THREE PERFECT DAYS IN ESSAOUIRA MOROCCO

Le Jardin des Douars | Essaouira, Morocco

[Essaouira, Morocco] — “Will we be able to see the goats in the trees?”

I’d read about them for years, had seen picture and always wondered: “Why are the goats in trees?”  🙃 Now I wanted to see them.

The drive from the Atlas Mountains was long and a little painful, you basically have to drive back through Marrakesh, then two and half hours driving across the barren plains to Essaouira on the coast. But as we were getting close to Essaouira, the driver quickly pulled over to the side of the road.

GOATS!

 

 

After the initial fun reaction, we soon realized this was a tourist sham. The reason why the goats were bleating was because they were put up there by the guys standing there waiting for a tip. Totally bummed. We asked our driver.  “They climb for the argan nuts. But this is for tourists.” was all we got. We didn’t see them eating any nuts. We didn’t even see nuts.

Goats in trees… always funny.

But a couple of days later, we saw the Real Deal. Goats in trees!  Off on the side of the road. A whole herd, chomping away like crazy, not even paying attention to us, some standing on their hind legs as tall as me, others getting all up in that grill. And then a half mile later, another heard. We felt better. But, admittedly, the first goat tree was beautifully art directed.

 

Le Jardin des Douars — The Perfect Boutique Hotel in Essaouira

I’d heard so many meh things about Essaouira that I had low expectations. We booked a last minute trip to Morocco over the busy Christmas season and had two nights to infill between Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains, most of all the cool places in other parts of Morocco were booked.

“No camel rides for you!”

But finally found one last cool place on Tablet Hotels outside Essaouira — a beach town on Morocco’s windy western coast.  It was about the last hotel I could find, so I slammed it in. Wow, what a surprise.  About Essaouira and the hotel.

Le Jardin des Douars. About 20 minutes outside of town, nestled in a thicket of bushy trees, you’d hardly know it was there. We pulled  down a sharp bumpy road, into the main gates and a huge garden opened before us, the stone path zigzagging between trees and shrubbery planted just-so. It was paradise. The online pictures didn’t do it justice at all.

Le jardin des Douars gardens at dusk

People take the two hour direct flight from France just to hang out here in the sun. And these gardens.

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You can smell the sea air this far inland, the hills dotted with blown piles of sand and scrub.  Essaouira is on the Atlantic coast so you can surf, ride horses on the beach or just have a nice fish dinner overlooking the ocean. We did none of that. Instead, we mostly just hung out here for a couple of days, made a couple of trips into the souks, ate long dinners and napped. It was pure heaven. 

The French family that owns/runs this place have impeccable taste and style and the grounds show it. It’s only a two hour direct flight from France, so you could tell that this place was designed more for people escaping the cold winters to just hang out in the warm sun vs. discovering Morocco.  Most of the people we saw rarely left, just hung by the pool. So this is like France’s Mexico.

Le Jardin des Douars entrance lounge

I meeean, how perfect is this??

The resort… and I will call it a resort, even though it’s small… is like its own island, self contained, beautiful. From the rooftop of the main building you can see the whole surrounding valley. A homely small river trickles below the property.

There are many rooms in the main building, but then half dozens of other tucked into restored villas tucked around the grounds, all interconnected by the most incredible landscaping. It looks like they’re even adding more villas and rooms on the edges of the property.

Le Jardin des Douars viewThe hotel is spread across many acres, several villas housing several rooms each, all interconnected by the most incredible landscaping.

 

The hotel is spread across many acres, several villas housing several rooms each, all interconnected by the most incredible landscaping. 

 

 

 

The Mogador Suite at Le Jardin des Douars

I was down to the wire, they had one room left when I booked. The Mogador SuiteMogador was the Portuguese name of Essaouira until the mid 1960s — so I pounced on it. The pictures online were a little weird, it was hard to tell if it was cool or a dump. But walking through the front door I knew instantly it was perfect. Two stories tall, two bedrooms, all dipped in deep rich blood red, dark oranges and pinks, light streaming through the arched windows. A gigantic private terrace was on top.

Seriously, this place was incredible and another incredible Moroccan bargain for what you get. The level of service, style and grounds could easily be hundreds of dollars more per night. This huge suite we had was less than four hundred dollars a night… at peak season!  Many rooms start at a hundred and twenty a night.

You should definitely come here — but book more than the two nights we did, so much more to enjoy in this area… can’t wait to come back.

Le Jardin des Dours Mogador Suite terrace

We walked out on this terrace and went “Gaah!”. Couldn’t believe this was ours.

 

Le Jardin des Dours Mogador Suite sitting room

When I saw pics of this room online, I had no idea if it was going to be cool or crap. I can see why now, all those deep reds are impossible to capture on camera. In person, it is just incredible. The walls and floors, all smooth, dark blood red, burnt oranges and saturated pinks. It changed my whole World Color View.

 

Le Jardin des Douars Mogador Suite bathroom

I never would have been bold enough to pick these colors, but it gets in your soul. Now thinking of painting rooms of my new house this color.

 

 

Le Jardin des Dours Mogador Suite bedroom sitting area

The perfect napping room. You should see the sun coming in the afternoon.

Dining at Le Jardin des Douars

Le Jardin des Douars terrace lunch

There is a huge outdoor dining area, perfect for lunch in the sun.

 

There is one main restaurant where breakfast and dinner are served, with several levels of outdoor terraces surrounded by the incredible gardens for dining in the sun. The food was some of the best we’ve had in Morocco on this trip, served by the smilingest people. We didn’t even want to leave to explore elsewhere.

 

 

Le Jardin des Douars terrace sunset

The main terrace outside the main building serves as the center point of the whole hotel. Perfect for coffee or cocktails, nestling into the comfy cushions.

 

 

Le Jardin des Douars al fresco dining

Aperativos and apps.

 

Le Jardin des Douars fire pit

About the most comfortable firepit. Perfect for a post-dinner digestif.

Le Jardin des Douars terrace couches

Feel like a king.

 

Shopping the Souks In Essaouira

Maybe it was the cool sunny air of winter, but Essaouira wasn’t crowded at all, the Medina much cleaner than expected and we shopped the shit out of the souks. (I don’t typically shop, but have a new house I have to fill!). I thought the merch was better than Marrakech, prices cheaper, souksters friendlier and more fun. We laughed endlessly with all the shop owners. And went back again and again to pick up things we couldn’t get out of our heads. 

I thought the merchandise was better than Marrakech, prices cheaper, souksters friendlier and more fun.

My humble advice: walk thru the Medina in Marrakesh to check it out, get dusty, watch The Crazy, dodge the scooters and get your shoes muddy, but save your souk buying for Essaouira. Such a much more enjoyable experience. Everywhere was sunny and clean, more hospitable.  The Medina in Essaouira is so good, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you know its good

 

Essaouira Medina entrance

The Medina is in the old town, right by the sea. It’s sunny and clean and amazing colors everywhere. You can taxi in to a central spot, then walk around.

 

Essaouira is right along the ocean, with a big broad beach that cuddles the whole city. I was expecting it to be dirty and dingy, but it was clean and bright. People surf, ride camels and run along the beach. There are a bunch of great restaurants lining the broad beach road.

 

Essaouira rug souk street

This was my favorite street. So clean and airy and colorful.

 

OkayOkayOkay…(said in Joe Pesci Voice)…here’s a cool shop we stumbled upon in Essaouira.
Le Comptoir Oriental by Madada, on Rue Youssef El Fassi

I say “stumbled upon” loosely because I read about it on the Tablet member recs section weeks before, actually printed it out, put it in myMOROCCO  travel folder and never looked at it again… 🙃 That’s how I roll.

Completely forgot about this place until we stumbled upon a sign whilst walking by. (WWB — I should ™️ that.).  

Knowingly, 🤭 I said to my delightful traveling companion Ruth “Hey, I think I read good things about this place.” and we went in.

Just so you know how I travel…

1. Conduct extensive research. (IG)
2. Book flights and hotels at the last minute.
3. Scramble to fit all in.
4. Show up and forget it all.
5. Stumble and Remember™️.

Le Comptoir Oriental by Madada steps

You see the sign for Le Comptoir Oriental by Madada and it leads up several flights of an apartment building…


It’s outside the proper medina, lower righthand corner of the map, in an area of higher-end shops. In a big top floor apartment. Better quality. Less haggling. More what you want than just cheap stuff.

You trundle up a few flights of stairs, up a stairwell that smells like Jasmine and Sandalwood, past a couple of apartments and then see a sign that says “Ring the bell if nobody answers.” You walk inside and it’s like an actual apartment, a big one, all white with skylights and geometric tile up to your hip. With delightful things spread all about the various rooms.

Le Comptoir Oriental by Madada showroom

Everything is arranged around a sprawling apartment. An apartment I’d like to live in, all light and airy.


They focus on cool things you want, made by local craftsmen, using traditional techniques but with a modern design style. Some new. Some old. Things are set up in the hallway, living room, bathroom, bedrooms and kitchen of this sprawling flat. Just like you’d use it. Lovely.

Le Comptoir Oriental by Madada dining room

Items displayed, just like you’d use them at home.

I read later (natch) that it’s actually from the same tasteful tastes of the woman who owns the restaurant next door and the hotel across the alley, all under the same Mandada name. Found some cool sconces match a lamp I found in Marrakech. But for a fraction what I paid there…  We went back several times. 

 

 

Essaouira Medina buildings

The colors, so bright and light. So much different than Marrakesh.

 

Essaouira Medina location on map

The Medina is inside the sprawling ancient ramparts of the city. Taxis drop-off and pick you up in the same main square. Several straight roads dissect the whole place, so you won’t get lost. Afterward, walk along the beach to great restaurants further down.

More Information About Essaouira & Le Jardin des Douars

Essaouira

Here are some other great hotels in Essaouira from the great website Local Hideaways.

Here are links to all my other posts for my stays in Morocco. Here’s a great Best of Morocco article in Town & Country.  Here’s a great article from The Telegraph on the best things to do over a weekend in Essaouira. And another weekend review from Forbes. An Essaouira guide from Intrepid Travel, a tour leader/booker.

Here’s a great article on this beach town from the UK’s The Independent. A great article about this boho chic town in The Evening Standard.  And there are several online articles and guides from the UK Conde Nast Traveller. And the US version with day trip advice. Great article in Vogue on the off-the-beaten path.

 

Le Jardin des Douars

Le Jardin des Douars location map

The only drawback for the hotel is it’s about a 20 minute drive to the beach. So if you’re not driving you can take the regularly scheduled hotel shuttle or they can book a discounted taxi. They make it sound worse than that is, they just want to make sure you get where you want to on time. Very easy to arrange.

Here is the listing for the hotel on Mr & Mrs Smith. On Tablet Hotels’ website, where I booked my stay. On Chic Retreat’s website.  And on Lawrence of Morocco’s cool website. And there’s always a very honest pros/cons review on my fave I-escape.com. And the always baffling contrasting reviews on TripAdvisor.

Here’s a beautiful story in Harper’s Bazaar.  And a solid in The Telegraph.

 

— Last visited December 2019 — 

 

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2 Discussions on
“THREE PERFECT DAYS IN ESSAOUIRA MOROCCO”
    • I was really surprised how much I liked this place, especially being told it wasn’t that great. I loved it. And this hotel is a dream, I’d go back just to stay there!

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