The Dar El Bhar has distinctive charm, with its small number of rooms which are all decorated differently. Built in the style of a Tunisian home, with a studded wooden entrance gate and a central courtyard leading up to it, it is perfect for a weekend for two in a terrace suite overlooking the Mediterranean, with the discreet luxury of a four-poster bed and a bath with massage jets. The prices read like a hotel-club brochure, it would certainly be a pity to go without!
The Dar El Bhar is by the sea on Sidi Mahrez beach, and next door to Télémaque hotel. Houmt-Souk is 7 mi from the hotel and the airport is 14 mi away. The journey takes about 30 minutes.
The Dar El Bhar is a small hotel (17 rooms and 6 suites), with stylish, varied decor depending on the accommodation. It is a peaceful place with a good level of service, but leisure facilities are thin on the ground because it is not a club. The best times to stay are March-April and September-October, when you will not be disturbed by the noise from activities in the neighbouring hotel clubs.
The fitness centre is not a spa, unfortunately. The facilities are not very spacious and the decor in the massage cabins is non-descript. Hopefully this will soon change...
The best accommodation is the 4 suites overlooking the sea, they each have a terrace large enough for their two teak recliners. If these suites are already reserved, there are two more with a sea view, but a small balcony instead of a terrace. All the suites have the added benefit of a hydromassage bathtub in the bathroom.
The Dar El Bhar opened in 2005. It is built in the style of a traditional Tunisian home, or 'dar', around an open-air courtyard. Guests pass through an old-style wooden gateway from the road to reach the reception, which looks out onto a patio and is decorated in Arab-Andalusian style. The sofas and armchairs in the reception area are mainly covered in red material and the lighting is softened here in the evening. Like the rest of the hotel, the reception is modest in size, which makes you feel as if you're in a private home. Thankfully, given the limited number of rooms (23 in total), the hotel is not overrun by busloads of holidaymakers! The swimming pool is reached by crossing the patio. The hotel is built on a small patch of land, and this is reflected to an extent in the size of the swimming pool and surrounding sun lounge area. Teak deckchairs are grouped together under straw sunshades on the lawn between the swimming pool and the beach. There are also a few on the beach, and beach towels are provided.
The accommodation (17 rooms and 6 suites) is built around the patio, both on the ground floor and upstairs. Instead of being numbered, the doors are distinctively identified by the names of Djerban villages. The suites are upstairs. They are fairly spacious (270 sq ft excluding the terrace) with sea views to the front or side, and they can accommodate up to 3 people. Each is decorated differently. The Fatou suite has a four-poster bed spread with Bordeaux organza and matching cushions, together with cone-shaped lampshades decorated with feathers. The Ajim suite follows a beige colour scheme and has a bed with a canopy. It also has a smaller terrace which is the same size as a balcony. The rooms which make up the rest of the accommodation have also been personalised. They look out over the surrounding buildings and a bit of greenery, and are between 190 and 215 sq ft in size. The furniture is decorated with blue fabric in some rooms (Borj Castille room) and red in others (Arkou room). The shutters and studded varnished wooden doors are imposing and traditional. The Berber-style bed rugs offset the orange tadelakt plaster covering the walls in the bathroom. All the suites have a bath with massage jets and two of them also have a separate shower. As for the rooms, they have a bathtub in the bathroom, along with a hair-dryer and bathrobes. 30 ml Amarante hospitality products are offered. The following facilities are also provided: air-conditioning, a telephone, a television, a safe and a mini-bar.
The adjoining bar and restaurant are set up in a room with bay windows looking out over the sea and the swimming pool. On account of the low number of rooms, there are not many dining tables, which might be just what you are looking for if you have had enough of the 'canteen-style' dining so common in Tunisia. Notice the high-backed dining chairs with velvet covers and the white table cloths on the tables. The breakfast buffet is laid out here in the morning. It is an enriched continental-style breakfast, with bread rolls, pastries, yoghurts, cooked meats and fresh fruit. You can also order eggs or an omelette. It is also worth noting that you can have breakfast brought to your room at no extra charge; the generously filled platter is ideal for a romantic weekend... Lunch is served a la carte at the 'barbecue' (wooden tables under straw huts set along the beach). In the evening, the restaurant hall 'conceals' an a la carte restaurant in a hidden recess. It has even fewer table than in the main restaurant though, and no windows! You are just as well off in the main 'morning' restaurant, where half-board guests can choose from 3 dishes on the menu. The food is unpretentious local and Mediterranean cuisine, with, for example, chorba soup, grouper with mushrooms, grilled prawns, or chicken in balsamic vinegar. A dish from the a la carte menu will set you back around £14, while a beer is £2 and a glass of wine £2.50.
The Dar El Bhar overlooks a stretch of sand between the beaches of 2 other hotels on Sidi Mahrez beach. As the hotel is built on a small stretch of land, its section of beach is short as well, measuring about 330 ft in length and 80 ft in width. Plastic deckchairs are set out on the beach beneath straw huts, or you might prefer the deckchairs on the garden lawn running down to the beach. As far as bathing is concerned, there are no worries, the sand slopes gently down into clear water. As is often the case in Tunisia, there is sometimes seaweed, especially in the spring and autumn. This is not removed from the water because it plays an important part in the ecosystem. If you do not like the idea of walking barefoot in seaweed, remember to bring plastic sandals, otherwise there is always the swimming pool as an alternative.
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