In Morocco, the term “Douar” means a small, traditional village [or] a group of rural dwellings consisting of dozens or sometimes even hundreds of houses. Le Jardin des Douars Hotel can be better described as an oasis. Situated in the hills not far from the seaside town of Essaouira, this splendid hotel is built in the local Ksar style and looks out over the luscious river Oued Ksob.
The hills and the proximity to the sea make sure there’s a constant cooling breeze. Most of the time a nice little breeze, sometimes downright stormy. However, with over 320 days of sunshine, the climate is most agreeable. Throughout the year, the average temperature is between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. This is particularly nice in summer, as the temperature further inland tends to get unpleasantly high.
Le Jardin des Douars Hotel calls itself a guesthouse. Whereas the hotel’s size is likely to outdo a guesthouse, the atmosphere is luckily very much the same. You feel welcome right from the start, the employees meet you with a smile and you feel theirs is genuine unlike in many other hotels where it is often the result of an obligatory training and simply part of the job. Further, owner Grégoire and his team have found a unique balance between the two target groups they wish to serve at Le Jardin des Douars, namely couples and families. There are, for example, two magnificent swimming pools: an infinity pool – one that would not be out of place in Monaco or any Caribbean island – in the upper part of the hotel grounds and the family pool at the foot of the hill. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be enjoyed on the spacious ‘communal’ terrace where they also serve delicious cocktails and other drinks later in the afternoon. We savour our drinks while we stretch out on comfortable day beds. Trendy straw sun hats are available, if the sun hits you too strong.
Inside the hotel, you find the family restaurant La Table des Douars where they serve dishes made from local products. You reserve your table simply by writing down your name on a blackboard. Especially for couples, there is also a romantic candle-lit restaurant. If you are in for a culinary challenge, Essaouira has an enormous choice of restaurants and is only a ten-minute drive away.
The styling of the complex is a mix of the traditional Moroccan style and classic French chic. Earth colours, rough plastered walls, antique, hand-carved doors, furniture coming straight out of an interior magazine and various fireplaces. There are different types of accommodations: varying from intimate and beautifully decorated rooms, some of them with a terrace, to large suites that are suitable for families with two or more children. We stayed in the Douaria suite, a funky place with two bedrooms, a covered courtyard, two terraces, a sitting room with a lounge bed and a fireplace. For a real treat, guests can stay in the Babel, Mogador and Royal suites. All as beautiful as they are spacious. If you not only bring your own family, but also grandpa and grandma and even some friends, there are three large villas for rent - each with a private heated swimming pool and a cook.
Although there are no organised fun activities for children around here, such as playgrounds or kid’s clubs, our daughters thoroughly enjoy themselves. As the name suggests, Le Jardin des Douars is situated in a large garden with all sorts of steps, nooks and crannies; perfect for running around and playing hide-and-seek. Next to the family pool is a paddling pool where toddlers can splash around freely. After a day or two, older kids may want to look for more entertainment in the surrounding area. Well, they don’t need to look very far. Let’s start in Essaouira, Morocco’s surfer’s paradise thanks to the constant wind. Here, both beginners and advanced surfers find everything a surfer’s heart needs as well as surfing schools and surf rentals. As an extra service for surfing parents, Le Jardin des Douars offers a babysit service, so dad and/or mum can go wild in the waves while their kids are being entertained.
After a morning of fun in the waves, teens can dry their hair by riding a Quad bike at top speed through the desert or, if they want to take things a little slower, a mountain bike. Apart from these hair rising sports activities, there is also more peaceful entertainment. For example, the renowned Mogador golf course with all of its 36 holes designed by the famous retired golfer Gary Player. Visit the beautiful waterfalls that flow directly into the sea, the many shouks in Essaouira and other towns and villages nearby, go horseback riding along the beach, surrender to the inevitable camel ride or go fishing in the river or the sea.
For guests who stay longer, Grégoire gladly organises a multi-day hiking trip in the Atlas Mountains with mules, tents and a cook who prepares heavenly meals under the starry sky. There is a special tour for motorcycle lovers who really enjoy going off the beaten track.
If you are not into all that kind of action, there is no better place for simply relaxing than Le Jardin des Douars. Just watch the day go by. The kids who just can’t get enough of the pool, the staff that come to serve tea and home-made cake by the pool, perhaps get a treatment or a massage in the Spa and before you know it, it’s time again to sit down on one of the lounge sofas and enjoy the impressive starry sky together. Like God in Morocco, so to speak!
# Owner Grégoire and his employees know how to create a very relaxed and personal atmosphere while continuing to offer high-level service and an eye for detail.
# The climate is unsurpassed and if the weather is not as good as expected, all the swimming pools are heated and there are enough sheltered places – some of them even come with a fireplace.
# We have seldom been in a place where such different target groups, couples and families, go so well together. This surely adds to the lively ambience. We enjoyed, for example, a BBQ where everybody mingled with one another around platters of grilled meat, fish and healthy salads.