In a word: An upscale riad offering Moroccan opulence in the fortified medina of Fez.
Price point: ££
Tucked down an alley on the edge of Fez’s famed El Bali — the largest walled medina in the world and a Unesco World Heritage site — Palais Amani occupies a convenient location on the northeast corner. This means that, unlike other accommodation offers, it’s not too difficult to find the mind-blowing maze of hundreds of tiny (and often unnamed) streets of the medina. Although guests need not worry about this when they arrive: Palace staff will pick you up from the nearby car park to help with your luggage and guide you to the entrance.
Pure and pure Moroccan opulence: I gasped as I emerged from the unassuming entrance, a wooden door set into the wall, into the riad’s vast, cool, tiled central garden, open to the sky and filled with lush trees dripping with fruit. The “palace” part of the name seems apt – the building was once owned by one of the city’s wealthiest families before it was lovingly converted into an upscale hotel, first opening in 2010. The courtyard is dotted with well-spaced tables and chairs. among the trees around the focal point: an intricately patterned flower-shaped fountain, filled with cool, turquoise water. Look up and you’ll see intricately carved wood-framed windows, some adorned with jewel-toned stained glass. Everything you look at, from the blue, mint, and white tiled floors to the double-height windows and doors, manages to strike a balance between traditional and contemporary luxury.
An oasis of tranquility to escape the clamor and bustle of Fes’ sometimes overwhelming medina. Walk through the door – perhaps with the many cries of local vendors still ringing in your ears – and all is miraculously calm, quiet, and somehow several degrees cooler. The sound of the central fountain tinkling, accompanied by the chirping of birds descending to drink, puts guests in an instant meditative state.
The service reflects this sentiment: the staff are never overbearing or in your face, but always ready with a smile and a recommendation in a low voice. Everything feels wonderfully laid-back, and unhurried and hassle-free.
The hotel can also organize various first-class activities and excursions for guests: I enjoy a traditional body scrub at Amani’s in-house hammam (where a woman rubs me with such rigor and tenderness that I plan to offer ); join a group yoga class, designed to restore balance, in an airy room next to the courtyard; and, most highly recommended of all, tour the medina with knowledgeable guide Jamal from Mint Tea Tours, who takes me to meet the highest quality artisans of the souk, from carpet makers and metalworkers to famous tanneries and collectives of pottery. Other options include cooking classes, calligraphy classes, henna rituals, and day trips to destinations such as Chefchaouen, the blue city.
bed and bath
The rooms of Palais Amani are, I suppose, the closest thing to living the life of true royalty. Ridiculous ceiling heights, walk-in closets, and gargantuan windows that span entire walls — with exquisite stained glass accents, wooden shutters, and pleasingly heavy curtains to block out any light — all combine to create a sense of decadence. extreme. The beautiful tiling, cool underfoot even at the hottest point of the day, continues into the bedrooms and bathrooms, adorning the floors and making its way throughout the sunken bath. Additional decorative touches pay homage to the skilled craftsmen of the medina: there are traditional Berber carpets, blankets with hand-sewn embroidery and eye-catching lampshades with delicate silver filigree work, still produced by hand. handmade by craftsmen from Fez. There’s even a pair of traditional leather Moroccan slippers for guests to slip their feet into. In the bathroom, the toiletries are Moroccan-made and produced from natural ingredients.
Food and drink
Guests can choose to have breakfast and dinner alfresco in the central courtyard among the trees, in the restaurant on the ground floor or on the hotel’s rooftop terrace. Morning brings a traditional Moroccan multi-course breakfast (195dh/£15) served to your table, the content of which is slightly changed each day so that you don’t get bored. Think an assortment of flatbreads, rolls and pastries with olive oil, honey, soft cheese and relish; bowls of nuts and olives; a fresh fruit platter with yogurt; and a hot option (one morning a bowl of rice pudding with warming cinnamon notes, another a hearty chicken stew).
A light menu is available all day, while dinner is served from 7.30pm to 11.30pm, with a choice of “Moroccan Market Menu” and a la carte options. You can choose between two or three courses (260dh/£21 or 320dh/£25) for the reasonably priced set menu – I’m served a winning selection of cold Moroccan salads; grilled fish with roasted vegetables spiced with tajine; and Zesty Deconstructed Citrus Cheesecake.
Cocktails with a view can be enjoyed at the rooftop bar, with an expansive deck and cozy booths strewn with cushions, until midnight.
Swimming pools, spas and public spaces
As well as the fabulous rooftop terrace, courtyard and indoor hammam, there is also a shop at reception, where you can pick up locally made handicrafts.
Nuts and bolts
Number of pieces : 18
In the bathroom: Locally made toiletries
Wireless: To free
Handicap access : There are six bedrooms on the ground floor and an elevator serves all floors and the roof terrace.
Pet Policy: Pets are not allowed.
Additional costs: Activities and excursions can be booked at an additional cost.
At the end of the line
Best thing: The sumptuous decor and the magnificent courtyard garden.
Worst thing: The fixed breakfast was way more food than needed; leaving half of it every morning was incredibly unnecessary. Being able to choose dishes would seem more sustainable.
Perfect for: Couples or groups of friends looking for an ultra-luxury base to explore the medina.
Not suitable for: Families with young children – there was definitely a more adult-friendly vibe when I stayed.
Instagram from: The roof terrace, with a breathtaking view of the city.
Room price: Doubles from €180; palaisamani.com