Dar Roumana

Fes, Morocco Book from Book from £75 per night

A prime position, friendly owners, rooftop dinners and ornate rooms add up to our favourite riad-hotel in Fes’ vast medina
The ‘house of the pomegranate’ is a spectacular residence just inside the medina's upper walls, with biblical views from its crows nest over close-packed rooftops and minarets. It was only after moving in that US-born Jennifer discovered these views - and knew she’d struck gold. But she also worked hard for it. For 3 years she supervised the pain-staking restoration of its ornate, tall-ceilinged bedrooms. Minutely-carved wooden screens and stucco friezes were cleaned with toothpicks and wire wool; the splendid court gleams with blue-white Fassi tiling.

Besides the burbling fountain is a ceremonial bartal (alcove), cosy with guides, city maps, a sleeping cat and Sebastian’s guitar. His flawless flamenco accompanies you as you wind up steep stairwells to the roof terrace, strewn with leather pouffes and inviting sofas. You can take dinner up here too (a happy fusion of local ingredients and high-end cooking), before lazing under the stars with a satisfied grin on your face.

Highs

  • The Royal Suite (Yasmina) is one of the most splendid riad-rooms in Fes; and the other 4 aren't far behind
  • From the moment you arrive, Jennifer and Sebastian treat you as friends; they can take you on a guided tour of the medina and its food markets
  • Dinners are fresh and varied, made with ingredients bought from the market first thing that morning
  • You’re away from the medina’s hustle and bustle (even the dawn prayer call is more muted here), but only 10 minutes’ walk to the heart of the souks
  • The roof terrace is a lovely space for post-souk relaxation, with its sheltered seating, raised crow’s nest and the rustle of a huge plane tree alongside

Lows

  • The ground-floor Roumana Suite lacks privacy (close windows and shutters before wandering about your room in a state of undress!) and air con
  • A couple of bathrooms lack natural light
  • It’s hard to find - though only 5 mins’ walk from either Bab Guissa or Ain Azlitan gates, where you can be met
  • We're yet to sample the food since chef Vincent took over the kitchen, but reports remain excellent

Best time to go

Fes gets very hot in July and August (over 40 celsius), and you can expect high 30’s for much of June, September and October. So if you don’t like the heat, try and come in spring or late autumn; and don’t rule out the winter - quite cold at night, but usually mild (15-20 celsius) by day.

Our top tips

Stay for anything from a rapid weekend break to a week if you really want to get under the skin of this fascinating, culturally rich and vibrant city.

Great for...

City Style
Foodie
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • Riad Hotel
  • 5
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Courtyard
Room:

Rooms

There are just 5 bedrooms, all of them stately, spacious and magnificent in their decorative detail. Expect high panelled ceilings, ornate stucco friezes or window arches, finely carved shutters over stained glass windows and beautifully (but not garishly) patterned floor tiling - often continuing around 4-metre high wooden doors; much of this is original (100 years old). All rooms have ensuite bathrooms with bespoke bath products from London (the ‘winter’ range includes an orange and cardamom scented gel that’s almost edible).

Pride of place goes to the splendid double-aspect Yasmina Suite on the first floor. Triple windows look over the court one way and the city roofscape the other, one set opening onto a small private balcony. A huge handmade cedar four-poster sits on zellij tiling which continues up to head height, while stucco patterns continue up from the window arches to cover the entire ceiling. The bathroom has a 3-corner tub and plenty of light.

Of the other rooms, ground-floor Roumana Suite stands out for its claw-footed bathtub and separate shower room, while on the first floor, Jannah Suite has steps up from the main double bedroom to a mezzanine bathroom with twin showers. Second floor Tamarind Suite is perhaps the least opulent, but shares the same 5-metre ceilings, diamond-tiled floors and beautiful rugs and bedspreads - in this case faded red, amber and burgundy; its bathroom has a raised tub in a zellij-covered pedestal, with overhead shower. The Argana Suite suite is smaller and is reached by 3 steep flights of stairs. It is the only suite that doesn’t look onto the courtyard but it has a lovely view over the medina and feels more private than the other rooms.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Safe box

Eating

You start the day with a classic Moroccan breakfast of freshly-made crêpes and pastries (oversize crumpets or perhaps diamonds of lemon-semolina cake), a trio of jams including sweet potato (reminiscent of chestnut) and apricot, and a platter of dates, figs and other seasonal fruit. Fresh juices include, appropriately enough, pomegranate (roumana) with a twist of lemon and ginger, or orange outside the pomegranate season; there’s Twinings tea and strong coffee, and it’s all served in the courtyard on pretty crockery.

But where this place stands out is in its daily-changing dinner menu; French chef Vincent goes to the market every morning and sources fresh local produce to transform into beautiful Mediterranean dishes which are served in the candlelit courtyard. Expect more than just tagines, couscous and brochettes! You could be served a smoked duck salad with fresh figs and pain d'epice, wild sea-bass with artichokes and chermoula sauce or chicken marinated in pomegranate molasses. Desserts include creme brulée, a sinfully-rich dark-chocolate tart, or a Sephardic bitter orange and almond cake with yoghurt - a nod to the nearby Jewish quarter. Note that the restaurant is open Tuesday-Sunday, from 7.30-9pm; advance booking is recommended.

On Mondays, hotel guests have the opportunity to sample traditional home-cooked Moroccan food, prepared by head housekeeper Naima. For lunch, and if you’d like a change of scene at dinner, there are numerous restaurants and cafés a short walk away. From simple stalls selling sweet and savoury pastries to the top-notch feasts offered by La Maison Bleue.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore Fes’ vast and vigorous medina (old walled centre) - preferably with an official guide (booked through the hotel), as it’s a tangle of winding alleys with no street signs
  • Visit the medersas (religious colleges) with their stately courtyards decorated with finely carved wood and stucco; the grandiose dars and palaces hidden behind lowly wooden doors; and the tanneries, where you look down on vatfuls of brightly coloured dyes and the quasi-medieval serfs who stir the ponging mixtures
  • Be sure to take a trip to the gold markets and fabric shops of Kissaria, check out the exotic fruit and vegetable stalls, and explore all the other souks (markets) selling lanterns, leather shoes and pouffes, jewellery, rugs, ironwork, thuya-wood chess sets, silk kaftans, yellow babouches (pointy slippers) and countless other appealing knick-knacks which you’ll wonder what to do with when you get home
  • If that sounds daunting, start with the medina of nearby Meknes, which Sebastian calls ‘Fes lite’ - smaller and more manageable but also less impressive, so a good ‘induction’ for Fes; its 25-mile-long city walls and monumental babs (gates) are a highlight
  • You can tie this in with a morning visit to the beautiful mosaics in the ruined Roman city of Volubilis - a must if you’re interested in Roman history, and haven’t seen the mosaics of Pompeii or Sicily; the town survived into the 18th century, so you can still see residential quarters as well as public monuments
  • Also in the area is Moulay Idriss, a bustling pilgrimage town for Muslims honouring the great grandson of the prophet Mohammed and founder of Fes; a trip here is worth one fifth of the hajj to Mecca
  • In summer, escape into the cool mountains of the Middle Atlas around Azrou and Ifrane (1-2 hours); with their cedar forests and verdant lakes, the scenery is reminiscent of the Alps, and in winter you can even go skiing
  • Or take a hot soak in the spa town of Moulay Yacoub (1/2 hour), reputed for its skin treatments, rheumatism-busting springs and thalassotherapy

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Bear in mind that Fes is a tiring city at the best of times, doubly so with children (crowded, chaotic, easy to get separated from parents), and triply so if you go with kids during Ramadan.

Family friendly accommodation:

There’s a 'low' rollaway bed (small and low to the ground) for under 5s which can be placed in any room. The Jannah Suite can interconnect with the Tamarind or Yasmina Suites.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Kid Friendly:

Location

Dar Roumana is in the north of Fes' medina.

By Air:
Fes Sais (15km). Served by several airlines. Click on the link below for a list.

From the airport
Transfers can be arranged through the hotel (see Rates). If you are driving, the hotel is between the gates of Ain Azleten (Azliten) and Bab Guissa, just inside the city walls. Both gates have car parks (from DH10/ night). It's about 5-7 minutes' walk from either gate - but they can send a porter to help with bags and show you the way.

By Train:
There are regular trains to Fès from Casablanca (4hrs), Tangiers (5hrs) and Marrakech (7hrs). The hotel can send a porter to meet you at the station from DH50 per couple.

By Car:
If you want to hire a car to explore other parts of Morocco see our car rental recommendations.

More on getting to Morocco and getting around.

Airports:

  • Fes Sais 15.0 km FEZ

Other:

  • Beach 150.0 km
  • Shops 0.1 km
  • Restaurant 0.2 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 6 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

This is a very special place. All the staff make you feel like a guest in their home. The hotel is spectacular but the people are what make it truly special.

10/10,

Best Riad I ever stayed in, wonderful architecture/house/rooms with exceptionally nice people working there. Calm, clean with the quirkiness expected in such an old house. Our room (Dar Roumana Suite) was huge, yet we felt immediately at home. The food (French/Moroccan) was outstanding, we ate 2 nights there.

10/10,

Beautifully restored riad offering excellent service,wonderful food and peaceful haven after a day touring the Medina. The manager Mohammed was always on hand to offer invaluable advice and tips. We booked two trips through the riad which we would thoroughly recommend; 1. A tour of the Medina (ask for the guide also called Mohammed) You'll see places you would never find alone and it's like being teleported to a different world and age. Fascinating but take good shoes. 2. A day trip to Volubilis, Moulay Iddriss and Meknes. Volubilis is a 40 hectare Roman settlement. We wish we had spent longer there and hired a guide. Moulay Iddriss is an ancient Holy City with a mausoleum. We stopped for lunch there and loved walking around the beautiful narrow and colourful streets. Meknes has a big square with all the usual tourist 'attractions' a bit like a smaller version of Marrakech. We spent 3 nights at the riad and loved it. Highly recommended.

10/10,

Amazing

10/10,

Great experience overall - staff and service outstanding and large rooms with everything necessary supplied. The food is excellent - we had a two course dinner which was beyond our expectations, and because we had an early start (5am) we were supplied with a takeaway breaffast. Nothing was too much trouble and the roof deck has amazing views over the medina. All in all it was a cool and calm haven in the middle of the mayhem of the Fes medina.

10/10,

I loved this place - charming service, incredibly stylish. Utter perfection. Tiny criticism - the restaurant for dinner lacked atmosphere so we only ate there once. But were happy to eat in the lovely other places near by.
I would adore to come back

10/10,

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Rates for Dar Roumana

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