Thursday, March 3, 2011

Some groovy places to stay in Essaouira, Morocco. Plus: carpet shopping!

Somewhere along the way in my trip research, I came across a listing for an apartment for rent in Essaouira and I looked up the website, and I really really wanted to stay there. I contacted the owner, but it wouldn't work out: the place had five bedrooms and was only let as a whole, and by the week. We needed one bedroom, for four days. So: no. But. The owner, expat Brit Emma Wilson, has a second more modest apartment, that happens to be more happily situated right in the heart of the city -- really, it couldn't be better situated. We jumped on it.

The more modest apartment is two-bedroom Dar Emma. Here is the dead-end lane, right off one of the main shopping streets, about two minutes from the square and maybe thirty seconds from the medieval city ramparts.

Clementine pointing out the doorway:

Dar Emma is a tiny tall house: four stories, each one just about big enough for a room or two. A tiled staircase rises steeply floor by floor to the tip-top pair of private roof terraces, and here is the coolest thing: the whole apartment is a "sky well." That is: it's open from the kitchen floor all the way up four stories to the sky overhead. When it rain (seldom), it rains right into the apartment, for which purpose there is a drain in the floor. You look up while cooking and seeing that insane blue Essaouira sky over your head. 

Here's the roof terrace. There's no view, and yet no one is looking right down at you either. It feels like an outdoor living room:

First floor: kitchen and dining nook:

We requested dinner on the day of our arrival; the daily maid brings it by; it was a marvelous chicken tagine and this platter of salads and veg that could have fed about eight people:

Here's Clementine crashed out asleep on the banquette while we ate it:

Second floor, bathroom and first bedroom, all tadelakt and tile; third floor, another bedroom, and then up from there it's the tiered terraces. 

And look! Look! The folk art animals, third sighting. I remarked to Emma (who met us on arrival and led us to the apartment, giving us an invaluable Essaouira orientation along the way) that we kept seeing them at guesthouses and loved them, and she replied, Oh, they're made here. An old man makes them, and sells them right out there on the street.

Seriously, like ten steps from the door. Ha ha! Can you believe it? He was there the next day:

We bought five. So there is the fulfillment of the folk art animal quest, easy peasy :-)

Anyway, Dar Emma = Great space, great location, great value, great host. Highly recommended. It was great to have our own space after being in guesthouses everywhere else. 

And, lucky us, Emma's other apartment was unrented that week (low season), so she took us to see it. WOW. It's so cool. Farther from the main stuff, but Essaouira is small, so it's not a big deal. It's called Dar Beida, which means White House (you'll see why), and it's been in about a bajillion design magazines, both as a featured site, and as a location for fashion shoots. It's SO COOL. Look!

Insert disclaimer here. I made a camera equipment judgement call that somewhat haunted me on this trip. I decided I could only bring one lens, what with carrying all the baby stuff, not to mention the baby herself, and so I had to pick: 28-300mm, or 18-105mm? Essentially, what was more important, telephoto, or wide angle? I opted for the first, and that did yield some great shots ("great" by my amateur standards), but when it came to shooting interiors, I was lost, and I couldn't do either of these places justice. It makes them look tight and narrow, which Dar Emma is (cozily so), but Dar Beida isn't. 

I love built-in bed nooks like the above.
And I love the eclectic design here, the modern mixed with traditional,
the unique pieces that really make it.

And oh, how I love the skull wall (plus one pelvis).

As I mentioned, five bedrooms, one of which is a totally cool penthouse with a private terrace. 
And this house does have views.

The shared terrace from above:

Is that place striking or what? It was so cool of Emma to show it to us.
If you stay there, send me pictures!

* * *

Okay, and I was going to save this for its own post, but I need to finally wrap up these Morocco posts. I've milked that two weeks for long enough, don't you think? So, this is the last one! Bye bye Morocco! As with our trip to Turkey about eleven years ago, we "escaped" the big city without buying any carpets. (Istanbul then, Marrakesh now.) The pressure is so high to buy there that it's not even fun. In Turkey, we were later strolling past a caravanseray in Cappadoccia and spied a kilim we had to have. In Morocco, it was a shop recommendation from Emma that did us in. 

Look at the yum:


Little Miss Silly Pie loved her some carpet shopping.
The below romp is what led up to the total conk out in the purple pajamas above.

So soft. Those gorgeous beauties are natural (undyed, unbleached) lamb's wool,
like a cloud on your cheek, and spendy. We didn't get one. 
(And no, we didn't get more than one either.
We got zero.
Of that kind, anyway :-)

Okay, so maybe this one came home with us. *lovelovelove*

It's a kilim (flat weave as opposed to pile carpet), which Mustafa told us the region of the Atlas it comes from does not traditionally do, leading him to believe that this was made by a woman who had married into that area, and brought her home technique with her. Cool!

Has anyone seen Clementine?

Clementine? Clementine???

Oh! There she is!

Um, that one she's standing on? That one might have made it home with us too :-)

They're antique Berber carpets from the Atlas mountains, woven in about the 1960s probably. Unlike with Persian carpets, Berber women don't follow a design pattern. They let their creativity move them as they go. It makes for a wonderful free-form design, each totally unique.

We had our share of horrible shopping experiences in Morocco, so when we found a shop where we felt comfortable, where we liked/trusted the seller, we stuck around. Mustafa was great, and his prices were good to start, so we didn't have to haggle to feel good about what we bought. So, we nabbed some cool one-of-a-kind rugs for the new house. Hurray! Can't wait to lay them down there. 

(To find the shop, as you head from Place Moulay Hassan into town, take the first turn toward the sea; it's a narrow lane that leads around to the Scala de Ville (the rampart). Or, ask Emma!

 If you're interested in seeing all of my Morocco posts, click on the Morocco tag below; it'll line them all up for you. Cheers!


Camille said...

Wow, I' going to miss all the post on Morocco. They were so lovely... you make everything sound magic and adventurous. Besides, It reminded me of my time there. I must admit that my favorite stop in Morocco was Essaouira. It was suche a beautiful and friendly town. I've lived three years in Algiers and it's nice to be brought back in time to such a lovely atmosphere. Thank You for the amazing posts. And Good luck with book two. I can't wait to get my hands on Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The more I here about it, the better it sounds. I loved, loved, loved The Faeries of Dreamdark series. Good luck.

MacDougal Street Baby said...

Thank you so much for this peek into another world. I can't help but to wonder what these Moroccans thought of this American with pink hair!

Essaouira Morocco said...

Lying on the western coast of morocco, Essaouira is a very laid back and peaceful place. The huge walls and tradition scenario do not allow for much traffic. There are many cafes that let you lay back and just lounge and enjoy your drinks and cocktails the atmosphere is amazing with the architecture that is very influenced with its culture.

~Michelle~ said...

Love you posts on Morocco, so beautiful! The colors are just amazing!

andalucy said...

I'm so glad you found this great shop! Looks like you made some gorgeous purchases. And now I really want to go to Essaouira.

SarahWT said...

Hey, Laini! Just want to tell you how much I've enjoyed your Morocco posts. Your photos are fantastic, and I love the way you've narrated them. I'm so happy you and Jim finally got to realize this dream trip! And I love imagining all the amazing places Clementine will go with you two - what a magical childhood you're giving her.

Incidentally, I've been thoroughly digging your neighborhood look-sees, as well! Portland's been on my list of places to visit for a long time, and it's fun getting to do this vicariously through you. It's brightened many a wintry Midwest day, these past months. Sending thanks for the glimpses and best wishes for a lovely weekend!

Elizabeth said...

awesome! we stayed at dar assalama in essaouira, and it was just as great as what you describe. :) they also have an apartment they rent, which was 2 beds and amazing. our first two days there were during the annual gnaoua music festival, which brought thousands of people and lots of ass-grabbing (the music was great, though). on the third day, everyone had left and essaouira went back to its normal vibe. we had a great experience textile shopping there too--my friend got a silk bed throw in spectacular turquoise, and i got a couple of pashminas as gifts, and it was comfortable, low-pressure and decent prices. essaouira was just what we needed after marrakech and the sahara!

Dalissa 365 said...

Wow! What a gorgeous place to stay. And, I love the kilims! Thank you for sharing your adventure.

Sunday said...

Morocco envy! this little episode i stumbled upon about a nomadic berber family whom live in the caves of Todra gorge. I can just see Karou wrapped up in a shawl with her blue hair pouring around her sipping tea and trading folktales of her origins.

Touriste Pro said...

Great pictures, great smiles, nice to see this in our city. Next time, pay us a visit and discover our suites rental in Essaouira! We love happy people!

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