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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Riad Laaroussa: An Oasis in the Fes Medina

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Our trip to Morocco would not have been complete without a few days in Fes, but I have to admit that we weren’t fully prepared for the hectic pace of life in the Medina (old walled area) of this ancient city. Thankfully, we stayed at Riad Laaroussa!

Fes is one of the oldest and largest medieval cities in the world, and life in its Medina has changed little over the centuries.

Fez CraftToday, the 9,000 narrow winding streets are filled with bazaars, craft workshops, tanneries, fruit and spice stalls, and throngs of people, mopeds, and donkeys.

Our days in Fes were hot, exciting, and hectic; as there is a lot to do in Fes and the surrounding area. At the end of each day we craved a calm, safe haven.

Our haven turned out to be Riad Laaroussa. Once inside we could relax, sip mint tea, and reminisce about the day’s adventures.

Fez Riad Night PhotoRiad Laaroussa is a meticulously-designed guesthouse built around a private courtyard that includes orange trees, grass (a rarity in the desert climate), and cozy chairs. The building has a rich history dating from the 17th century; and over the years it has been the home of Morocco’s Minister of War and a Koranic school. Now, it has now been restored to a small, comfortable guesthouse, which opened to guests in 2006.

The Riad caters to a broad range of interests, and the staff are adamant about helping guests take advantage of the options. We relied heavily on them for advice, directions, and suggestions, and their response was well-informed, gracious, and warm. This began with our arrival, when we were greeted with cool towels scented with rose water, served tea and cookies in our room, and offered a choice of dining on the rooftop, courtyard, or in our room.

Activities in and near Fes

In Fes:

Explore the Medina (shopping, museums, arts and crafts, tanneries)

Go food shopping and help cook a traditional Moroccan meal

Have a traditional hammam and massage

Near Fes:

Tour the Roman ruins at Volubilis

Visit the historic city of Meknes

Day Trips:

Tour the Middle Atlas mountains

Taste wine and olive oil in Meknes

Fez Food SoukThe Riad’s chefs shared their knowledge of the legendary Fassi cuisine, and we accompanied them to the local market and watched as they shopped for the ingredients for the day’s meals. They also encouraged us to watch and help as they cooked the evening meal.

After long, hot days in the Medina, we retreated to the Riad and relaxed in the courtyard. We enjoyed the private hammam (traditional steam bath) and massage room, where treatments included a wash down with warm water, an aroma body scrub, and a massage with jasmine or orange flower oil, candles, music, and scents. It was a perfect ending to each wonderful day!

Details: Rooms at Riad Laaroussa start at around $132. The hammam and massage together cost around $83.

©Dale Fehringer is a freelance writer and editor who lives in San Francisco. He can be reached at 415.602.6116 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photos by Patty McCrary

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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