“A delightful French-run maison d'hotes (riad guesthouse) in Fes's extraordinary medina”
Riad al Bartal has 8 rooms and suites, each leading from the central plant-filled courtyard. The décor respects traditional Moroccan architecture: vast cedar wood doors, high ceilings and sitting areas with either a fireplace or a ceramic wood stove are featured in all.
During our 2012 visit we stayed in Suite Agadez. Everything was on a large scale: high ceilings, a huge four-poster bed and a beautiful arched wooden door. Surprisingly (and to the riad's credit) we never felt lost in the space: the clever use of eclectic furniture and the mish-mash of local artwork and artefacts - antique camel bags, old Berber rugs, artisan carvings and French colonial paintings - create a warm, comforting feel. This theme flows through into the beautiful terracotta red tadelakt bathroom. We also loved the excellent selection of local books and up-to-date guides scattered throughout.
The cosy Double Rooms (Kirwan and Cordoba) are the smallest, with raised sleeping lofts and fireside seating downstairs, while the Berber Room offers slightly more space. If you're travelling in a group or with kids you might want to stay in Seffarine, the 2-Bedroom Suite. It sleeps up to 4 people and has an amazing copper tanning vat for a bathtub.
All rooms are air-conditioned in summer and heated in winter. But don't expect TVs, radios, telephones or minibars - this is a traditional, low-tech hideaway; though there is WiFi in some areas.
Despite the gastronomic reputation of their homeland, the owners maintain ties to their adopted country by employing local cooks and crew in the kitchen. In fact, the relationship with their employees is obviously one of respect on both sides, not always the case in French-owned riads! The result is superb Moroccan fare (and service), from the tasty breakfasts (included in the room rate) to the on-request suppers.
Dinner is an informal and relaxed affair, with candlelit tables carved out from the courtyard foliage, a gentle murmur of voices chatting and an acoustic guitar playing in the background. The meal itself is fit for a king and large enough for its army. We were served starters of miniature pastilla, guacamole and sweet tomato, and onion and cinnamon paste with fresh breads, followed by a chicken and aubergine tagine (complete with obligatory olives). Pudding was an excellent pear and peach crumble. Regardless of what’s on offer, if there’s a particular type of tagine that you hanker after, it will be no problem to prepare.
Breakfast is a huge selection of breads, crepes and local jams, honey and cheese, olives, omelette and an amazing sweet potato jam (my highlight); all of which was served on beautiful local ceramic pottery and antique copper pots - we defy anyone to finish all that is brought before them.
The riad doesn't serve lunch, as chances are you'll be out and about exploring the city’s many eateries; from pavement stalls to lavish multi-course feasts.
This is a family-friendly riad, and most of the bedrooms can take 1-2 extra beds - though be aware that the some are on 2 levels, with steep stairs. There's also a 2-Bedroom Suite, Seffarine, which has 1 double bed and 2 single sofabeds sharing a bathroom. The owners are very accommodating to parents' needs.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Cots Available, Extra Beds Available, Family Rooms