If there’s anything more enticing than a Moroccan resort hotel untouched by package tourists, it’s one which punches up the vibrancy and colour typical of its native land with an added touch of Senegal.
Jardin des Douars, a few miles outside the blue and white port of Essaouira, aims to tickle visitors’ senses with the art and cuisine of not one, but two African coastal nations.
Add European elan into the mix, for this exquisite, sophisticated yet surprisingly affordable hotel is a product of French and Belgian owners with a deep love of Africa. So Senegalese art and graceful ebony-skinned staff add an extra exotic layer to the tilework, arched doors, courtyards and tadelakt bathrooms – a polished plaster decor technique unique to Morocco – which make staying in a traditional hotel in the Mahgreb such a delight.
Every room at Jardins des Douars is different – some are tucked away in secluded gardens, others up secret staircases, yet others like the one we stayed in actually a self-contained cottage of two separate ensuite rooms sharing a courtyard and a cosy little lounge with open fireplace perfect for chilly autumn evenings.
The main restaurant, reached by a five-minute walk through an exquisitely planted paradise, has its own giant fireplace at one end surrounded by a U-shaped conversation pit perfect for whiling away the odd rainy day with a book or enjoying a nightcap after a very fine feast. The chef, too, is Senegalese and offers extremely original food here and in a small, peach-hued adults-only restaurant which is a treat for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.
Naturally there is a pool and a delightful hammam, and shuttle service into Essaouira itself, which should not be missed. Far more laid-back than Marrakech, this tiny town has its own Medina and charming shops selling babouches, local pottery and typically Moroccan beauty products including face oil and shampoo enriched with local argan oil and rosewater skin tonic There are good beaches and bars aplenty, but the big activities are the morning fish auction and an alfresco lunch at one of a whole string of fish restaurants lining the port – no.14 comes especially recommended.
For family celebrations or upscale hen parties, Jardin des Douars has enticing villas within its gated compound which come with a cook who brings breakfast, provides maid service and will cook other meals to order. They have their own private pools, but all hotel facilities including the hammam and two restaurants, are at the disposal of villa as well as hotel guests.
With sunshine 320 days a year and Ryanair now operating bargain basement-priced flights from Stansted direct to Essaouira, there isn’t a better time to discover Morocco’s best-kept seaside secret
Tell me more about Jardin Des Douars Essaouira Hotel
Jardin Des Douars Essaouira Hotel Douar Sidi Yassine, BP209 44000 Essaouira – Morocco
T:: +212 700 083 233 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rooms from €115 double including breakfast
How do I get to Jardin des Douars?
Ryanair(ryanair.com) runs flights from Stansted to Essaouira from €11.73 each way.