Riad Fes – A Symphony of Mosaics
By Justine Tyerman
The palatial riad we stayed at in Fes was a symphony of mosaics, so I was able to live for a time among the objects of my fascination. Located deep in the heart of the city’s ancient medina, Riad Fes is a showpiece of magnificent Andalusian architecture, ornately-carved marble and mosaic pillars, and stairways and passageways softly lit with Moroccan lanterns.
Comprised of five former grand Fes residences connected by beautiful courtyards with pools, Riad Fes a hidden treasure once frequented by Fassi nobility. The central courtyard, one of four, features fountains, stained glass windows, and an enormous Fassi chandelier suspended high in the atrium.
Waking up in a suite of rooms that resembled a small museum, washing in an exquisite marble bathroom with a mosaic wall created with pieces no bigger than my fingernail, and dining on delectable Moroccan cuisine beside an emerald-tiled swimming pool, was an experience I’ll not soon forget.
I’d learned a lot about the ‘blind architecture’ of the riads while exploring the many historic parts of this amazing city. Traditional Moroccan houses were originally built for extended family groups around a central courtyard, many of which have, in modern times, been converted into luxury accommodations. Riads have no windows or ‘eyes’ to the outside world – the high walls are blank, and therefore ‘blind’ – but once through the doorway into the courtyard, guests are spirited back in time to the grandeur of a bygone era.
The Riad Fes is one such hidden treasure. It was astonishing to one minute be in the crowded, noisy hubbub of the souks and the next in an elegant oasis so tranquil you could hear the fountains tinkling and tea being poured. Deep in the heart of the city’s ancient Medina, this Riad was once frequented by Fassi nobility. It’s a showpiece of magnificent Andalusian architecture, marvellous mosaics, carved pillars, and precious artefacts.
I marvelled at its splendour as I stood in the central courtyard under an enormous chandelier suspended high in the atrium, mesmerised by prisms of light reflected like fragments of rainbow from the myriad of stained glass windows.
The Old and the New
Comprised of five former grand Fes residences connected by beautiful courtyards with pools, fountains, mosaic and marble staircases and softly-lit passageways, the riad is a clever amalgam of modern facilities and traditional architecture and furnishings. My rooms were so spacious, elegant and secure, I decided they must have been a royal suite in a past life. Decorative grillwork covered the outside of the windows, bolted wooden shutters were fitted on the inside, huge wooden doors enclosed the whole exterior at night, and massive flounced curtains reached all the way to the top of the 4-metre stud walls.
The staff at the Riad Fes were exceptional, full of charming, witty waiters and extraordinarily obliging receptionists. When I immersed myself in the beautiful pool that evening, my senses in a state of delicious over-stimulation, barman Abdel delivered a glass of refreshing rosé to me, even before I had caught his twinkling eye. What a mind reader!
And the cuisine was divine. For dinner one night, we feasted on an assortment of briouats (Moroccan sweet puff pastries) with cheese, mince-meat and sea-food fillings, Lham Mhamer (roast lamb) with onion jam, caramelised carrots and Darphin of potatoes, and ‘Royal Sorbet’, vanilla and strawberry ice-cream, slices of fruit and strawberry coulis. Abdel and waiters Abdessamad and Mamadou kept us entertained with their attentiveness and amusing flourishes.
The Riad Fes is incomparable. Go there.
(Editor’s Note: Justine Tyerman travelled on an Ancient Kingdoms tour of Morocco with The Innovative Travel Company, a New Zealand company which specialises in tailor-made tours to Morocco. Learn more at www.innovativetravel.co.nz.)
Contributing Editor Justine Tyerman is an award-winning travel writer, journalist and sub-editor from Gisborne, New Zealand, with 20 years’ experience in newspaper and freelance work. Check out her work at www.just-write.co.nz and Tyerman’s Travels Facebook.