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Riad Dar L’Qdima REVIEW: an Essaouira hotel steeped in Jewish history

Riad Dar L’Qdima REVIEW: an Essaouira hotel steeped in Jewish history

Staying in a traditional riad is one of the classic Essaouira experiences, giving you the opportunity to sleep in the heart of the medina. Riad Dar L’Qdima is one of the best examples we’ve personally experienced; its situated close to the action, yet retains a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, plus the room rate is kind to your wallet.

This riad was originally an old Jewish house where groundskeepers stayed in the ground floor room and multiple other families lived on the first and second floors. It is now run by an American and Moroccan couple who have lovingly renovated the building, bringing it back to life, to offer the traveller a friendly and authentic experience in Essaouira’s medina. 

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A note about staying in a riad

Like any riad in Morocco (a traditional townhouse with central courtyard), sound carries. Voices of guests coming and going carry up through the central open courtyard, and you often hear when other doors are opening and closing. Most guests adhere to being quiet and it’s all part of experiencing a stay at a traditional riad, one of the top things to do in Essaouira.

Plus, being in the medina and with single glazed windows (typical of a riad), the call to prayer will be heard from your room and may wake you in the early morning (sunrise). Just something to bear in mind.

Arriving to Riad Dar L’Qdima

The riad is situated just off the main boulevard (opposite Mega Loft), so it’s easy to find if you’ve entered the medina via Bab Sbaa. We also checked their reel on Instagram which shows the way from Bab Sbaa.

As soon as you enter the building, the relaxed atmosphere is apparent, with painting and sculptures lining the hallway towards the reception area. 

We arrived late (11:30pm) but the friendly Zachary was waiting for us with a warm welcome and mint tea. We sat in the comfy chairs of the lounge area and enjoyed our drinks whilst Zachary took care of the paperwork; the usually onerous Moroccan check-in process was one of the smoothest we’ve experienced, and we were soon ready to head up to our room after a lovely welcome from Teresa, the co-owner. 

Our room

As is typical of most Moroccan riads, the rooms are arranged around an open central space, giving them a communal feel with plenty of natural light. Our double room was on the second floor (accessible only via steps), with three other rooms on the same level.

The double rooms at the riad aren’t huge, but that’s not uncommon in this type of accommodation. You’ll find a double bed, wardrobe and ensuite bathroom (with a powerful, hot shower; not something you’re always guaranteed in riads). Note that there isn’t a window in these rooms, nor a kettle or fridge.

The double rooms are cosy and absolutely fine for your visit, especially if you’re planning to spend most of your time exploring the city. They’re not really the type of rooms you’d spend hours relaxing in, although there are plenty of common areas in the riad if you choose to relax.

Breakfast

Breakfast at Riad Dar L’Qdima is served from 9am to 11am in the downstairs dining/lounge area. It’s a relaxed and communal affair, with fellow guests sat nearby if you fancy a chat.

A Moroccan breakfast is usually a simple but tasty affair and the riad’s version is a great example. After choosing either tea or coffee (English tea is available!), you’ll be served with omelette, m’semen (Moroccan pancake), baguette, fruits, jam, butter, and orange juice. A nutritious start to the day, and the beautiful surroundings make it extra special.

Communal areas

Besides the dining area, the riad has several other communal spaces for guests to use. In the colder winter months, you’ll find a large downstairs lounge area with traditional sofas covering the perimeter of the room. There’s also a very tempting-looking fireplace for when the temperature really drops. If you’re extra lucky, the co-owner, Lokmane might play some Moroccan music.

At the top of the riad, there’s an outdoor area with plenty of seating, offering the chance to take in some sun (although it’s not at quite on the rooftop, so the views are slightly limited). Yoga is also offered here to guests on a Thursday, but sadly this didn’t coincide with our visit.

We should also mention that a traditional Moroccan cooking class can be arranged during your visit. In fact, we’ve spotted that the owners also run a YouTube channel that features their recipes, as well as Moroccan lifestyle videos, and they also sell a Moroccan cooking ebook.

Wifi

The Wifi is a good speed and reliable. The internet connectivity in the medina is improving all the time and we had no problems getting online during our stay. The router is centrally placed, so you’ll get signal wherever you are.

Booking you stay at Riad Dar L’Qdima

Rooms can be booked direct on the Riad Dar L’Qdima website. If you have any questions about your visit, Teresa is very prompt to reply and for those concerned of any language barrier, Teresa is a native English speaker.

Final thoughts on Riad Dar L’Qdima

The number of riad-accommodation is increasing all the time in Essaouira, but Riad Dar L’Qdima still stands out from the crowd and is why it features in our recommended hotels in Essaouira.

The riad’s name translates to ‘The Old House’ and it’s fantastic to see this old house brought back to life and back into the heart of the city. Indeed, it’s clear from speaking to the lovely owners how much they care about both the building’s history and Essaouira, and the riad reflects their personalities. With the friendly and efficient staff who are quick to answer any query, you’re getting the benefits of both a hotel and traditional riad.

The location is a huge plus point; close enough to the main sights and restaurants, but quiet enough in the evenings to relax and enjoy the building. Rooms are perhaps on the basic side, which is reflected in the room rate, but we just see this as another bonus point as Riad Dar L’Qdima offers an affordable experience of traditional Essaouira.

Thank you to Teresa and Lokmane for a wonderful stay. We’ll be back for that drink by the fire one day.


Explore Essaouira ebook

Updated for 2024, the Explore Essaouira ebook is the only travel guide you need for exploring Essaouira. It is jam packed with inspiration on what to do, where to eat, where to stay, and also includes a step-by-step self-guided walking tour (with photos). 

This is a PDF download for use offline and on the go (and ad-free!). Save it to read on the plane to Morocco, download to your phone to follow the self-guided walking tour around the medina, or print it off at home before you leave on your adventures and highlight all the bits you want to remember for your visit.

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