“Hippy living meets designer hotel: a unique combination, and a bargain in the heart of Fes's medina”
Alaa and Kate have resurrected this 600-year-old house with their own hands, lots of love and plenty of patience. He's an architect from Iraq, she's a graphic designer from Norway, and the result is a highly original blend of Moorish monumentalism and Scandinavian minimalism. Think soaring square columns, 18-foot carved cedar doors and zellij-tiled floors set against blank white walls.
And it’s definitely a home rather than a hotel. The central courtyard and the roof terrace are the focus of communal life, and you’ll feel as if you're among friends - or people who are soon to become your friends. It’s a mecca for young, open-minded travellers who like to share beers, smokes and travel stories on the stunning roof terrace before retiring to a palatial but pared-down bedroom; and who want to experience the real Fes in all its gritty, colourful, noisy splendour. It's the kind of place you could easily book for a night and end up staying a week, or even a month if you're not careful.
- The stunning bedrooms have high ceilings, intricate tilework, painted wooden doors and ornate furniture
- The warm, generous hospitality from the owners goes far beyond that of any professional hotelier
- We enjoyed an excellent home-cooked dinner during our 2012 revisit, and guests consistently rave about the food here
- The level of quality is excellent for the price (a sentiment which most other guests agreed on)
- The roof terrace is the real high point here (excuse the pun) - the views alone make this an excellent place to stay
- There are lots of steep, narrow steps here
- It's very laid-back (as you will have gathered) and the communal atmosphere may not be for everyone
- Not many mod cons: don't expect in-room WiFi (though it is available in the communal areas)
- Not for young kids - besides anything else, there are low parapets around the terrace
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Riad Hotel
- Breakfast (+ dinner on request)
- Children over 12 are welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
There are 7 bedrooms spread over 2 double-height storeys and a mezzanine; connecting doors provide secret passages to the various staircases. All have small ensuite bathrooms and the 2 suites (Anneka and Kobbe) are much larger and more opulent - but still excellent value. You won't find many frills of the modern kind (except WiFi in communal areas), but plenty of original 14th-century ones, including hand-painted chests, mosaic-tiled floors and antique wardrobes which match the fabric of the house to a tee.
All rooms have double beds, though friends travelling together should opt for the Tutta Room, Blain Room or Josephine Room all of which can be made up as twins. Low beds have excellent mattresses and plump pillows, from where you peep across through curly-grilled windows into the communal courtyard, or out to the tanneries of the Andalous quarter.
We stayed in the fabulous Kobbe Suite. It has beautiful tiled floors, ornate wooden furniture and the crowning glory is a painted domed ceiling, which Alaa only discovered as he stripped off newer layers of colour.
There are enough comforts to ensure you sleep and wash well: air-conditioning in summer, gas / electric heaters in winter, plus tadlakt handbasins, decent showers with reliable hot water. All in all, it's a very pleasing blend of Fassi opulence and modern restraint.
- Air conditioning
- Extra beds
A communal breakfast is served on the terrace from 8.30am until the conversation runs out, with fresh juice, 3 breads, homemade jams (maybe apricot, apple, orange), eggs (fried or omelette), fried tomatoes, and cheese (if you're lucky you might get Norwegian goats cheese).
You can also join Kate and Alaa for dinner, sharing whatever they have cooked with whoever else is around. There is no choice of menu, but everything is delicious and it's excellent value. We enjoyed a feast of breads, salads, soup, a huge communal lamb tagine and fruit for pudding. Vegetarians can be catered for with advance warning. You can bring your own alcohol or buy wine or beer; there's fridge space for storing cold water bottles, and mint tea is on the house.
Most people eat out some of the time - often hooking up with other guests - and there's no shortage of nosh on offer within walking distance, from simple stalls selling sweet and savoury pastries to the top-notch feasts offered by Maison Bleue. Kate and Alaa are happy to advise.
- Communal dining
- Dinner by arrangement
- Restaurants nearby
- Vegetarian menu
- Fes's vast and bustling medina is on your doorstep, so you can browse and barter to your heart's content
- You're a few paces from Seffarine square, where the copper craftsmen work next to a vast university library; and only a few more from the colourful (but smelly) Andalous tanneries, the clothes-dying quarters
- The Kairouine mosque is nearby (open to Muslims only), as are various ornate medersas (seminaries), including the much-visited Attarine
- The main souk starts just behind the Kairouine mosque, 5 minutes' walk away
- Kate and Alaa can put you in touch with good local guides who take you to their favourite hidden palaces, rather than the shops which pay them the most baksheesh. In our experience a guide is well worth the cost, especially for your first day, and even more so if you can hook up with a couple more people and share costs
- If you want to venture outside the city ask Kate and Alaa about trips into the Middle Atlas, the Roman ruins of Volubilis, the town of Meknes and the spa of Moulay Yacoub
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures