Arriving in Fes after such a long journey by car (well, long for me anyway as somebody who gets bored after even an hour of sitting in a car), I heave a sigh of relief. But then I realise it is rush hour and we are in the new town and we don't really know where we are going. But never fear, my enterprising hubby has lovingly spent ages collating screen grabs from Google Maps on his iPad. Only problem is that it is now getting dark...and somehow the maps don't seem to follow on. Suffice to say, I ignore them and hope for a few road signs to miraculously appear. We may have taken a few wrong turnings whilst negotiating the usual Moroccan traffic madness - but we eventually arrive at Place R'Cif where we've been told to park up and ring the Manager of the riad we are staying in so he can come to meet us and guide us through the narrow alleyways to our home for the next few nights. Only problem is that two burly policemen are blowing whistles and won't let us enter the Place and make us turn around at the roundabout. Surrounded by beeping cars, taxis, donkeys and carts, motorbikes and pedestrians who insist on walking in the middle of the road, we have no alternative but to turn back on ourselves and find somewhere else to park amongst the craziness. About 10 minutes later we are guided into a very tight parking space by a friendly young attendant - Hamdoullah! A quick phone call is soon followed by the arrival of Simo, the riad manager, a smiley young man who guides us through the rabbit warren of the medina, and after a 15 minute walk spent weaving in and out of people, trying in vain not to knock their ankles with our burgeoning luggage, we make our way up the final alleyway of steps that take us to Riad Laayoun.
We enter the courtyard of the riad and are immediately surrounded by an atmosphere of peace and welcome. The riad is an 18th century building which has been lovingly restored by its French owner, Jean-Claude, retaining its original character, but introducing modern facilities. All work has been carried out by local Fassi craftsmen using the traditional materials of cedar wood, zellij tilework, decorative painting and stucco. In the courtyard, as is Fassi tradition, stands a beautiful fountain comprising wonderfully intricate tilework in blue, white and yellow. The trickling of the water complements the beauty of the scene. After a hearty welcome of traditional mint tea and Moroccan pastries, we are ushered into the dining area as it now quite late and are served the most delicious food – traditional harira soup, followed by three Moroccan salads (each!) served in beautiful patterned bowls, then a lamb and fig tajine to die for, with fresh fruit to follow. Fully satiated, we are shown to our room which is situated on the first floor, overlooking the beautiful courtyard below. We make our way up the very steep tiled steps into our suite which comprises a comfy double bed at one end of the room with a seating area at the other and in between is a creaky wooden stairway which leads to the bathroom on a mezzanine level. It is very unusual in design. To my delight, shuttered windows block out the light for ease of sleep.
|The beautiful courtyard|
|Detail of the fountain|
|First floor room and balconies|
|Our room: The Cinnamon Suite|
It is with great anticipation of what is to come the following day that we drift off to sleep, dreaming of the monkeys we encountered in the cedar forests, beeping car horns, police whistles and hoards of people milling around the tiny alleyways of Fes. Tomorrow is a new day and time for a new experience……