What’s new in Fez, Morocco
What’s new in Fez, Morocco
On the eve of the Fez Festival of Sacred Music, here are five new ways to experience Morocco’s second city, from touring artisan workshops to dining among the romantic ruins of a riad
Riad Idrissy, Fez, Morocco
The project of John Twomey, manager of the popular Ten Bells pub in Spitalfields, and designer Robert Johnstone, Riad Idrissy opened in March after a meticulous six-year restoration. Accessed via a triple-height courtyard complete with dazzling mosaics, traditional zellijtiles and stucco work, its four suites have been furnished with antiques, carpets and objets d’art from all over Morocco. It may be more than 400 years old but the comforts are contemporary, with rain showers in the en suite bathrooms, Wi-Fi throughout and eco-friendly policies. Guests also have private access to the adjoining Ruined Garden until noon and the roof terrace is a lovely spot for sundowners, to the sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer.
• Doubles at Riad Idrissy are €90 a night (opening offer), including breakfast and sundowners; you can rent the whole riad, which sleeps up to 10, for €375 a night. +212 649 191410,riadidrissy.com
The Ruined Garden restaurant
The restaurant attached to Riad Idrissy is set in the romantic remains of a crumbling riad, with mosaic floors, fountains and exotic foliage. Lunch is prepared using fresh produce from the souk and includes salads – such aszaalouk (smoky aubergine, tomato and paprika puree) and tfaya (chickpeas, onions, raisins and cinnamon) – and street food, cooked to order in the garden, such as sardines marinated inchermoula (garlic, paprika, cumin, olive oil and lemon juice) with a polenta batter and makuda, spiced battered potato cakes. Afternoon tea is a blend of English and Moroccan, including tea made from homegrown mint and wormwood. After 7pm, the garden is open for dinner by prior arrangement only, offering mechouilamb (anything from a leg to a whole animal) cooked for seven hours over charcoal, Sephardic suppers and Roman banquets.
• The Ruined Garden opens daily from noon-7pm from 8 June. A set lunch starts from 150 MAD (£10.50) a head. Mechoui dinners (pre-booked only) start from £21 a head, for a minimum of six.+212 649 191410, ruinedgarden.com
Islamic gardens tour
Fez may not give up its secrets easily but this new tour allows you to explore the hidden gardens of the medina’s ancient palaces and palatial riads. Shaded with citrus trees and perfumed with orange blossom, blood-red roses and sweet-scented jasmine, Islamic gardens were designed with tranquillity, reflection and relaxation in mind, earthly paradises to inspire spiritualism, inner peace and unity. You’ll learn about some of the ornamentation and decorative techniques used in Moroccan architecture, from floral motifs and geometry to ceramics and calligraphy, symbolic of the rich cultural heritage of the Islamic empire, as well as the mysteries behind the concept ofcharbagh, the four-part garden.
• Private Islamic Gardens tours with Plan-it Fez costs €75pp, available from 10am-1.30pm or 2pm-5.30pm, Monday to Thursday, +212 678 549482, plan-it-fez.com
Hands-on art and crafts tour
Fez has long been Morocco’s capital of art and crafts and on this Artisanal Affairs tour from Culture Vultures Fez with aFassi (native of Fez) guide, you’ll visit the workshops of the traditional craftsmen – tanners, weavers, coppersmiths, zellij tile masters and potters. And you won’t just watch them in action but will meet the workers and can have a go at the various crafts yourself. Culture Vultures’ long-term aim is to invite local and international artists to work alongside these artisans in an exchange of skills and ideas. The tour ends at a new artisanal training centre funded by the Mohammed V Foundation, where some 500 students between the ages of 16 and 30 learn more than 40 different traditional crafts.
• Half-day artisanal tours with Culture Vultures Fez cost £55pp; tours (maximum four people) run Monday to Thursday. +212 645 223203,culturevulturesfez.org
Maison Cordon Bleue cooking classes
Fassi flavours originated in thecaravanserais where numerous cultures, including Andalusian, Indian and Persian, crossed paths. The traditional recipes used in La Maison Bleue’s opulent restaurant have been passed down through the El Abbadi family for centuries. Now they’re launching a culinary school in a newly built marble and zellij-tiled kitchen at their sister hotel, Riad Maison Bleue. You’ll spend the morning shopping for ingredients in the medina with Moroccan chef Tariq Hadine, before cooking everything from tagines to couscous and pastilla. “Epicurean Experiences” will also be on offer, combining cooking classes with medina tastings, winery visits in Meknes, couscous hand-rolling workshops in a country village and seasonal excursions, such as making orange-blossom water and pressing olives for oil.
• Maison Cordon Bleue starts 30 June, five-six-hour cooking £62pp, three-day Epicurean Experience £252pp. +212 535 741843, maisonbleue.com
• The Fez Festival of Sacred Music runs from 8-16 June