Staying at a Moroccan Riad, Dar Seffarine
After our luggage not arriving in Morocco with us, I wasn’t in a personable mood. When the taxi dropped us outside the walls of old Fes, I didn’t have the energy to explore anything. It was evening, dark and Margaret and I were wiped. Walking towards the entrance of the walled city, we had a feeling our guesthouse riad might be difficult to find. Fortunately, a young boy led us there, weaving through the dark alleyways pregnant with the scent of musky spice. Our riad was just a five minute walk.
What is a riad?
A riad literally means garden in Arab, but it is a traditional Moroccan house or palace characterized by the fact it’s built around a garden courtyard or fountain. The architecture can be very historic and rich in atmosphere.
A welcoming introduction to the Dar Seffarine
The riad door opened to a courtyard with warm and welcoming lights. This courtyard led to an outdoor dining area and then into the riad house.
Our hosts prepared our dinner, a traditional Moroccan vegetable stew called tagine. Margaret held up our part of the conversation at the dinner table. I was exhausted and yet, not having luggage with us, seemed to lighten my mind a bit. Our hosts also said they would call the airport and intermittently check upon the status of our luggage. This was a huge weight off of our shoulders and we were grateful! We had no phone and the baggage issue required constant pushing and prodding.
After dinner we were shown to our room, a spacious room with walls of stucco clay. We had the $35/night room with two twin beds, a small sitting room and two small windows looking out.
Our room was spacious, with touches of Moroccan hand-crafted elegance. A simple lounge area attached to a two-bed bedroom and bathroom.
I opened my bag of newly-minted clothes I picked up at a local shop: awful-looking green pajamas and a hot pair of fushia lacy undies, the kind that a hot grandma would wear. The best we could do was sleep and rise early in the morning to start the day.
Interestingly around 3am I heard a deep moaning.. no a chanting. Prayer calls occur five times a day.
A rooftop breakfast with a view
The next morning, I awoke to an infinitely better day .
Our guesthouse seriously rocked in the light of day. It gave our pitiful one-outfit existence in Morocco (and my hotsy-totsy granny panties), a consolation prize of modern Moroccan luxury and glamor.
We were called up to breakfast on the rooftop. The rooftop kitchen is where breakfast is served. A full spread of freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh fruits, jams, teas and various Moroccan breads and pancakes. There we mingled with other travelers as they exchanged tour ideas for the day. One of the couples there was hiring a guide for a day tour and asked if we wanted to join along. It was perfect as we were just going to follow itinerary ideas from our Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook.
After breakfast, we walked out onto the adjoing rooftop to lay on outdoor pillows and rest while overlooking a panoramic view of Fes.
Staying at a Moroccan Riad, Dar Seffarine
The Riad: The tradition of Islamic designs and ornate Arab architecture
Whoa! Wandering our riad was more like exploring a palace and everything revolved around a central courtyard. All rooms opened to the courtyard and other rooms, likely the higher priced ones were four times as large and extravagant looking.
Plain mud brick walls on the outside of the building, is what we saw when we arrived, while weaving through the dark alleys of the medina. The bland demeanor is said to help keep the Islamic privacy centered inwardly, like the traditional hagib (the traditional headdress for Muslim women) and burkha for women.
But the interior of the Dar Seffarine was like a fortress, adorned with vivacious, hand-painted Arabic calligraphy and latticed wooden windows. Illustrious architecture guilded the heart of a courtyard, which was protected from the weather.
If there’s one word for Islamic design, I’d say it was Reflection. Stepping into a riad, you can understand how Islamic lifestyle can be so inwardly-focused. The architectural beauty and craftsmanship is profuse with intricacies which inspire calm meditation and inward beauty.
Advice: Upon arriving, call your riad so they can have someone come and get you. The medina can be a maze and street signs are small and some are painted on the walls. Dar Seffarine was about 5 minutes from the bus/taxi center, but we required help getting there.
For more guesthouses in Fes, see here.
Getting to Fes Medina (Old Fes)
From the train station, it’s a 25 minute drive to Fes Medina. There is either, the small red taxi or the grand taxi (old and more spacious black Mercedes). An alternate option is to take local Bus No. 16 to the medina square or CIF square.
Inside the medina, no vehicles are allowed to enter, except donkeys. You will need to walk. More travel info here.