The Heure Bleue is a traditional riad, situated in the Essaouira medina, restored to a very high level to merit its Relais & Chateau status.
Hidden behind huge oak doors, L’heure Bleue is an upmarket Relais & Châteaux riad with an unusual history. Originally a 19th century palace for Essaouira’s governor, it then existed only as a simple traveller’s stop-off until 2004, when a wholesale restoration installed an opulent colonial style. Now the place feels more members club, less hotel: an island of sophistication and style deep inside the whitewashed walls of Morocco’s hippie city.
ROOMS: The 16 rooms and 19 suites are variously decorated in African, Portuguese, colonial English, Oriental and African styles; exotic menageries of carvings, rich fabrics, lamps and wood-shuttered windows. All have air-conditioning and fireplaces, and all look onto the courtyard’s palm trees and day-beds. First-floor rooms are quieter and brighter; suites boast bath tubs. Wherever you sleep, the sound of the ever-crashing ocean lends a restful air.
FACILITIES: Along with the great service, an unusually wide range of common areas – bar, library, billiards room – raise this bolthole above the ordinary. Those, and the heated rooftop pool and terrace, a stunning perch above the UNESCO-protected old town. Make sure to have a scrub, massage or hammam in the Zen Ritual spa before settling down to dinner – zesty Moroccan or international (mainly French) cuisine, with fresh seafood a speciality.
MORE INFO: Wi-Fi’s available throughout. For active types, the hotel can arrange quad-biking, windsurfing and kitesurfing; for inactive types, there’s a home cinema room and DVD library.