Sunshine for the Soul Yoga Retreat
11 – 18 November 2023
We have just returned from a stunning sunshine-soul yoga retreat at the exotic, exquisite Le Jardin Des Douars, a pocket of paradise just outside the ancient seaside town of Essaouira.
Situated on the north coast of Africa, the blue and white Medina of Essoueira is an ancient maze of winding streets where locals in traditional dress go about their daily life through the markets and mosques. Arabic and French language fills the air along with aromatic spices and perfumes, souks are filled with treasures of jewellery, bags, art and lamps. The many restaurants and rooftop cafes serve mint tea, golden tumeric lattes, rich coffee, traditional taggine and sweet desserts. It was wonderful to be immersed in colourful, peaceful, welcoming Arabic culture that energised my senses and soul. Beyond the medina, the wide, sandy beach and crashing Atlantic waves was mesmerising.
Boutique hotel Le Jardins Des Douars is an oasis amid the desert landscape. Walking through the pink bougainvillea-framed entrance was a bit like stepping into a dream where things appeared more vivid than usual – dragon flies flit around the flower-filled gardens, archways led to secret corners and secluded roof terraces and everything was enveloped in sunshine and serenity. Our picturesque pink-hued villas, Jasmin and Saada, each had a divine green-tiled swimming pool, tropical flower and fruit gardens, al fresco dining area, lounge and fire place, ensuite bedrooms decorated with exquisite Moroccan art work, wood carvings, ornate furniture and colourful textiles.
We also enjoyed access to the hotel spa, indulging in luxurious massages and the traditional Moroccan hammam. The ambient terrace bar, restaurant, two heated swimming pools and four acres of flower gardens offered serene, inspiring spaces to relax.
Our yoga journey was experienced on the rooftop shala at Villa Saada overlooking the expansive desert landscape. We practiced beneath the arc of a deep blue sky in the dreamy hues of sunrise and sunset sunlight ambiance. Our sunrise sadhana was authentic creatively-inspired Vinyasa Flow and Dharma Yoga classes with award-winning teacher, Heidi Pascual followed by a delicious in-villa Moroccan breakfast. There was abundant free time to relax by the pool or explore the local area before surrendering to a Yin Yoga restorative practice in the late afternoon haze.
In the evenings, we shared candle-lit dinners by the pool at Villa Saada. Our retreat cuisine was authentic Moroccan aromatic spiced vegetable and fish taggine, fresh grilled fish, traditional breads and pastries, sweet desserts, seasonal fruits, mint tea, rich coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. Food was bursting with flavour, colour, creativity, versatility, freshness and nourishment. On some evenings, we ate out at Essaouira’s excellent eateries, such as Taros with its terraces, sea views and mouth-watering tagine.
Our mesmerising excursion to the ancient Essoueira medina and port was led by our very own marine biologist, Professor Leanne Hepburn. A knowledgeable local guide revealed the hidden corners and ancient secrets of the winding streets, the old city and canon-walled port, whilst immersing us in Arabic culture and local fisherman community. We shared a delicious seafood meal by the sea, flavouring local sardines and delicacies. After wandering the the maze of markets in the white-blue atmospheric media, we walked along the wide sandy beach in a shrine of sunshine watching the energetic waves meet these fascinating North African shores. Some yogis surfed the waves, others enjoyed horseback riding along the beach, some shared friendship from a rooftop cafe overlooking the ocean.
There was also the opportunity to experience creative writing in the villa grounds, with a focus on immersing yourself in nature to allow your creativity to flow during three creative sessions led by travel journalist Amanda Statham.
We were blessed to retreat together in the exquisite, exotic magic of this pink Moroccan desert paradise together!