We made the mistake of walking to Riad Zahra from Madada Mogador at 12 noon with our backpacks in the afternoon sun beating down on us. Why we constantly try to cut a few corners (especially when a taxi in Essaouira is only 70 cents) I’ll never know.
Perhaps — at least for me — it’s the feeling of my hardcore backpacking days slipping away and my desire to prove to myself that I can still hang tough no matter where in the world I am. Which is pretty odd, because I’m also really fond of being spoiled rotten by amazing locations and comfy bathrobes and willing to splash out on an experience I really want.
But not this time, as I felt the sun seeping into my skin I knew this was the last midday walk I could take in Moroccan sun while carrying all our luggage before I grab a taxi. At least I can tell myself it’s supporting local jobs, right?
We were given directions to Zahra by a few hotels along the way — they pointed to the towering crane and for a moment it seemed like the hotel we were supposed to arrive to was under construction — luckily Maddy is tall enough to spot the sign that peered out towards us.
Best For Families on a Budget
When the doors of the Riad were opened by one of the staff the beautiful staircase greeted us and the view that I ‘d seen online came into sight. In fact, it’s a lot better than photos led me to believe. The hotel is huge: we were given a tour and shown the outdoor pool with a resident turtle, both restaurants, (one was closed and sadly the other couldn’t cater to vegan food so we didn’t get to try them) and their art gallery which lines the riad walls.
The door to our room was opened and we were sort of confused; it didn’t match the theme of the hotel and needed a good airing out. Oh well, the owner had warned us that it wasn’t luxurious but for the price it still seemed like a good deal being only a 5 minute walk to the beach.
Maddy went to go take photos of the property and I started to compose notes from Madada Mogador while the stay was still fresh in my mind. When Maddy came back he showed me photos of the other rooms — they were gorgeous, spacious, some with beautiful balconies and even had a bench to work from (I had to work from the bed) — and they were all empty! So if you’re planning on staying here for the value make sure you find out what room you’ll be in.
Giving My Vegan Shoes A Test-Drive
Slightly bummed we got stuck in what felt like an castaway room we spent most of our time outside of the hotel and used the advantageous location to take nightly walks to our favorite garbanzo vendor and msemen shop inside the Medina.
It was a great chance to break in my vegan Kandals shoes that I’d found online since the 20 minute walk was wonderful at night. Kandals are a vegan shoe company; their shoes are made in Spain and they sent me a trial pair to review. They were comfy from the moment I put them on and I can see why this style is so popular with all the cool kids. Although there was a lot of confusion between Maddy and I when I’d ask “have you seen my Kandals?” and he’d go around looking for tealights, which yes, I do pack because even nomads need a little romance.
Though I wound up breaking down and buying new shoes on the road that had a thicker sole thanks to the cobblestones and uneven pavement that’s prevalent in Morocco these are perfect for strolls on smoothly paved surfaces – so maybe more of a summer city shoe. Regardless of the fact it felt like being barefoot I’m keeping the Kandals in my backpack for when they’re ready to be bust out. I love supporting vegan companies and think Kandals makes a good alternative to Tom’s for those who are looking for an ethical shoe!
They certainly beat out all the leather slippers which are so prevalent here in Essaouira’s souks. I mean, the leather shoes have a very distinct smell to them before being worn – I can’t imagine what they’re like after a sweaty summer. Woof.
When all the shops shut, the baskets of herbs are brought inside and the shop hustlers roll down their doors the city takes a breath and everyone seems a little more relaxed. We brave the wind and walk back to our home for the night in the stillness of Essaouira’s evening.
Bed and Breakfast
Back at Riad Zahra we cuddle up thanks to the mountain of blankets they provide it does get really windy and chilly in Essaouira in the winter! To warm up we pestered the night guard for a mint tea and were only charged 10 dirham for it which was a nice change to the 40 dirham we were charged at Villa Maroc…
Breakfast is served in the lower restaurant next to the pool. As vegans we have limited breakfast options in Moroccan riads; we were given jam and bread with orange juice and coffee but had to send back the butter, honey, milk, yogurt, and croissants. I imagine for non-vegans this would be a really filling breakfast!
The second morning we were also given a plate of fresh local fruit which we loved a lot. We spent our time enjoying the space and sunshine in the breakfast room while planning out the rest of our week in Essaouira and trying to contain our excitement for our upcoming trip to Rebali Riads in the nearby town of Sidi Kaouki.
Disclaimer: we were guests of Riad Zahra for two nights and were gifted the Kandals for review but as you know that never changes our opinion; we always promise to give it to you straight!