RIAD Fès, of the renowned Relais & Châteaux consortium of luxury hotels and restaurants, is the only of its kind in the city of Fez, Morocco. A tastefully expansive campus, Riad Fès provides 5-star accommodations, a hotel environment, traditional Moroccan riad design and layout, and is located in the heart of the city’s medina, its “old city”. Other guesthouses within the medina walls generally house eight to 15 rooms; Riad Fès, the largest in the medina, boasts 30.
The majority of venues do not serve alcohol; however, here there’s a fully stocked poolside bar, alcohol service in inset smoking lounges, and an extensive wine list. Its terrace level offers perhaps the best panoramic of the city from anywhere, most striking at sunset as mosque minarets across the skyline are lit up against the darkening horizon.
L’Alcazar bar at the Riad Fès
The backstory to Riad Fès dwells in the intersection of local tradition and contemporary internationalism. Its owner, a Moroccan architect, worked with international clients who encouraged him to develop something local to function as a showroom, of sorts, of his work. He obtained the first riad (Moroccan home, with rooms situated around an open courtyard) that is today Riad Fès, and accumulated abutting spaces to form – and design, in a breathtakingly Andalusian vein – what now is the conjoining of properties into one palatial hotel. (Acclaimed French architect-designer Cristophe Pillet stepped in to design the pool patio.)
The spatially free-flowing areas of Riad Fès are divided, and designed distinctly, as Andalusian, Contemporary, Traditional, and Baroque.
The Andalusian courtyard centers on a fountain pool, nearly stretching its length, which is brilliantly illuminated in the evenings. The bar and restaurant – L’Alcazar and L’Ambre, respectively – are both located in this ecru hued open space, surrounded, like most of the rooms at this castle-like riad, with ornately carved keyhole arches.
The Christophe Pillet-designed pavilion
The “Contemporain” courtyard houses a small copse of attenuated palm trees overlooking a fountain-cum-birdbath, filled with fragrant rose petals (these gentle basins of water with roses are a small but appreciated treasure, found in various corners throughout Riad Fès). Smaller and minimally furnished, it’s the ideal spot for a moment of shade and solitude after walking the souk-crowded streets of the medina.
The traditional building, the riad’s first acquisition and each guest’s point of entry, is arguably its most majestic. A kingly chandelier hangs down into an interior surrounded by artisanal zellige tiled columns, floors, and walls, as well as stained glass half-moons and moucharabieh designs. Bright fuchsia sofas and armchairs in golden, red, and pink nod shamelessly to French influence, and a grand piano stands in the sunlit corner, keys rapt, plush stool vacant for its next player.
A traditional room and the lobby
Lastly is the Baroque room, which plays host to claw foot furniture in black leather and jacquard. With blackened marble floors and a curt, flat-plane sunlight roof, it’s a memorable stamp of design amongst an overall more traditionally Spanish-Moorish hotel.
Beyond its regal grounds and accommodations, Riad Fès has an acclaimed restaurant L’Ambre, aforementioned, situated within its walls. And there are further amenities galore: the hotel also offers guided excursions, private meals, a fitness centre, spa and hammam, and partnership packages catered to the golfer, the couple, the foodie, the music-lover and more.
The riad neighbours Association Fès Saiss, a not-for-profit NGO focused on socioeconomic and cultural enrichment of the city; the organization dwells within a secret garden-like, gated Eden. It’s worth a stroll through the garden gates, which face the riad’s entryway directly. In sum, there’s a particular radius on which the riad seems to exert its aura, within which you cannot escape the surrealism of its relaxing, luxurious allure.
by Emily Rae Pellerin
Visit Riad Fès online for booking enquiries and more information.