If it is the Riviera you seek, however, Agadir fits that bill,
with its mid-twentieth-century spread and expanse of luxury hotels and
reputation as a place of escape for young Casablanca professionals.
One of the newest properties in the area is the ultra-modern Sofitel
Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa, designed with trend-setting couples
in mind, down to the expansive spa and enticing Medicine Bar’s flirty ocktails (see Lucire Home). Families, meanwhile, can enjoy a
tranquil Moroccan beach holiday at the neighbouring Sofitel Royal
Essaouria is best described as a big little city, merging the charms
of Marrakech with a breezy, laid-back, beach-town feel. The souk,
though smaller, has dozens of lovely pottery and leather shoe stalls
to keep your attention. If you are seeking the freshest fish for
a made-to-order meal, meanwhile, it is a good thing to have somebody
like Youniss to steer you the right way as the only thing setting
apart different eateries are a few tents, tables and reputation.
He has us making a beeline for Calvados 14, which looks promising
as it has the largest number of local and foreign diners.
Near the entrance, a fishmonger presents us with our choice of
shrimp, prawns and fish. Our selections are grilled and attired
only with a dusting of Ras el Harout spice mix and fresh lemon.
We are serenaded by local musicians and surrounded by cool sea breezes
and the area’s famed maritime architecture. Though we may not totally
be able to recreate this boardwalk dining experience at home, Youniss
noted we could at least endeavour to recreate the tea-time setting
and beautifully attired bedrooms of our luxurious boutique hotel,
les Heures Bleues, at Mogador. This large, but unassuming shop off
the beaten track stocks exquisite carved and inlaid wood furnishings
accessories and souvenirs for every room in the house.
Essaouria fruit stand
Pool at les Trois Chameaux, Mirleft
The surf-and-beach town of Mirleft is at this stage a diamond in
the rough, finding a niche with adventurous Marrakech and Casablanca
locals. Overlooking the emerging destination is les Trois Chameaux,
which at once reflects Morocco’s storied twentieth-century history as
well as the destination Mirleft can transform into in the future.
This property is forged from the home of a former military family
and sits in the shadow of the remains of a World War II fortification.
The private rooms and public areas are peppered with fascinating
twentieth-century memorabilia and local handcrafts. That authenticity,
lovingly cultivated by the management, continues into the kitchen
and dining room with historic posters, documents and family photos
lining the walls.
The aromas that waft from the kitchen are just
as colourful and fascinating. It turns out that they were generated
by the painstaking preparation of the main course, a fresh local
fish seasoned with Ras el Harout and other secret ingredients, and
baked with a mix of vegetables inside a similar kind of bread dough
used to make the addictive bread sold along the streets of El Jadida.
The unusual fish recipe serves as the perfect metaphor not just
for Moroccan cuisine but the lifestyle as well. To get to the best
and most interesting stuff, you have to dig a little deeper and
cut below the surface to get to the heart and soul of the dish. •