The time has come for me to visit my last Local Hideaway in Fez. To do so, I must go to the lower part of the medina – old city – and the fastest way to get there is by taking a taxi that will drive around the city. Ordering a taxi and getting the driver to understand where I have to be in a rambling car in the hectic traffic proves quite a challenge…..thankfully, a friendly police officer helps me out and I find myself at the correct entry gate in no time. Once more, I immerse myself in the myriad of alleyways and am able to find my destination quickly: Palais Amani. A true Hideaway, for there is no way of telling what’s hidden behind the doors from the outside. Once the heavy wood door closes behind me and a beautiful interior garden looms up in front of me, I realise that this is a genuine ‘riad’. For, as I’ve learned from my guide, only houses with inner gardens are called ‘riads’, whereas houses with courtyards are called ‘dars’. What an impressive hidden oasis is this, a place to get away from the busy and hectic Fez. The only things I hear are the chirping birds and the splashing fountain!
After a warm welcome I fill in the necessary paperwork and enjoy a refreshing cup of mint tea before being taken up to my room. Beautiful old details adorn my luxury room and the roomy and stately hallways. The style is different from everything else I have seen in Fez, which owner Jemima readily confirms. For this house is Art Deco, a style that was introduced during the French protectorate.
As is often the case with Local Hideaways, this one also came about in an unusual way. Jemima, who is British, met her husband Abdelali, originally from Fez, in France. On their many Moroccan family visits they were always on the lookout for a suitable house, and together they dreamed of a nice place in the old city. They had almost given up on their dreams when someone brought what is now Palais Amani to their attention. A house which was the home of a wealthy merchant in the 1920’s, (he imported cotton from Manchester UK so this Moroccan-English connection was definitely an omen), completely derelict and with only one remaining resident: a guard. They cut the knot and started their monster project…….the ruined building was transformed into a true palace with fourteen rooms, a stunning roof terrace, a restaurant, a lovely spa/hammam and an enchanting inner garden, the old fruit trees of which they were able to preserve. In 2010, Jemima and Abdelali opened the doors to their Palais Amani, thus becoming trendsetters in boutique chic in Fez, Palais Amani being the first hotel of its kind in Fez.
The rooms are very comfortable and come in varying sizes: ranging from classic rooms to luxury suites and exceptional suites. The latter are large and private enough for an entire family or group of friends to settle here.
It is lovely to be here and in the afternoon I allow myself to enjoy a traditional hammam treatment, followed by a wonderful massage…. Pure luxury and a wonderful way to relax after a busy day getting to know the city! Unfortunately, the restaurant is a bit quiet this evening, and consequently not as lively as I would have hoped, but the food is delicious and the staff are very friendly. I can see how delightful it must be to have dinner here in the magically lit garden, fantastic!
The next day I notice that all the staff have gathered in the drawing room for an English lesson. How wonderful that this is done collectively. Jemima tells me that it is very important to her that the local staff, especially the women, are given every opportunity to develop themselves. During Ramadan, everyone gets together after sunset for dinner and guests can also join in this feast, a wonderful way to participate in the Moroccan culture.
For me, the time has come to say goodbye to Palais Amani and this wonderful city, which has enchanted me greatly…I hope to return here shortly…who knows, or as the Moroccans say: In sha’Allah.