Thursday, April 14, 2016

MOROCCO: RIAD LAAROUSSA IN FES

The great Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran observed, "Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart."  I think he was talking about our riad in Fes, or maybe about Morocco in general.

Maybe it was just the time of year we were there--the spring equinox--but the light is magical in Morocco. This was especially true in Riad Laaroussa in Fes. The word "laaroussa" means "doll" or "bride" in the Berber language, but we were not getting the doll/bride vibes on our approach. The alleys were dark and cramped, and although they were relatively clean, we noticed a large rat scampering ahead of us, staying close to the wall. Remember the movie Ben? That's what ran through my mind. Now I knew why there were so many cats.

It took us at least five minutes of steady walking to get to our riad from where we were dropped off by our driver outside the warren of alleyways. Along the way, there were occasional indications that there might be something behind the mud walls. We saw beautifully decorated doors . . .

. . . and signs in graceful Arabic script:

It was almost a shock to come upon the sign for our hotel. All we could see around its door were blank mud walls--no windows, no hint of what was inside.

But when we knocked on the door and it opened, I felt like Dorothy stepping out of her black-and-white world into the Land of Oz. "Riad" means "garden," and in Morocco a riad is an old traditional Moroccan mansion, usually two or three stories tall, built around a square--the garden--that is open to the sky. The riads have been carefully renovated to become guest houses for tourists.

Even though we arrived at night and the garden was dimly lit, it was clear that we had entered an oasis of the first order:
We admired the many artistic touches in the covered hallways surrounding the central garden:


 . . . the intricate tile work covering the inside jambs of thick doorways:


  

. . . supplies ready for those who need a book to read on their picnic:

. . . and a beautifully hand-crafted saddle:

We had reserved one of the smaller rooms, but we were told that since there were some vacancies, we had been upgraded to a larger, nicer suite. Was that okay with us? Um, yeah! Our suitcases were lugged by a porter up a long, tall flight of stairs, no easy task:

Our room was quite large, with a queen bed and a leather sofa and chairs around a coffee table:

There was a brick fireplace where our porter kindled a fire to warm up the room (and add a magical glow). He had a nifty set of fire tools that included a bellows--not your standard hotel room fare:

There was a nice loft area where I could send Bob in the middle of the night if he snored too loudly across from the bed:

. . . a large, modern bathroom:

. . . a large tub with a towel warmer and monogrammed towels:

 . . . classic Moroccan decor:

. . . and his-and-hers slippers, a gift for us to take home:


We could hardly drag ourselves out of that gorgeous room, but our stomachs were growling, and we were anxious to eat our first Moroccan meal. Riad Laaroussa has a restaurant on the roof with indoor and outdoor dining. It was a little too cool for al fresco dining, so we opted for inside:

Tagine lids hanging from the ceiling were a nice touch:
  

Our first course was three small glasses filled with soup: cauliflower, squash, and pea, one of my favorite dishes of the trip. The cauliflower was especially good--rich and creamy:

Other dishes from this night and a second night we ate at the riad included meat samosas and chicken and olive tagine with preserved lemon:

. . . lamb and chick pea tagine, and patties made of ground camel meat (a special request made by Bob and cheerfully fulfilled by the kitchen for our second meal there):

. . . and two of the best desserts on the entire trip, a chocolate fudge pie that was my idea of Nirvana and a sweet, tangy lemon tart on a graham cracker base:

In the morning when we got a much better look at our Land of Oz, we saw that it was even more beautiful than what we had imagined in the dark. Here is the view from our bedroom window:


The garden courtyard seen from ground level:



The view of the medina from the rooftop:



I love laundry, especially somebody else's:

The roof, in addition to being an open-air restaurant, felt a bit like an oda, or a room in harem, with a lot of places to lounge around:


One of my favorite things in the riad was this beautifully painted interior door:

Riad Laaroussa was our first lesson in Morocco about not judging a book by its cover. A perfect room, impeccable service, beautiful common areas, and great food--all hidden behind nondescript mud walls at the end of a dark alley.

3 comments:

  1. Wow! What an amazing place. I want that interior door--I'm sure I need it for my bedroom. I'm not so sure I understand the soup in a glass.

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  2. I think the best thing about Morocco is the riads. They are so different than the ordinary hotel and so much nicer, that they add a whole new dimension to sleeping and dining.

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  3. What luxe accomodations! It almost makes me want to head over there, just to see all those fabulous tiles and decorative surfaces. Lovely!

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