Riad N° 9
If anyone knows about style it’s Stephen di Renza….as becomes clear from this American world traveller’s impressive resume. At this moment, he is Creative Director of Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech. Back in 1999, he was looking for place where he felt at home and that could be a source of inspiration for his work. By coincidence, he ended up in Morocco, in Fez, never to leave again. He bought the house at number 9 and was one of the first foreigners to settle in the medina, the old city. It took three years and the help of local craftspeople to restore the house to perfection. Beautiful Fassi plaster and woodcarvings were restored to their former glory and splendid old mosaics were uncovered. With an endless amount of patience and precision he restored the house to its majestic former glory and once again filled it with beautiful furnishings, antiquities and artefacts collected on his many travels. But Stephen, in his capacity as Creative Director for the Alfred Dunhill brand, was forced to divide his time between London and Paris, and in 2007 he decided to rent the place out as a Guesthouse: three rooms. But at the same time, he embarked upon another project: he bought the adjacent house to turn into a restaurant, which would take him another three years of restoration work.
On a cold day in February I arrive at N° 9, where Atika, Stephen’s housekeeper, welcomes me warmly. Stephen is still abroad when I get here. I am honoured to discover that I will be spending the night in the Master Suite – what’s more, during my stay none of the other two rooms in this magnificent house are occupied! Wow, the room is enormous and features a beautifully decorated wood ceiling! The Master Suite takes up the entire third floor and comes with an enormous bedroom and a marvellous bathroom across the hall. Surprisingly, there are two barber chairs in here, never before have I seen anything like this! The entire guesthouse is full of the nicest and most beautiful details…. A touch of the Colonial, a little bit of the odd, a dash of the Orient and a generous portion of the Exotic, what a magnificent collection and in such harmony with the entire atmosphere of the house. Of course, I take the opportunity to take a closer look at the other rooms as well, and even though they are somewhat smaller and darker, they are equally comfortable and cosy.
Meanwhile, downstairs, in one of the two drawing rooms, Atika has poured me a lovely glass of white wine and tells me that, when I’m ready for dinner, all I have to do is knock on the door….meaning the door to the famous Restaurant Numero 7. For by now, the restaurant has turned into one of the best – if not the best – restaurants in Fez. And this is no overstatement: not only is it a lovely concept – the cooking is performed by a chef-in-residence, a famous chef from abroad who comes over for a couple of months to cook with local ingredients – but the food is simply wonderful too. When I’m here, Chilean chef Hector Ignacio is in residence and he creates one lovely dish after another. Contrary to N° 9, Restaurant Numero 7 is very sleek and modern, decorated exclusively in black and white. Having dinner here is simply lovely and, as I am in residence as well, I can return to my room through the kitchen.
The next morning, before I have to go, Atika serves me a lovely breakfast and talks to me at length about the city. “By the way, there is something I have to show you”, she says and takes me upstairs. She opens a door and proudly shows me the roof terrace…..Wow, what a stunning view of the medina of Fez. How wonderful it must be to settle down here after a long day of sightseeing in Fez. It is the icing on the cake of this unique and wonderful guesthouse…..Riad N° 9 is one of a kind!