We stayed at the Medina Essaouira Hotel Spa in July 2012 for a week, to escape the heat of the Marrakech but still experience the novelty of Morroco. The hotel is located on the seafront about 10 minutes walk from the walled town of Essaouira. The hotel is basically U shaped with the swimming pool sheltered from most of the trade winds within the walls of the hotel. The pool has great facilities with tents for those that want to hide from the sun and comfy beds - it's not a busy hotel so there's no fighting for the best spots. At the end of the pool is a raised solarium area with stone built beds and hammocks for the steady of nerve. As there is a constant breeze sunbathing is experienced without a tacky feeling but use a high factor cream as that southern sun is fierce. The wind seems to change direction at about 3:00pm to 4:00pm and it gets chilly around the pool so its empty in the late afternoon.
The rooms are very different depending on whether they overlook the pool or the beach - I had the beach room and my daughter the pool view room. Overlooking the pool is lush vegatation and purple flowers, whereas the beach view catches all day sun and the early morning mists. Essaouria is cool all year round - we left Marrakech at 52deg C and drove across the "desert" reaching the Atalantic and about 25deg C. There's a thin layer of cloud created by the trade winds in the early morning but this tends to burn off fairly early. It drops to around 18deg C or a bit lower at night so its worth taking a thin jumper or buy a jelaba in the local souk - I paid about £40 for a Berber version in lightweight wool. Make sure you buy a second hand one for the original version - the locals praised my choice - maybe they knew the trader? The hotel is dry as far as alcohol - at least I didn't see any on sale in the hotel at all.
The walled town is very civilised after the mayhem of Marrakech, with the majority of shops devoted to serving the local people rather than just tourists - although there are plenty of places to buy all the usual stuff, carpets et al. The Mellah or Jewish Quater is fascinating - it is falling down after all the last of the Jews left in the 50's. They left without selling or passing on the house deeds so the Moroccans have not taken over the property and left it to the Atalantic winds. It's a sign of the local honour displayed to other's property. But the city authorities will need to resolve the issue as the old buildings are becoming dangerous.
It's great to wander around the souks without hassle - and it's not possible to get lost as sooner or later you will hit the city wall and be able to track back to a known point. There are a few restaurants that sell alcolhol - but hey it's good to lay off the juice for a while. But the absence of alcolhol does mean that the social entertainment structures we take for granted in Europe just do not exist to keep tourists relaxing and happy. Per example, a new sewer being dug through the town seemed to provide a significant source of alternative entertainment for the locals - it feels culture light but hard to tell without getting embedded into the town - a fair number of Europeans have set up Riads or restaurants and one French couple we saw went around collecting the stray cats - sadly you will see sick animals.
There is a working fishing harbour with scores of large Egyptian blue row boats and heavier motorised vessels. They tend to fish in the early and late months of the year so fish catches are small in the summer. The inner and outer harbours are fortified with scores of bronze cannon protecting the seaways. With a fair number of Spanish and English weapons side by side it's an odd sight.
The Medina Spa is a great hotel and I would put it at one of my favourite hotels in Africa.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Reminiscent of a sumptuous Moroccan riad, the facade of the Sofitel Thalassa Essaouira is painted the traditional red of Mogador. Set on the coast, close to the medina, this charming luxury hotel furnished with thuja and lemon wood cabinets, provides direct access to a luxury thalassotherapy centre. Enjoy an unforgettable leisure and fitness break. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Le Medina Essaouira Hotel Thalassa Sea And Spa - Mgallery Collection
- Accor Thalassa Essaouira
- Sofitel Essaouira
- Essaouira Sofitel