Authentic, exotic, welcoming, and wonderful value for money, Morocco’s fabled city of Fez should top your 2019 bucket list. Here’s why – and where to stay for your magic carpet ride.
An insider secret that has long beguiled poets, painters and collectors, there are at least as many reasons to visit Fez as the city’s twelve centuries of storied existence. History, art, architecture, music and soul are in its very air – and, outside of the notoriously reeking tanneries – that air is fragrant with fresh spices, botanicals and perfumes.
Food? Think fabulous flavours, from sizzling street grills and walls of pastel-tinted nougat to sophisticated restaurants. Pampering? If beauty is your thing, stock up on Argan oils and clay masks, and head for the hammams to be scrubbed, polished and soothed to a sheen. Hospitality? The Fassis, as they are known, couldn’t be friendlier or more generous-spirited (although steer clear of self-appointed guides). As for shopping… where to begin with the treasure troves of Berber jewellery, brass lanterns, foiled baskets, cotton robes, embellished slippers and embellished leather – bargains, bargaining and handcraft being the order of the day?
The best way to discover this marvellous and still-rising destination? From the base of two hotels that are discoveries in themselves: The chic and contemporary Hotel Sahrai, and the lush and historic Riad Fes.
A contemporary architectural landmark, Hotel Sahrai is Fez’s chicest, most modern hotel – a boutique spot that overlooks the great medina and Atlas Mountains, a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and home to one of only four Givenchy spas on the planet.
Hotel Sahrai was conceived and masterminded by Moroccan business legend, Anis Sefrioui, and designed by Paris-based Christophe Pillet, whose award-winning work includes projects for Lancel, Lacoste and Veuve Clicquot. The result of their vision blends tradition and minimalism. Think light-flooded pavilions, Arabesque-carved walls, Taza stonework and Fassi pottery, along with a panoramic infinity pool, a lush, amber-hued cocktail bar, and a hip rooftop terrace.
After Fez’s kaleidoscopic, TK energy, it’s a delight to come home to cool, airy luxury, and the bedrooms and suites here are all about palate-cleansing, with blonde hues, floor-to-ceiling windows and large marble bathrooms. Not surprisingly, the name Sahrai derives from the Moroccan word for Magic…
Morocco’s food is justly famous, and Hotel Sahrai offers gourmet traditional at the Amaraz restaurant, and French at Relais de Paris. Whatever you choose, don’t miss the fabulous breakfasts – a feast of pancakes, pastries, cheeses, yoghurts, organic juices, and more. The sweeping Les Arcades terrace is the place for a mint tea. And at night, the amber-hued Jungle Bar comes to life, with DJ sets, cocktails, tapas and starlit vistas.
A Givenchy Spa is about as prestigious as it gets, with only four in the world, and this one is a haven of latticework screens, gleaming tiles, stylish makeup stands and serene corridors. Presided over by photographs of founder Hubert de Givenchy and current creative director TK, and serviced by the most amazingly talented therapists, it lives up to its reputation – the anti-ageing facial, involving myriad applications of superb products, cutting-edge ingredients and angelic massaging, was the best facial I’ve had anywhere. Ever.
THE DETAILS THAT MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
The warmth of the service is worth five stars in itself. Then there’s the complementary shuttle to the Medina and Burja Fez mall, the Nespresso machines and Acqua di Parma amenities in the bedrooms, the proximity to the modern city centre and daily treats of pastries and macarons to your room.
Hotel Sahrai is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. To book or find out more, visit www.slh.com/hotels/hotel-sahrai/
Also, the creation of business visionary Anis Sefrioui with décor input from Christophe Pillet, Riad Fès is a palatial and gloriously historic attraction in itself – five interlinked repurposed buildings in the ornate Spanish-Moorish style.
Located in the heart of the old city, this is pure Arabian Nights romance. Think soaring pillars, sumptuous velvets, fountain-filled courtyards, intricate mosaics and exquisite carving. The rooftop terrace, with its soaring vistas, spa, two bars, restaurant and pool are a huge attraction, but what we loved most was the passion for legacy – so much so, that when the plumbing pipes were laid, every mosaic tile was numbered, so it could be perfectly replaced, and we’re talking a lot of tiny tiles.
The rooms vary in style, size and outlook, but all have unique appeal, and atmosphere, and if you’re feeling for a Honeymoon vibe, this is it, and if ever you had majestic ambitions, they will surely be realised in the regal suites.
Revel in tea and melting pastries in the hotel’s many private areas, with their sensual divans and romantic curtaining, enjoy a cocktail at the poolside, take in the sunset view on the terrace. And definitely experience L’Ambre restaurant for its choice of international and Moroccan cuisine, all featuring the marvellous ingredients for which the city is renowned.
An airy retreat, combining earthy tones, billowing curtains and modern vibes with features like a magnificent historic fountain, Spa Riad Fès by Cinq Mondes is renowned in a city which is renowned for its body and beauty treatments. Don’t miss the traditional hammam experience – bliss is certain after two hours of being briskly exfoliated, expertly massaged and lavished with layers and layers of scented soaps, oils and unguents.
THE DETAILS THAT MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
To be luxuriously living in the heart of the medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is thrilling in itself. Add the private gardens across the way, the cult Maroc Maroc beauty products at the Spa, the rooftop with its sensational views and touches like the bowls of local soap and clay that come with the Acqua di Parma bathroom amenities.
Text: Pnina Fenster
For more on designer hotels, read LINE DC Hotel Merges History with Contemporary Design, Wild Coast Tented Lodge Yala is a Hotel Like No Other and Inside the World’s First Undersea Hotel Villa next.