You see, I don’t really want to share this secret with you out of fear that my preferred retreat in Essaouira will no longer be available when I need a break from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. But Dar 91 owners Jeremy and Paolo are just too sweet not to let readers in on my top accommodation pick in seaside Essaouira.
Quite simply, the three stylish apartments that make up Dar 91 right inside the medina are fabulous. My top pick is Zhuzh with its views from the rooftop terrace, a wonderful lady who brings breakfast everyday. The retro decor is just my style. And the best part, the apartment is flooded with sunlight.
But in addition to owning some of the hippest accommodations in Essaouira, Jeremy and Paolo do so much good for their community that guests staying with them indirectly impact the local economy and neighbourhood. As part of Project 91, Jeremy and Paolo are helping young people of Essaouira improve their prospects and below the apartments at their concept shop Mashi Mushki featuring locally sourced art, carpets, handbags and more, proceeds are go back to the community! Now, in partnership with local businesses and associations, they are organizing two exhibitions featuring local artist Ben Ali to raise money for fishermen’s widows. If there was ever a reason to buy some original art….
Ali and Ben Ali: Father and Son
Geniuses are rare; to find two in one family is even rarer, but not impossible. It has happened in Morocco, in Essaouira.
The father and son are very different in life. The father, now deceased, fought in Vietnam. The son grew up much later, living in harmony with today’s world. Even in art they are different:
The father Ali paints a humanity possessed of sexuality: men display their sex provocatively, and women show theirs without shame. The son Ben Ali, meanwhile, paints figures that don’t show their sex, and so the male/female identity remains nuanced.
The father Ali spreads out the paint with repeated brush strokes, creating a delicacy and vibrancy that contrasts with the violence of his representation. The son Ben Ali, on the other hand, uses dense and glossy paint, and so his ghostly subjects seem to wander in an unlimited space.
The bodies of the father Ali push themselves into bold, distorted shapes (think of the later Matisse gouache cut-outs). The bodies of the son Ben Ali have threadlike legs, accentuating their formlessness.
The son often paints on commonplace objects: a television, a dry pumpkin, a washboard, etc, forming a contrast between his lyrical world and the everyday.
Find out more about Essaouira’s art scene in my previous blog post.