Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Perched high on Ziat Hill, in Fez - Morocco's second largest city - overlooking one of the most preserved medinas in the Arab-Muslim World, a hotel of serious, sophisticated difference sits as royalty sits. If position is everything, then Palais Faraj Suites and Spa Hotel scores beyond anyone's measure. Take coffee early on the hotel’s terrace, or from your bedroom balcony with the sun rising on your face and the melodic sounds of the haunting Call to Prayer echoing off in the distance over rooftops covered with thousands of satellite dishes. Devour your five-star breakfast thinking about how the old collides with the new to create a new day. Over 70,000 people call this medina home. Yes, its old, and dilapidated, and the labyrinth of streets are a constant traffic jam of donkey's, locals shopping and trading, and tourists desperate to taste the local cuisine and grab a bargain, but I dare you not to smile and pinch yourself that you are experiencing a culture almost older than time itself.
The hotel is in easy walking distance for those wanting to explore the medina by themselves. If it’s your first time, I suggest you take a trusted guide. There's so much to observe and learn about this city, you don't want to be walking with your head in a travel guide reading as you go. You need to hear, taste and smell this city to fully appreciate its beguile, by the stories of those who know it better than books ever could.
Spanning 12 centuries of history and considered to be the spiritual and religious capital of Morocco, mosques, museums and schools stand effortlessly beside nougat stalls, snail vendors, and copper-smiths. Donkeys remain the main means of transport. Smells from the famous leather tanneries will assault your senses but the leather goods produced are your reward. This is a city bursting with a culture born of ancient times and valued traditions, and not embarrassed to function alongside a new evolving world where tourists are wide-eyed because of a once in a lifetime, unmatched experience.
Mesmerized, watching a sunset falling upon the old city like a grandmother throwing a shawl over a grandchild's shoulders my camera captures rooftops covered with television satellite dishes as they become blanketed with soft, warm hues of gold and orange. The panorama gives me goose bumps. But my goose bumps grow as I wander the corridors of the hotel and I am drawn to the hotel’s commitment to authentic architectural preservation, refinement, detail and good taste. My camera wants to capture every corner of every room.
Today, the discerning traveller, in the number one visited country in the world, has the opportunity to experience something magical staying in this 19th century palace of opulence, proportion, mystic and modern facilities. Suites, with high ceilings and elegant features - including wood panelling, ceramic tiles of blue and green - in glorious patterns, fine-carved plaster-work and chandeliers, are spacious. Even the standard suites - called Ambassador Rooms - are palatial compared to most other hotels anywhere else in the world.
Owner, Mr Driss Faceh, and his wife (passed), meticulously brought the old palace back to life, ably assisted by famous architect and interior designer, Jean Baptiste Barian (who has worked on several architectural masterpieces for Morocco’s King Hassan 11), and skilled, local artisans. Just like the Medina is a mix of old and new, so too has the restoration of the palace been able to mix authentic Moorish architecture with contemporary design and modern touches, bright colors, luxury amenities, and a fine dining experience in its award winning restaurant, L’Amandier.
The hotel boasts just 25 suites. Each has its own spectacular identity, brought to life with the addition of the Faceh family's original paintings and artefacts collection gathered from around the world, but mainly focusing on Central Africa, Berber culture, Cambodia, Vietnam and France. The hotel corridors display most of the art and spectacular wooden carvings, statues, masks and jewellery. Such rarities you would expect to find in a world-class museum.
The suites exhibit familiar aspects of Arab architecture including ornate arches, tiled columns, latticework wood carving, called ‘Mashrabiya’ and colored glass.
This is a perfect hotel for the solo woman traveller to escape for reflection, meditation, writing, pampering in the Hamman or just generally spoiling oneself while taking in the culture of a country that delivers so much. Spoil yourself. You deserve it.
TOP FIVE THINGS TO DO IN FEZ:
1. Take your photo as you pass through the Gate Bab Boujeloud
2. Get lost in the Old Medina - Fes El Bail And Souks with a trusted guide
3. Stop at Fez Lounge, deep in the Medina for homemade lemonade and purchase some homemade nougat to eat along the way at the foodstalls in the Medina.
4. Visit the Chouara Tanneries and then some of the leather shops. Definitely buy some leather goods unique in color and designs.
5. Visit the oldest Islamic School from the 14th century - Al-Attarine Madrasa
FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT:
The Ruined Garden http://ruinedgarden.com/