This is a place to go for complete peace and relaxation. Essaouira is becoming quite developed outside the medina with 5-star hotels everywhere but thankfully the medina retains its charm. If you want 5 stars and chain hotel mentality with no atmosphere whatsoever, go to a hotel (and preferably don’t go to Essaouira at all). Dar L’Oussia is just everything you could expect of a Moroccan riad and, despite much competition, they’ve got everything right.
To start with, the location is ideal – within the medina, just a few minutes from the main square, the fish restaurants and the port, only a few minutes on foot from everywhere. In a quiet side street, there is little passing footfall so is very peaceful.
One enters through impressive royal blue painted doors, into a courtyard with the prettiest fountain set into a Moroccan-tiled floor, covered here and there with traditional rugs. Rose petals swirl gently in the fountain. Tables and chairs around the edges of the square and a couple of palm trees provide comfort in a shaded and therefore cool area.
The reception area is off to the right and this is where you get the first idea of the welcome that is there throughout. The staff smile. Be careful what you ask for, as they will give you more, with a happy and willing smile. Nothing is too much trouble. I’ve travelled a fair bit and can honestly say that the welcome here is outstanding. Special mention for Asma and Bouchra but that’s not to say all the others weren’t just as helpful, I’m sorry to say I cannot remember everyone’s names.
So, on to the rooms. Furnished in a mixture of restful traditional and contemporary Moroccan décor, comfy bed, loads of plug sockets (same voltage as UK). There was a wall-mounted TV (with the remote stored in a baboush stuck to the wall, very cute) and a phone but we didn’t bother with either of these the entire time we were there. For those who don’t know what a riad is (and I hope I’m not teaching my grandmother to suck eggs), all the rooms open onto a square central courtyard. The windows are unlocked and you could safely leave the door unlocked too if you so desired. Essaouira (Morocco in general) is a very safe place which makes a nice change from large European cities. The room we had had a huge old lamp on the floor and a couple of other statement pieces, with traditional rugs over tiled floors. The roomy walk-in shower was a joy too - plentiful huge towels, great argan oil soap, shower gel and shampoo, constant hot water and good water pressure.
So, now we are checked in, unpacked and showered and ready to eat. The restaurant is on the ground floor behind the little fountain. Up a few steps and the room extends in a long rectangular shape from left to right, no tables are on top of each other. The walls are adorned with enormous photos printed on canvas of various unnamed characters – think Auda abu Tayyi in Lawrence of Arabia and you get the idea. And the food is simply delicious. Traditional Moroccan dishes with refreshing desserts. Add a bottle of Larroque (the gris is yummy with everything) and the place you have come from very quickly recedes as you settle into the relaxing atmosphere. We were lucky enough to have a cookery lesson with Samira, whose face is just one big smile. She showed us how to make a 3-course meal, which we proceeded to do and then a couple of hours later, came down to eat it. It’s a really great idea to do this as I do remember how to make these dishes and will certainly try now that I’m back at home. Being shown how to make these things does make you want to try them yourself.
Apart from dinner, you will get breakfast each day up on the terrace at the top of the riad. I didn’t ask but I’m sure they would serve it in your room if you preferred but then you would miss out on the spectacular views over the beach, which is one of the best I’ve ever seen (it is wide with a very flat tide, and it just goes on forever, clean and never over-crowded), and meeting the breakfast staff who again smile, chat happily and genuinely wish you a good day. Breakfast is a treat. This is where you will probably come across amlou for the first time. A mixture of almonds, honey and argan oil, it’s sort of like peanut butter made by the angels but a little sweeter and much much better, just divine. Lovely fruit salad, freshly-squeezed orange juice, freshly-made local breads, fig jam, honey, etc., all brought to the table with tea or coffee. There is also a buffet of cheese and sliced meats.
The terrace itself is wonderful. Painted all in white, there are tables and couches with big comfy cushions, sheltering against the breeze with swathes of white wools and cottons tied back, giving a modern take on the desert tent. Again, details designed for relaxation. They have half a dozen lovely big comfy sun loungers up there and, for some odd reason, there is never anyone on them. The terrace is usually empty during the day but they do serve snacks and drinks too. We got into the habit of coming back from wherever late afternoon and having a glass or 2 of the above-mentioned Larroque up there before showers, just gazing out over that fab beach.
The people on Reception can also make any reservations you need, and give good advice about local restaurants (don’t rely just on reviews, the locals really do know best), art galleries (a growing thing in Essaouira, the local art is quite fascinating) and activities.
One activity we did was to have a hammam and massage with the ubiquitous but very effective locally-produced argan oil. Ooh err. I was asleep by the end of it all and have rarely felt as relaxed. A glass of wine on the terrace later and I was off with the fairies and my skin was unbelievably soft for ages afterwards.
As is probably obvious, I’m a big fan of Dar L’Oussia. From all practical points of view, it’s ideal but what really makes it great is the people who work there. Most of the staff have been there for years and it shows. It all just feels so effortless and the management have evidently worked out what works and they just keep on doing it. It really is a great place and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to any traveller – singles, groups of friends, couples of all ages (great for a honeymoon, very romantic). There are lots of lovely riads in Essaouira but Dar L’Oussia really does stand out. Just go !
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.