Marrakech may have the shiny glamour of the international jet set, but if you want to steep in the ancient feel of Morocco, a visit to Fes is a must. A city synonymous with tradition, Fes prides itself as the ancient birthplace of Morocco’s foremost intellectuals, spiritual leaders, and artisans. The winding alleyways of the Medina constitute the world’s largest car-free pedestrian zone, and heavy loads are transported by cart and donkey just as they’ve done for centuries. Most medina paths are unknown to Google maps and we had to pop our heads into many a shop to find Riad Fes, our home for our three days stay.
Many riads have French owners (and predominantly French guests) but Riad Fes’s owner is Moroccan and an architect, and both can be felt in the space. Upon arrival we were greeted with a pot of fragrant mint tea and cookies served in a dazzling two story atrium scattered with sofas upholstered in fuchsia velvet. Heaven! I found Riad Fes through the Relais & Châteaux collection and was pleased to discover their breakfast was one of the most incredible we had experienced in a long time – and beautifully presented. Even though the Riad was almost at full occupancy, the many rooms and areas to lounge in made it feel like we were the only guests. I especially loved the rooftop terrace with unobstructed views of Fes, where we enjoyed our daily afternoon tea and imagined what life was like when Fassi nobility used to walk the halls of our hotel.
The culinary scene in Fes is casual and we alternated meals between Cafe O’Clock and The Ruined Garden, wandering the chaotic streets of the medina between the city’s famous tanneries and distinctive pottery shops. Since Fes isn’t as big of a tourist destination as Marrakech, the prices were lower and bargaining less intense, and I found a smile would help cut the price by half. I happened upon one of my favorite sites by accident, a decorative arts and crafts museum just around the corner from our hotel – a must-see on your next visit to Fes!
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All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com