Dar Najmat – where traditional Moroccan decor meets sophisticated European style
Luxuriating in ripples of turquoise and admiring a surprisingly superb view from the infinity pool, hubbie and I were in love again. This time it was with Dar Najmat, an elegant guest house proudly overlooking a secluded sandy cove near Mirleft on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.
As much as we love the romance and glamour of Moroccan riads, it was high time we explored beyond our comfort zone and dip our toes into waters of quite a different style. I hadn’t expected a European boutique hotel to even come close to deserving the same unabashed worship that we lavish on our usual accommodation haunts in our favourite country, but you know what? Dar Najmat just blew our socks off! It was perfect, and I don’t say that lightly!
We were on tour with Wild Morocco, exploring the lesser-known Anti-Atlas Mountains and the Atlantic coast. Situated about 140km south of Agadir, and not far from the coastal resort of Sidi Ifni, Mirleft is a sleepy little village perched on the cliffs and a great stop-over point if you’re travelling between the Ameln Valley and Essaouira in the north.
The village hasn’t been over-run with mass tourism, and with sea breezes (okay, winds!!) and empty sandy beaches, it is a world away from the bustle of the city crowds and heat of the desert.
Dar Najmat enjoys a commanding position above the famous Marabout beach just outside Mirleft, which once upon a time was the border between the Spanish and French areas of the country. I have to say that this was some of the best coastal scenery we saw on our long ocean road trip.
I don’t think we’ve ever stayed anywhere more serene than Dar Najmat. The quiet yet refined ambience and the soothing crashing of waves on the beach immediately sets the tone for a day or two of pure relaxation.
Although the hotel has a distinct European feel, there are subtle Moroccan influences, such as the imposing Berber entrance door, and the little hexagonal wooden tables that hubbie refuses to let me buy from the souks! I often feel designers shouldn’t fuse opposing styles like this, but at Dar Najmat they’ve got it just right. Modern luxury with a local flavour.
Dar Najmat is Arabic for ‘House of the Stars’. A fitting name given that at night the sky is a ceiling of twinkling lights, un-obscured by light pollution. A celestial heaven for budding astronomers or those who, in ignorance, like to make up constellation names in the hope that hubbie won’t known any different.
The main house at Dar Najmat is where you’ll find the double rooms, restaurant and bar. There is also an annex next door with the reception area, and further rooms which can be made into an apartment for families. There is plenty of space so we hardly saw the other guests during our stay.
The only thing missing from our relaxingly informal welcome was the traditional mint tea, but considering Dar Najmat is as much European as it is Moroccan I actually think mint tea might have felt a little incongruous, and anyway we’d certainly had our fill of it during the preceding week.
Rooms at Dar Najmat are either on the ground floor of the main house, or tucked away in an annex around the side. If you have a choice, definitely ask for house rooms 1, 2 or 3 as these all have views of the sea and private terraces overlooking the beach. Room 3 has a dual aspect towards both the sea and the pool, but we felt our room 1 was more private. Just watch out for the gardener watering the veranda plants in the evening if you’re getting changed in the room with the curtains open!
Although it wasn’t stiflingly hot like it had been in the interior of Morocco, I prefer to sleep with the air con on as it helps with my hayfever (I often can’t breathe properly at night, damn the pollen). Unfortunately the unit in our room kept tripping the electrics but although we only discovered this late in the evening when we went to bed, it wasn’t long before two staff members as well as owner Eric came down to try to sort it out. It worked for a short while but then tripped again, and in the end we just opened our patio doors to allow the sea breeze into the room. Turns out this was much preferable to the air con, and keeping the external wooden slatted shutters fastened meant we still felt very safe despite being on the ground floor.
The bathroom was eye-catchingly tiled, with the best water pressure of the trip, as well as consistent temperatures (honestly this is a rarity in Morocco!). There was shampoo and soap, although no conditioner which would have been appreciated, especially in a ‘luxury’ hotel. The heated towel rail was great for drying our swim stuff overnight, and there were thoughtfully provided pool towels, water and tissues as well as a bin in the bedroom (hayfever means lots of tissues!). I also liked that the toilet was separate from the bathroom for extra privacy.
Beauty is more than skin deep here at Dar Najmat, and looking closely at the decor it is noticeable that the finishes are all of a high standard. Again something quite unusual in the country. I’m a huge fan of Tadelakt floors, the feel of them under our feet was divine.
Double rooms cost E145 per night for half board.
Ok, so there’s no denying the real pièce de résistance is the infinity pool. Long enough for proper length swimming, it’s also heated so even when the sea breezes blow a little cool, you can still comfortably take a dip. Genius. Both the pool and decking area were immaculate, this is clearly a place that is taken care of, just like the guests.
See if you can spot the baby tortoises on the lawn, and enjoy watching waves crashing on the rocks below whilst knocking back a glass of red from the comfort of a sun-lounger.
Dar Najmat has private access down to the beach, and they’ve even placed large stepping stones across the gravel at the bottom so you can walk down barefoot to the sand. It’s the little things that make a difference! The beach is great for a stroll although the sea isn’t suitable for swimming. But that’s what the pool is for!
Half board is included in the room rate and there really is nowhere better to spend your evening than right here at Dar Najmat. The restaurant is for hotel guests only, so the refined experience continues with dinner.
So you probably realise by now that we really enjoyed our time at Dar Najmat, but please bear with me whilst I wax lyrical about the food which was possibly the best of the entire trip (with the exception of Kasbah Ellouze down near Ouarzazate!). Freshly grilled and perfectly seasoned sea bass caught only that morning, and a delicious spiced quiche that had even hubbie (who normally doesn’t like quiche) singing its praises.
The crème caramel for dessert was a bit of a disappointment, mainly because his lordship can’t stand it yet has to endure it almost everywhere in a country that really doesn’t know how to do desserts! But this is a reflection on Morocco rather than Dar Najmat. If it isn’t crème caramel it will be slices of orange sprinkled with cinnamon. Oh well, can’t win them all, and to be fair I’m sure we could have asked in advance for something different.
After dinner we lounged around in the bar and hubbie tried his first ever nous-nous (a famous Moroccan tipple, half coffee, half milk). It was clearly acceptable because since he’s been searching for it on cafe menus ever since!
Breakfast next morning was a decent spread too, lots of variety, including our choice of eggs, and even some cornflakes in case we felt we were missing home a bit!
Owner Eric was a hands on manager, and often around to check guests were happy, especially at meal times. Yet the contact wasn’t stifling, and we were left to enjoy the house without intrusion, just how we like it. Equally as important was communication prior to our visit. Emails were always answered promptly, something that doesn’t always happen in Morocco. The staff team were all really friendly and welcoming, and when they discovered we had picked up a bit of the Berber language over the years they were keen to teach us some new words.
What we loved
Falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves, feeling safe, and the fact the property has a no smoking policy (a lot of hotels in Morocco still allow smoking in public areas).
What wasn’t so great
We felt slightly guilty at playing the part of rich Westerers staying in luxury whilst overlooking the local village at the other end of the beach. Yet the staff are all from nearby settlements, and their kindness is genuine rather than purchased. As the hotel provides employment, perhaps locally it is viewed more with opportunity than envy.
I’m head over heels in love with riads, and am always slightly (and unreasonably!) suspicious of any other type of accommodation in Morocco. Yet it turns out I can in fact live without patio dipping pools, scented candles in every alcove and roof terraces from which to admire next door’s washing lines and satellite dishes. It is safe to say both hubbie and I are well and truly besotted with Dar Najmat. It just worked. The cliff-side location, the contemporary décor, the top-notch service and of course a pool to die for. We wished we could stay longer as it’s the sort of place you could easily while away a few days without venturing any further than the beach. Although for us Mirleft wasn’t really a destination in itself, I think Dar Najmat was, and would urge any traveller passing by to make a stop here…you certainly won’t regret it!
We received a partially complimentary stay at Dar Najmat. All words and opinions, as always, remain my own.