First and foremost, props to Tamar for dubbing this the new title of Essaouira- although the wind certainly died down by the end, our first 2.5 days here can certainly be characterized that way!
From Marrakech, we drove 2.5 hours to the Atlantic Coast of Morocco, to an extremely popular vacation destination for both Moroccans and Europeans called Essaouira. It’s easy to see why- the temperature dropped almost 20 degrees Celsius! I was even cold at night here. We stayed at Hotel Les Matins Bleus, a really cute hotel right in the heart of the medina. They also rent out an apartment next door, and that’s where we were lucky enough to stay- a lofted apartment with two bedrooms and a huge living room, perfect for spreading out, both our bodies and our clothes and gifts! And the owners/managers, two brothers and their cousin, are so kind. They will give you advice about anything, set up any excursion you would want, let us use their fridge for wine and yogurt, and serve a delicious breakfast during which they offer to get you anything else you would want that’s not already there. They also speak about 5 languages- pretty impressive!
It was really hard for us to leave Essaouira, where we were able to relax so much. Not only did we walk around the port and see all of the fish stalls, where you pick our your fish fresh and grill it for you (some things I’ve never even seen, like bright pink eels…), but we ate delicious food, and got in some excellent sun J. We spent several hours on the beach in town, which though extremely crowded and windy, is still really nice. For 25 dirhams, you can rent a lounge chair and lie in peace. The water is also a bit warmer and definitely calmer than Asilah.
Now for two of the major highlights of our four and a half days here: a hammam and Jardins de Villa Maroc.
On Sunday evening, we booked a “Moroccan beauty package’ at the hammam/spa at Hotel Lalla Mirra, which is partially solar panel heated. This truly was one of the more interesting experiences in my life.
Jardins de Villa Maroc is a beautiful villa about 15 minutes outside of Essaouira. It is owned by a Swiss woman, who is married to a Moroccan man, and the combination of the two styles makes this place really beautiful. You can rent the whole villa or one of the 4 bedrooms, which are designed in earth tones with Moroccan décor such as doors, lanterns, and so forth. Or you can do what we did, which is pay 180 dirhams to spend the day at the villa by their beautiful pool, and they also provide you with a delicious lunch.
The hammam was truly interesting. A hammam is a traditional bathhouse, which in the past was usually attached to a mosque. Public hammams are still used for people to clean themselves, with separate times for women and men. The hammam we went to was used as a public hammam as well as a private hammam with spa treatments. When we go there, we were told to just strip down to our bathing suit, and then entered. The hammam feels like a sauna. Two ladies (one was EXTREMELY large) then threw water on us- not kidding. And then left. Shortly after they returned, directed us to lie on mats on the floor (in the middle of a public sauna…sort of a strange feeling), and then they doused us in argan oil, exfoliated us, slathered us in mud, washed us off, and then gave us a massage. Our skin was like silk after, and it lasted for a few days. Certainly an experience!
From there we went on to Oalidia, a small fishing village with a popular beach, followed by an afternoon/night at Villa Blanca (beautiful new hotel) in Casablanca, and home to the U.S.! I will share some overall reflections on Morocco shortly.