing pancakes, squeezing oranges and making potfuls of freshly ground coffee whose aroma greets you when you emerge from your room. Just let her know if you’d like to breakfast later.

Abdillah’s wife Fátima, who lives a few houses away, can prepare you a fabulous three course lunch or dinner. Let her know if you’d like her to shop for you or head down to the lagoon-side fish market, make your own choice from the best of the catch, then let her prepare you an amazing tagine. Her other specialities include harira, couscous and pastilla as well as meat and seafood: this is a unique opportunity to eat the best Moroccan food for little more than the cost of the ingredients. Fatima can also prepare special meals for children – hamburgers, chicken and chips, salads.

And be sure to let Abdillah organise a boat trip to the headland on the far side of the lagoon with an included lunch of oysters, sea urchins and grilled fish, all straight from the sea. We did just that and had one of the most memorable meals of our Moroccan trip.

A small selection of Moroccan wines, and beer, are available at the house.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • In house cook
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Oualidia has one main street with shops, fruit market and cafes; a long winding road leads to the lagoon with seafood restaurants. Visit its colourful Saturday market, teeming with farmers and donkeys from outlying villages bartering over pots and pans, sacks of flour and beans, vats of olives and bowls of spices

  • Follow a narrow path down through the eucalyptus forest to a sheltered, sandy beach which is ideal for kids learning to swim and great for flying kites; follow the beach up to grottos and caves, climb the hills in spring and find them covered in wild flowers

  • Surfing, wind-surfing and other water sports are available in the summer months. The shallow lagoon and rollers of the Atlantic make Oualidia a great place to learn

  • Watch birds (best in spring and autumn) from La Diouana’s terrace or from a boat on the lagoon. This is one of Morocco’s top ornithological destinations - expect oyster catchers, curlews, dunlins, and flamingos (in early summer) to pass by

  • Walk north along the beach past the oyster beds, via an extraordinary Marabout’s tomb, to the salt flats or walk south for miles and miles along a deserted stretch of beach

  • Take a day trip south to visit the ceramic workshops at Safi; Cap Bedouzza, between Safi and Oualidia, is a windswept promontory with a curious light-house and miles of sandy beach

  • Further afield, 3 hours to the south, is the blue and white port of Essaouira, a fabulous excursion

  • Or head an hour north to El Jadida and visit the crumbling ramparts, churches and rambling souk of its old cité portuguaise

  • Outside El Jadida is the Royal Golf Sofitel, one of the best golf courses in Morocco

  • Another few kilometres takes you to Azemmour, an old Portuguese colony with an ancient medina seldom visited by tourists

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing

Kids

The house and garden are safe and fun for children of all ages – and under 3s stay for free. Moroccans dote on children and you'll be warmly welcomed in restaurants and wherever you go.

Older children will like it here especially given there's so much to do nearby. Babies and toddlers are very well catered for with so much gear provided and there's a shallow paddling pool for them too. And there's a very cuddly dog called Moghli to play with!

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

There is a bunk bed available as well as two cots

Babysitting:

Non-English-speaking babysitting available by arrangement, see Rates

Baby listening:

Baby monitor available

Baby equipment:

  • Two baby cots available on request
  • Car seat available for baby and for child
  • High chair
  • Children's backpack (to carry a toddler in)
  • Baby bedding

  • Potty

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

Children's meals:

It's self-catering property with breakfast included in the rates. The cook, Fatima, can stay on to prepare lunch and dinner on request and can also create special kids meals. The kitchen is equipped with a blender and microwave.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Paddling pool built in next to main pool, its depth is 40cm
  • Outdoor playground
  • All-weather ping pong table in the garden
  • Chameleons, tortoises and chickens in the garden
  • Zipwire
  • Free DVD library with around 100 titles
  • Plenty of toys plus board games to suit ages 0-12 including backgammon and Scrabble

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Farm animals nearby
  • Swim, kayak or take a pedalo for a spin
  • Arrange surfing lessons for children aged 8 and above
  • Fly kites, play tennis or birdwatch on the beach
  • Take the boat and explore the lagoon and pirate caves

Families Should Know:

There is a mobile phone signal everywhere in the villa. The pool is fenced and children should be supervised on the roof terrace. You don't need any vaccinations to visit the country.

Distances:

  • Airport: 3 hours
  • Doctor: 30 minutes
  • Nearest shop: 12 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for Villa La Diouana