The Serai is an eco-lodge on a dramatic stretch of Atlantic coast in Morocco, just north of Essaouira. Set amidst and heavily involved with two small fishing & farming communities, this kasbah of rock, earth and lime offers a unique and ecologically engaging experience for groups and families.
As Morocco starts to re-open after Covid we are once again welcoming group bookings of 6-12 people: €60 per person per night, full board.
The Serai actively supports The Fertile Roots Foundation, a UK based non-profit dedicated to the sustainable regeneration of agriculture.
Rent It For Your Holiday.
Hold Your Event Here
From the very start, the Serai was designed as an inspiring space for people to come together and grow. We imagined it full of dynamic groups learning interesting things; a big old house vibrating with music, dance and laughter. So we built stages, designed for acoustics and created a space to inspire.
“This building is so unusual it takes your breath away. The detail, everywhere you look, and the amount of work it must have all taken simply beggars belief. It’s so hard to believe that there was nothing here ten years ago; it looks as if it’s been here for centuries.” David Le Sueur, 2018
Part of the Landscape
Situated at the foot of a forested hillside and a 10 minute walk from the beach, the house enjoys some of the finest views in the region. From every window there is woodland or ocean, or Essaouira itself, just visible beyond a patchwork of fields and honey-coloured stone walls, and a long, sweeping, deserted beach.
Texture & Form
Despite difficult conditions and a lack of water we managed to use only lime in the walls of the Serai, no cement at all. This makes the building, as far as we know, unique in this part of the world and you can feel the difference the moment you step inside. The walls breathe, absorbing and transferring humidity and the sun’s heat.
Off The Beaten Track But Not Remote
The ancient walled citadel of Essaouira is only 25 minutes away yet only since 2017 has it been possible for normal cars to reach the Serai. Should you choose to approach by the forest route there’s a strong sense of leaving the world behind you as the hillside drops toward the ocean. Many still do choose to arrive on foot, Hafed’s donkey carrying their bags. It’s part of the magic. Then there’s the space, the caves, the endless beach….
Secluded yet Included
The Serai feels remote from the world also because the way of life in Azrou Issa is starkly remote from our modern hi-tech lives. The eco-lodge does not stand apart from the community; it’s right in it. A symbiosis grows and strengthens each year.
Not a gentle coastline for lying around on, rather one that begs to be explored and discovered afresh each day. At the ebbing tide the whole community is on the beach: fishing, harvesting seaweed and mussels, playing football or just messing around.
Trying to grow anything here, with almost no water and exhausted soils, led us down the path of permaculture and sustainable agriculture. From a windswept field of stone and dust, the garden is still being coaxed back into productivity, the emphasis being on finding water-efficient solutions that will be affordable for the local farmers to replicate. Slow food is all about eating what’s produced locally and seasonally, to reduce the carbon footprint of a meal and protect livelihoods.
Fishing & Farming
Rural life in such a place as this has not changed very much for a long time. Our neighbours still plough the fields with animal power and sell their wares in a weekly market; most also fish at low tide. Cattle roam freely in the forest with wild boar while down near the beach you’ll run into small boys and old men herding the camels and goats.
Supporting the community at every level
Whoever is doing the cooking, we source as much of our food as possible from the surrounding farmers. Vegetables, forest-fed mutton and beef, free-range chicken, milk, eggs, and the catch of the day are all delivered to the door. Fruit comes from the local farmers’ market.
A percentage of profits generated by the Serai go to the Fertile Roots Foundation, a non-profit we are proud to have established. Fertile Roots assists rural communities make the transition from destructive farming practices over to sustainable, profitable agriculture, through a program of informing, researching, experimenting and, where necessary, awarding small grants. It’s a tremendously exciting project that links the people of Azrou Issa to a growing worldwide network of pioneering farmers and scientists. Our aim is nothing less than to change the future for this community, and have that change spread to others. It will be a long and hard road, but immensely interesting and satisfying.
A School of Permaculture
We are part of the growing and influential Regrarians movement. By running courses in sustainable land use and design we bring to Azrou Issa some of the world’s brightest minds to help us and the community here empower ourselves towards a brighter and more resilient future.
Research, Experiment, Build
We were not builders when we started this, and like to say that we did it all with Google and YouTube. That’s quite true, but we didn’t always find the answers we were looking for and often had to simply experiment, over and over again. And we’re still at it; there is always something going on in the workshop.
“Be part of the solution, not the problem.” This is our guiding philosophy for a happy and contented life. It’s all about ‘walking the talk’: recycling everything possible and buying only what’s really needed; using locally available resources and helping our neighbours to supply them. It means finding the cleanest and greenest solutions for energy and vigorously protecting valuable resources like water. It’s the reason we don’t have a big swimming pool; less income but more contentment and more future.
Patience and Determination
We have spent the last 15 winters developing this project, with whatever money we’ve managed to scrape together and save during the summers. We knew it would take this long and we knew it was less about the end result than the journey itself. Teaching ourselves to build with natural and modern materials, learning to speak Arabic, gardening with almost no water: so much to learn along the way. The only limits we set ourselves: never borrow money and never employ anyone from outside the community.
Love for Nature
Turning a barren ridge into a haven for birds, insects and other wildlife has been one of our greatest joys. And nor are they barred from inside the lodge. Within the walls we’ve built houses for geckos and birds, and in the courtyard, a perfect home for chameleons. Buntings fly freely through the house and clean the crumbs from the table.
Please add power to the people by ‘liking’ and ‘following’ our work towards healthy and resilient landscape here. You won’t be bombarded – we are far to busy to send out more than one newsletter or whatever a year – and perhaps in the future we might have something going on that you’d like to be a part of.