In tourist terms, Marrakech may be Morocco’s most popular city but it’s far from peaceful. On a scorching day, stumbling through its labyrinthine souks is more draining than delightful. The throng of touts and traders clamouring for your attention grates after a while too. To experience the country at its most mellow, I went instead to Essaouira.
On the west coast and cooled by sea breezes from the Atlantic, this small town’s core is a coil of cobbled streets closed to traffic and flanked by timeworn, whitewashed houses. It’s also home to Morocco’s first eco hotel, Lalla Mira.
In her previous life, its founder was an organic gardener in Germany and her commitment to the environment extends far beyond requesting guests reuse their towels. A water-recycling system is in place to preserve that most precious resource -- the Sahara isn’t far away -- and solar panels by the roof terrace help meet the hotel’s energy needs. Bed linens are made of organic cotton; food is locally sourced wherever possible; the hotel supports a nearby women’s cooperative. It’s the kind of place you as a guest can feel good about supporting and, perhaps more decisively, it’s also the kind of place where it feels good to be a guest. Although our room was somewhat plain it was homely and comfortable -- and cheap too, with double rooms starting at around $55.