Essaouira, a fishing village on the Atlantic coast – a three hour drive north of Agadir and 2,5 hours west of Marrakech was high up on the list of places I wanted to visit for Local Hideaways. I had been here some six years before and had fallen completely in love with the place. But would it still be as relaxed, lively and colourful as it was when I was last here? And what about suitable Local Hideaways? Well, Mrs. Local Hideaways says you should definitely go, because, even though it is a bit more crowded nowadays, the atmosphere is still fantastic and this town offers you the perfect combination of ‘an old medina where local colour defines the atmosphere’ and ‘coastal living where fishermen sail out for the catch of the day but where you will also find a lively kitesurfing scene and ditto funky beach bars.’!
Hidden in a part of the medina (the ancient walled city) as yet undiscovered by tourists, British Jeremy and Italian Paolo have completely rn efurbished an 18th century police watchtower and turned it into two apartments and one studio apartment that completely meet today’s standards. The design is funky and different; cool retro items decorate the rooms. I stayed in the largest apartment, which is three storeys high. On the first floor is a double bedroom and bathroom. The middle floor has a living room and a small kitchen. The third floor houses a second bedroom and provides access to the roof terrace, with its stunning view of the old city. The other apartment and the studio apartment are somewhat smaller, but decorated as tastefully as the apartment I stayed in. You can rent both of them together if you need a larger place to stay, for instance because you’re with family or a group of friends. However, please note that, given the many stairs at Dar 91, I wouldn’t recommend it for families with toddlers.
And allow me to introduce to you the wonderful Naïma. She takes care of everything on site, while also working at Mashi Mushki, the ground floor shop (see below). Each morning, she makes a wonderful breakfast and she takes care that your apartment is spotless again when you get back from your excursions.
What makes Dar 91 so special is the fact that daily life unfolds right in front of you: women drawing water from the village fountain and washing their clothes there; children playing football in the street, craftsmen stretching their weaving yarn across the street; the smell of freshly baked bread from the communal oven used by the residents…I don’t think it can get any more Local than this! And before you know it, wandering through the tiny medina streets, you will find yourself in the middle of a more touristic part of the town, or at the harbour or the beach. Naturally, a visit to the hammam, accompanied by Naïma and strictly “women only”, is a must. And of course, you must also go shopping! I highly recommend a visit to Mashi Mushki, the little shop in the apartment building. At least 10 percent of this shop’s proceeds (and that of Dar 91’s) go to Project 91, a charity project founded by Jeremy and Paolo that aims to support the young people of Essaouira to complete or further their education, thus increasing their chances on the labour market. Project 91 also has its own shop, just opposite Dar 91, selling clothes donated by tourists through the Leave Your Wardrobe in Morocco campaign – so if you can spare a few items you can free up space in your bags for all your new purchases.
In short, Dar 91 is a true Local Hideaway in every sense of the word and above all, a wonderful place to experience the ambience of Essaouira while also contributing to a good cause!