Hotels are a dime a dozen and offer conditions that are officially ranked, reviewed, regurgitated and inevitably catalogued. If in Fez/Marrakech/Essaouira, try staying a Riad.
The definition of a Riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden. But they are so much more than that. The riads are inwardly focused, which allows for family privacy and protection from the weather in Morocco. This inward focus was expressed in the central location of most of the interior gardens and courtyards and the lack of large windows on the exterior clay or mud brick walls. Entrance to these houses is a major transitional experience and encourages reflection because all of the rooms open into the central atrium space.
In the central garden of traditional riads there are often four orange or lemon trees and possibly a fountain. The walls of the riads are adorned with tadelakt plaster and zellige tiles. The style of these riads has changed over the years, but the basic form is still used in designs today.
After going through 6 minutes of reviews online without knowing much about the riads in the first place, I decided that I would jump into one without much research and I am really glad that I did. I ended up staying at the Riad Damia Fes in the Old Town. For a corporate traveller, who’s seen his fair share of standard, luxury and boutique hotel rooms, staying at the Riad was definitely another new experience. These are really the creme de creme of “Bed and Breakfasts”. They are run like little hotels, but when you only have 3-8 rooms in the house, it is really tough to classify as a hotel.
What struck me was the attention to the small architectural details, the tiling and finish in the house, the stained glass windows, the open verandahs and the lovely center court. After checking in, this was the view from the windows and the open court in the center of the Riad.
In the daytime, I had a chance to check out the view from the entire Riad and also look at other rooms and they were just as lovely as my space.
From the moment, I checked in Farid Lalou and his staff were attentive and really paid attention to the questions I had, as well as offering very useful advice and even gave me a warning about “your friend on the train”, which I really appreciated. Since it was the slow season, they even upgraded my room to the second floor and a much bigger room. From a price point perspective, I had no issue with the €78, which could be considered expensive from a backpacking perspective, but I needed a change in nice surrounding to refresh myself, and after the long two days of Fez, being so intense … it was great to have an oasis to come back to.
The room was exquisitely appointed, with a huge private bath, immaculately clean and tons of space for me to be comfortable in and have my stuff everywhere.
Sure the carpets are a little faded and the couch isn’t “Le Meridien” spanking new and the bed isn’t the Westin Sweet Sleeper, but really if that’s what I was looking for, then I would have looked for a regular sterile hotel. Additionally, there is FREE, reliable Wi-Fi access from the top floor (two networks : an unsecured network and the Riad Damia’s Wi-Fi)
If I had to be picky, I could have issue with the fact that the water in the bathroom takes about 5 mins to heat up, or that the location is a bit obscure and the old city could be slightly dodgy – but if I let those things really matter, then I wouldn’t bother coming to Morocco and that would be a damn shame.
Riad Damia, 10 Rue Sornas Ziat
30000 Fès, Medina
Tel.: +212 535 634 376
Mobile: +212 662 189 777