THE SPA SHORTLIST: MOROCCO – “Life is magnifique” at The Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa
Ahh Essaouira! If you’ve never been, next time you’re heading to Marrakech, jump in a grand taxi or hop on a coach to Essaouira – it’s Morocco’s easy, breezy kite surf capital where, yes, it’s windy (but not always!) and the seagulls all wear orange lipstick and are so white they look like they’ve just had a spin in a washing machine.
Blue meets blue at the Sofitel pool
Design takes its cue from nature in the sunlit lobby of the Sofitel Mogador Essaouira Golf & Spa
“Life is magnifique in Essaouira”
As you eat up the easy 180-kilometre (2.5 hr) drive from Marrakech to Essaouira, the landscape turns from a beige, barren “desert” feel to deepest green argan country (look for goats standing in the trees!).
Then, just when you’re not expecting it, the road starts dipping down as you reach Essaouira and opens up to the most amazing views. To your right, the sun-bleached medina and charming fishing port jutting out into the Atlantic. Straight ahead? One big endless stretch of beach kissed by the waves, which you’ll have more or less to yourself from October to May.
A classic Essaouira postcard shot (spot the seagulls)
View from one of the holes at Essaouira’s Mogador Golf, adjoining the Sofitel
Salade Nicoise in the sun?
5 REASONS TO ❤ ESSAOUIRA
1. THE WEATHER! This multi-cultural, relaxed seaside town is much cooler in summer than Marrakech and beautifully mild in winter when temps hover nicely around 16C – 24C and summer never really get much hotter than 31C. It can easily be T-shirt weather in November, but bring a warm jacket for after the sun goes down.
“In winter, temperatures hover nicely around 16C – 24C”
2. THE SPA: The best spa in town is actually just outside the main town, a 5 minute drive from the main kite surfing beach, south of the medina. Sunlight pours through the windows of the Sofitel Mogador Essaouira Golf & Spa resort from January to December and if you love contemporary design that takes its cue from nature, this hotel is a dream discovery. The views are green-meets-blue, with a new 18-hole golf course already in play and no expense has been spared in creating the spa where Clarins and Cinq Mondes are the flagship beauty brands.
The Spa at the Sofitel
Amazing twisted natural lamps made from thin wood shavings or some kind of leaves?
Thousands of mini-chunks of sea green bottle glass went into the bar design
“They say you’re officially “Sweri” (a local) when you’ve eaten 40 loaves of bread here, but chances are you’ll feel like a local in less than 24 hrs”
3. THE WIND: The windiest months are July and August, but in September, October and even November, weeks pass by with barely a breeze – you’ll think you’re in the Mediterranean instead of the Atlantic.
And if sunshine on a winter’s day is your idea of luxury, nothing beats a Moroccan “nosnos” pronounced ‘noos-noos’ (a glass of half coffee, half milk) by the big blue Sofitel pool or at one of the laid back beach bars like Le Panoramique, Ocean Vagabond or Beach & Friends which are all right next to the Club Mistral and Explora kite surf schools and right on the sand so you can kick off your flip flops and relax.
When it’s windy, go kite surfing. One of the Explora team in action
One hump or two?
A dromedary in Siki Kaouki (camels have two humps, dromedaries have one apparently)
4. ESSAOUIRA MEDINA: It’s on UNESCO’s list, and no wonder. Essaouira medina is a beautiful example of a small and perfectly formed medina, but even more importantly it has become a symbol of religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence.
“Essaouira has become a symbol of religious tolerance
and peaceful co-existence”
As UNESCO says: “The town is also an example of a multicultural centre as proven by the coexistence, since its foundation, of diverse ethnic groups, such as the Amazighs (Berbers), Arabs, Africans, and Europeans as well as multi-confessional (Muslim, Christian and Jewish)”.
The Mellah (Jewish quarter) is currently being revitalised, part of an important project, while for the best Atlantic views you’ll want to head for the rooftops. Taros, Villa d’O and Madada Mogador have some of the best sky high terraces (there’s live music at Taros most nights, too).
The fishing boats are the same shade of blue as the local taxis. Photo courtesy of Moroccophototours
5. THE SILVER JEWELLERY, THE FRESH FISH, THE HORSES ON THE BEACH and THE LOCALS
Essaouira’s souk scene is superb and the medina is altogether more low key than Marrakech’s and because of its manageable size and layout, it’s easy to find your way around.
You’ll find colourful ceramics (mostly handpainted in Safi), bright leather bags and babooshkas (slippers)…gorgeous silver jewellery (sourced from the southern desert towns as well as Tiznit, an important Berber town on the southern Atlantic coast)…argan oils and jars of argan, honey and toasted almond breakfast spread amlou (dubbed Moroccan Nutella!) – our favourite brand is Wildwood Groves – as well as on the food front, a dozen types of fresh fish which are grilled in minutes while you wait at one of the fishing port “restaurant” stalls.
London-Essaouira brand Wildwood Groves’ award-winning edible argan oil (and for a delicious twist on a breakfast spread, try their honey, argan and almond “amlou” – Morocco’s “nutella”!)
Coral and turquoise enamelled rings, and long silver rings on the left, all from Essaouira’s medina
So as our Essaouira visit comes to an end, if you’re heading out to Marrakech soon but have not been to “Essa” yet, why not come for a taste soon of Essaouira’s magical combination of welcoming locals, relaxed atmosphere, the horse and camel (dromedary, technically) rides on the beach? The air is fresh – the Norfolk Island pines here flourish only in unpolluted air – and just let those Atlantic breezes blow your blues away…
Don’t miss Sidi Kaouki beach, 15 km south of Essaouira – stunning and you’ll have it to yourself, except in summer
There’s a saying that you’re officially “Sweri” (an Essaouira local) after you’ve eaten 40 loaves of bread here, but chances are you’ll feel like a local in less than 24 hours.
DISCOVER THE SPA AT THE SOFITEL ESSAOUIRA MOGADOR GOLF & SPA at
A nice place to wake up in…the Sofitel Essaouira
Goodnight Essaouira, see you tomorrow!
(Or as they say in Morocco: Essaouira “ca ira” – “everything will be alright”)