There is something so romantic about the restored riads (traditional houses) of Morocco. Dar Seffarine is an exceptional example of that. Its tile work is intricate and exquisite and its carved cedar wood is gorgeous. The architecture is outstanding with its huge carved doors and passageways that lead you up to secret balconies. Part of what gives its romantic feel is the fact that it is nestled in some of the busiest, most confusing, and somewhat threatening tangle of alleyways in the ancient city of Fes, so it feels like a calm oasis in the midst of the storm.
When we finally reached Dar Seffarine, after having a fast-talking, shady guide take us there, I didn’t want to go out again. I wanted to stay inside the quiet walls, but seeing as we hadn’t had dinner and we’d already missed lunch, my hungry boyfriend decided we should go out.
We went to a very romantic palace restaurant overlooking the city, Palais de Fes, and had the set menu which consisted of Moroccan salad (10 small plates of vegetables – including roasted eggplant, pickled beets, spiced carrots, olives, etc.), the appetizer which was a huge pastilla stuffed with pigeon or seafood, tagine for the main course, an immense bowl of fruit for dessert, and coffee. The meal had an intoxicating array of flavors. The Moroccan spices are perfect combinations and their tagines delicious. A tagine is a meal cooked in a clay dish with a cone shaped top – they put everything in at once, put the lid on, and cook it in an oven or surrounded by hot coals. The lid isn’t removed until the dish arrives at the table. We tried the chicken with preserved lemons (which we had almost every night in Morocco in all kinds of restaurants – it was that good) and the lamb with prunes. A lot of tagines incorporate dried fruits with the meat, and apricots and plums are common. The meal was accompanied by musicians playing traditional Moroccan instruments, which set the mood to another piece of the romance puzzle.
In order to get to the restaurant they sent someone to our hotel and we followed him to the place. There is no such thing as taking a taxi, as the alleyways are not big enough for cars. Thank God he was there to lead us back as well because there is no way we would have found our way through all the twists and turns and the streets seemed more suspect after dark with all the busy shops closed and the clatter of donkey hooves gone. On our way home some young men were having a fight and one of them threw a bottle at the other and the glass shattered in our direction. Our large, muscular, quiet guide quickly turned around and led us down a different set of alleys. Needless to say, when we arrived home we unloaded our pockets of dirhams for a large tip.
There is something about danger’s aftermath that also heightens romance, and this safe refuge with its large comfortable rooms is the perfect place to end up after negotiating the 9,000 alleyways in Fes’ medina (central old town), many of which are covered with arched ceilings so are very dark.