Today, we explore the surroundings of Essaouira with a 4×4. Our landlord gave us the contact of a rental company who (with a little delay anyway), dropped the car off just in front of our house. 400dh (about 40€) and a few signatures later, the case is heard, we have it for one day.
Note: the contact details of the car rental company are marked at the bottom of the article.
Part 1: Travel Diary
Argan oil: Cooperative Kaouki
We start with the visit of an argan oil production cooperative, whose great uncle JB’s (who lives here) told us a lot of good things. We cross a field of argan trees (the road is correct, and accessible even without 4×4) to reach the cooperative, which seems to be rather quiet this morning.
Argan oil is really precious because the argan tree grows only in this region of the world. Argan oil can be used for cosmetics, or for cooking. Moreover, since my arrival in North Africa, my creams are no longer effective and I am obliged to use argan oil as a complement to avoid dry skin.
Here, no one is trying to sell us anything. We are the ones who have to insist that they show us the place and the store. It’s a change from the souk!
Before, part of the work was done by the goats, which eat the fruit and reject the nut. But it smelled too much like goat droppings, so now the cooperatives break the nuts by hand. Here is the first nut cracking. The women come here with their nuts, at any time they want and are paid per kg. So they organize themselves as they wish.
We see the 2 steps to get the white part (on the right on the picture). First break, to remove the flesh (which will be given to the animals), then the second break, to remove the nut. 35kg of fruit are necessary to have 2.5kg of white parts that you see, to produce 1 liter of argan oil.
An employee of the cooperative shows us the machines for cold pressing oil. When it is pressed, there are 2 parts: a kind of pasta (which will be given to the animals) and the oil. This oil is used for cosmetics because cold pressing preserves the properties of the oil. However, the oil will be roasted if it is culinary oil to remove the bitter taste. I tasted argan oil and it has a sweet smell of hazelnut, very pleasant. So I bought 50ml of cosmetic oil for 25dh (2,5€), a soap (20dh) that smells too good. They also sell honey and other cosmetics if you are interested.
Unfortunately, my skin does not like this oil (two small pimples the next day). I therefore recommend to sensitive skin like me to opt for “brand” oils such as Naturelle d’Argan (on sale in Marrakech) 10€ for 100ml, or Melchior & Balthazar (on sale in France).
Visit an Oasis: Ain Lahjar
When we hear about oases, we all have in mind the image of a hungry/thirsty person running towards an oasis, which looks like a mirage, an island exit with palm trees in the middle of the desert. But what does an oasis really look like?
It is a very ordinary place, there isn’t even water, no lake, no place where I can imagine my film heroes, thirsty, drinking from the source like a camel. It’s a greener village than the others. That’s all! Thank you Hollywood for selling us the dream!
To get there, we had to cross the town of Had draa, where JB went last time to attend the weekly market. This time, we act as a shuttle to the local school. We hitchhiked two kids to take them to the oasis above. And when we cross three others who hitch-hike, while our car is full, we came back to pick them up. Good, fortunately, after more nobody makes of the stopover if not we will make the round trip all day long eh.
In any case, 15km separate their house and the school. The poor, they have to walk or hitchhike twice a day. I am ashamed to think back to my student days: I still managed to be late living on the school campus itself.
The Domaine du Val d’Argan
JB spotted this restaurant on Google Maps. They offer very good lunches for 300dh (with access to the pool) and Moroccan wine at will for 120dh more.
The domain is 50ha I believe, and 90% of the bottles produced here are sold in Morocco. There must be a lot of French people living in Morocco who help to sell the stock.
Unfortunately we can’t give you a return on wine because I don’t drink, JB has to drive and the restaurant doesn’t offer wine by the glass. But the meal, copious and delicious, is worth it! Not to mention the breathtaking view. We were alone because it’s quite far from Essaouira.
We are looking for the swimming pool – and here it is! in the middle of a very cute hotel complex, next to the vineyards. I love it!
We take again the road to go to Sidi Kaouki, a huge beach and even less frequented than the one in Essaouira. Here, there are a few restaurants next to an abandoned villa, a campsite almost overlooking the beach, and some services: horse riding, camel riding, quad biking… The wind blows stronger here and surfers, I think, will prefer this beach.
There is a kind of fog that hides the view. I don’t know if it’s the wind that lifts the sand or just fog?
In any case, the beach is very very beautiful, fine sand, a few pebbles here and there, but the water is very clean. To sunbathe, you will have to forget because it is a bit cold with this wind.
Note: the parking near the abandoned villa is paying, 5dh/car. Payment by exiting on the left
As we get back in the car in the direction of Essaouira, we see a billboard for Sofitel and we can’t resist the urge to discover it.
We are used to squatting in 5 star hotels just having a drink at the bar. This hotel also has a nice golf course and several infinity pools, including this one which is visible from the reception.
The bar is really nice and there are several tables where you can sit down to work. We did not ask/test the Wifi connection but it must be slow like everywhere in Morocco.
Instead, we choose to sit here on the terrace, which overlooks the swimming pools and the golf course. We are accompanied by small birds. We could have gone down and sip the mojito, lying on the deckchairs by the pool, but the view is nicer from here. If I remember correctly, it isn’t too expensive, you can choose a mint tea for 30dh (3€) or a Coke (4€).
Can you see the wind turbines in the distance on the big hill?
Back to Essaouira
We return to Essaouira, we call the car rental company and he comes to pick up the 4×4 in front of our house.
So I continue the travel diary which starts another day. JB and I decide to go near the diner for lunch at Beach & Friends, near the surf clubs. But there are more deckchairs than tables so we settle down at the restaurant next door, which has tagines on the menu.
On this side of the beach, there are more dunes so the camels are there, with the quads & horses. It’s pretty funny to see the camels at the beach, it’s the first time I see it.
This one isn’t dead (contrary to what we thought for a moment!), he is just sleeping 🙂
Tagine with fish, a speciality of Essaouira. It’s super super good! Two cats meowing next to us while hoping for a little piece of fish… that we ended up giving #jesuisfaible
It’s very nice to have lunch or to watch the camels pass by
Sunset in Essaouira
Even if we’ve been in Essaouira for 3 weeks now, it’s the first time that we take the time to watch the sunset at the beach. Today, there is a little bit of clouds, but the show remains great. I’m sure we will find other cloudless moments to beat the record of beauty of the sunset we saw in Uruguay
Part 2: Practical Tips
- 4×4 rental: 400dh/day. The road is tarred and we couldn’t have rented a normal car in fact. But we preferred to opt for a 4×4 so that JB trains before our stay in the desert
- Gasoline: 100dh was fully sufficient for today’s route
- Drinks at Sofitel: between 30dh and 70dh
- Lunch at the Domaine du Val d’Argan: 300dh starter-dish-dessert fixed menu. Drinks from 20dh. 120dh more if you opt for wine at will.
- Cooperative of argan oil: 25dh the 50ml of argan oil. 20dh for a soap. Free visit of the “factory”
- Parking at the beach: 5dh
Contact Khalid who rented us the 4×4. He is a friend of our landlord (nicknamed “the painter”). You can call him the same day but the ideal would be to contact him the day before to reserve a normal car, or a 4×4. He speaks French.
No need to leave him the passport (he will only take the number). His number: +212 662 021547