If you are contemplating a riad stay in Essaouira then you may want to consider Ryad Watier. In this post I share a full review of the Ryad Watier guest house situated in the heart of the Essaouira Medina.
If you picture a stay in Morocco you imagine walking down narrow Medina alleys, turning into a narrower alley and arriving at an antique door. Behind that antique door you open up into a beautiful riad courtyard. Then as you gradually look up, you see several floors of tiered balconies stretching up to a blue sky above. It’s authentic, it’s personal, it’s cosy and boutique… it’s quintessentially Morocco.
And so how does Ryad Watier in Essaouira rate on our quintessential Moroccan riad scale? Well we stayed for three nights and so I am able to share our thoughts based on the location, the views, the rooms, breakfast, communal spaces, what it’s like to visit with kids and the overall vibe.
I have to admit, my interest was immediately piqued when I learnt that only two weeks earlier Ryad Watier had received Liam Hemsworth and Laura Dern as guests. It seems they were in Morocco filming for a new Netflix movie – Lonely Planet.
But like the professional I am, I managed to put Hollywood distractions aside and was able to continue my search of what makes Ryad Watier tick. So below I share the story of the riad and help you decide if it sounds like the right one for your vacation to Essaouira.
Just to clarify, the word riad is actually a phonetic translation of the Arabic word ryad – or garden. I use the word riad throughout this post unless using the name of the guest house Ryad Watier.
Ryad Watier at a Glance
🌊 Location – Rue Ceuta, Medina Essaouira – 3 hours from Marrakech
💶 Approximate Rates – 60 – 150 Euros per night, half board rates also available
🛏 10 Rooms Available – Single, Double & Family Rooms
🍽 Amenities – Inclusive breakfast, Wifi, Massage room
📚 Shared Spaces – Library, Indoor & Outdoor Terraces with views over the Medina, Kitchen, Living & Dining Room, Indoor & Outdoor Courtyard
Ryad Watier, is owned by Frenchman Jean-Gabriel and has a unique story, that sets it apart from other riads in Essaouira. Read on for our full review below.
The Story of Ryad Watier – Essaouira
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On my first morning, Hayat, the manager, greets me good morning and we chat about Jean-Gabriel the owner of Ryad Watier. It’s not long before she stops mid sentence… “let’s call him,” she says. Within seconds I’m chatting and laughing with Jean-Gabriel and his Australian wife who are currently living down-under in Sydney.
I get an immediate sense that Jean-Gabriel is a people person, interested in their stories, a true travelling soul. Despite having never had any communication with him prior to this WhatsApp chat, I felt a connection. And it is this connection that you feel the moment you enter through the beautiful blue door of Ryad Watier and meet the incredible Hayat and her all-women team.
I was keen to learn more about how Ryad Watier came to be. How does a French artist and sailor, end up owning a guest house in the Medina in Essaouira, Morocco?
In short, in 2003 Jean-Gabriel moves to Essaouira and purchases a boarded up crumbling school house. Then he begins an 18 month long journey, along with the help of his architect brother, of transforming the space into a ten bedroom guest house. The final result – Ryad Watier is born – part art gallery, part home and pure vision.
I know instantly that this is the kind of place that you don’t just holiday in, it’s the kind of place you connect with and make life long friends in. Ryad Watier fits us like a glove.
Ryad Watier Location in the Medina
Wander down the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah Ave, one of the main shopping streets within the very heart of the Medina. Take a left down the quiet alley Rue Ceuta, mind your head as you walk through a portion of the alley covered by homes and shops. Before opening up into a small courtyard and entrance to Ryad Watier.
Down here you are mere metres from the restaurants and shops. The kind of shops tempting you with ALL those beautiful Moroccan carpets, argan oils, lamps, jewellery etc… you know the types of Moroccan treasures I speak of. But at the same time you are tucked away off the main route, giving you a feeling of calm and protection from the busy Medina.
In my opinion, this is the best part of the Medina and we have stayed here a full month so we know our way around by now. Outside you can hear the noisy seagull banter as they ride the wind currents over the beach. And you can also hear the waves on a windy day crashing against the rocks, just outside the rampart walls. The location of Ryad Watier just doesn’t get much better in terms of finding yourself in the heart of Essaouira.
Breakfast is included in your stay at Ryad Watier and is taken on the terrace. We were served a freshly squeezed orange juice with fresh fruit salads and homemade jams, with local Moroccan specialities the M’semen and Beghrir. We were also offered eggs cooked to our liking, but we wanted traditional! And this was a typical breakfast served at its best.
The girls enthusiastically tucked into the spread, while spilling hot chocolate all over the show. Breakfast is always a highlight in our family, and this one impressed us all!
With a wifi router on each floor, the terrace and on the patio… catching up on work and staying connected is no trouble at all. Which in the Medina in Essaouira is not easy at all times. The high walls can create a challenge in trying to find cell phone signal. However at Ryad Watier we had no difficulty.
Massage & Spa
Currently you can book a massage wth the lovely ladies at Ryad Watier. But guests increasingly ask about spa and spa treatments. Based on guest interest Hayat is exploring the options of putting in a spa within the riad. So stay tuned… the Ryad Watier Spa may be soon on it’s way!
The Shared Spaces
It’s in the shared spaces where Ryad Watier shines. It’s obvious that thought has been taken to create shared spaces that make guests feel at home…
One of our favourite rooms in Ryad Watier is the Library… yes there is a library. In fact there are books everywhere. So if you like to read a couple of books while on vacation, you really won’t need to bring one with you.
Picture books, browsing books, reading books, travel books, French books, English books… you catch my drift. Book lovers fear not, you will not run out of quality reading material. I actually left my stay at Ryad Watier with an increased to-read list.
Terrace and Views over Essaouira
There are three terraces with beautiful views over the busy and rustic Medina. A terrace for each type of weather. And this is where breakfast is served. Sit indoors on the terrace when it’s colder and windy out, or on the shaded terrace when it’s hot, or catch some sun on the lounger chairs if you’re looking to work on your tan action.
There is a lovely cosy little kitchen downstairs. Another invitation to feel at home!
Guests are able to buy produce from the local market or supermarket and to self-cater. And I don’t know about you, but as a family this is often an amenity we search for when booking a hotel.
Sometimes we just feel like something home-cooked so knowing that you have the option to prepare a meal in the riad can be a nice comfort.
The Dining & Living Room
Just off the centre courtyard, doors lead into the comfortable dining and living room. You immediately feel at home, a large open fire waits to be lit for the winter months, a large communal dining table ready for the evenings guests. Every corner of the space grabs your eye. From the artwork, wall tapestries, coffee tables and floor cushions to the treasures adorning the sills of the large windows.
The Indoor & Outdoor Courtyard
The indoor courtyard is full of lush greenery, which against the beautiful light teal and deep reds of the tiered riad balconies… speak Morocco! Little details are everywhere and for me it’s a pleasure to photograph. And as a guest, it’s a sign of the creative and dedicated people who live and work here.
The spaces of Ryad Watier are a place to wander, admire and marvel. There is plenty to take inspiration from, if you too are a creative mind.
We stayed in the Pere Jago family room. The mezzanine floor was an immediate hit with the kids. No sooner had we entered and they eagerly took off up the stairs to claim their beds.
This gave us a feeling of privacy downstairs and chance to get some space from each other. We travel full-time as a family, which has a way of making you feel like you live in each other’s pockets. Not here!
The kids had their own space to sit and do their thing. While on our level of the family suite, we sat comfortably in the evening with doors to our right overlooking the outdoor courtyard. And with the window open, music filled our room from the central courtyard once again inviting us to feel relaxed and at home.
And our sleep – well you’ll hear no complaints from me. The beds were the perfect balance between firm and soft, the sheets were crisp and the pillows the kind you could get lost in. Our sleep was undisturbed and absolutely perfect!
It might sound kind of crazy but I love a good hotel shampoo and shower gel, it’s one of the first things I check. I loved the nook in which they sat and the glass bottles with intricately patterned metal lids. And they smelled gorgeous!
Ryad Watier with Kids
Before our visit I was concerned that our sometimes rambunctious duo might disturb the peace. But this was simply not an issue. In fact the homely nature of the riad feels complete with children’s chatter. Ryad Watier does NOT follow the old fashioned thought of ~ children should be seen and not heard ~ instead it’s a place where their presence is genuinely appreciated.
Our girls were warmly welcomed. And it wasn’t long before they were whisked away to meet the resident cats and Mikey – a baby tortoise – the newest member of the Ryad Watier family.
There are three family rooms within the total of ten guest rooms. And what’s best is the family suites are so large that they can accommodate families with three children. This is a rarity among other riads in Essaouira.
And how was the experience for our two girls?
Well they loved their time browsing titles in the library – probably because this gave them the opportunity to climb the library ladder. They enjoyed sitting in the nautical inspired terrace to catch up on their world schooling work, while overlooking the Medina. And when asked to help kneed the dough for the local Moroccan bread – m’semen – they were all over it!
By the time we left they were running around, from floor to floor like they owned Ryad Watier.
Commitment to Sustainability
As you know, we are all about finding and supporting hotels or guest houses that make a genuine effort in reducing their carbon footprint.
Well you can imagine my excitement when I discovered more about Ryad Watier’s namesake – Charles Watier.
A quick history lesson – in the 1920’s Frenchman Charles Watier was given the task to protect Essaouira from the sand dunes. These dunes were rapidly encroaching on the town due to deforestation. Charles being the clever conservationist and engineer he was, set to work re-planting the dunes. As a result, Essaouira was once again protected from the sand and before long Watier had transformed it to a lush space of vegetation.
To name a riad after such an important person in history signifies a commitment to the community and the environment. Ryad Watier cares.
This is further evident in the absence of plastic water bottles. Glass bottles with filtered water are available in the guest rooms, and refillable glass bottles in the bathroom with shampoo and shower gel. Signs hang on the back of the door reminded guests to turn lights off, and preserve water. One of my favourite touches are the handwritten welcome booklets in the room made of recycled paper.
When asked, Hayat explains they would love to do more, however there is currently no infrastructure for separating the recycling. So till Essaouira is at that stage, they will continue doing every little bit they can.
Are you also interested in sustainable travel? See our 15 favourite eco-friendly travel products that you can add to your packing list.
Ryad Watier Ethos & Vibe
The overall vibe within the colourful walls of Ryad Watier shout comfort, curiosity and integrity. A stay here is so much more than just a place to rest in the evening…
Ryad Watier is a place for travellers. A huge number of their guests are repeat visitors, which I think speaks volumes. They have also worked closely over the years with a handful of travel agencies in France, Australia and New Zealand which is a testament to their reliability and consistency.
Ryad Watier is the kind of place where you can trust that you’ll have a holiday that is special and memorable. If you are a family and you love off-beat travel… Ryad Watier is waiting for you!
And hey if it’s good enough for Liam and Laura it’s good enough for me and you right!?
I’m grateful to Hayat, Jean-Gabriel and Ryad Watier for offering a three night hosted stay and allowing me to write this honest review. Please note I always research a guest house before choosing to take a hosted stay to ensure their values align with My Free Range Family travel values around sustainability and slow travel. All photos and views shared here are my own.
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