(This account is a little sketchy on details and photos because I was not feeling very well at the time. Sorry about that.)
I had heard about the riads of Morocco from the Frommer's Travel Guide, but I didn't expect it to be a part of our schedule. That's OAT for you. They want their travelers to have as broad an experience of a country as possible. We went to the Riad Dar Imana in the medina (old town of Fes).
Riad Dar Imana
Our riad is a family home with 12 rooms for guests. It also serves home-cooked meals, which we experienced at dinner tonight--along with some entertainment.
Rashid is the owner of the riad and he is assisted by three women who are his cousins. The house was built in the 17th century and Rashid's family has owned it for the past 68 years. A Jewish Moroccan family had it previously and then sold it to Rashid's grandfather when they went to Paris and later Israel during the mass exodus of Jews from Morocco. The only condition that went with the sale was that if Jewish family comes to Fes, they would be allowed to stay here.
Rashid's family consisted of 31 members, including 13 brothers and sisters, and they all used to live here. He is the second to the youngest. His sisters married and were off on their own. As the family became smaller and they had this big house to maintain, they decided in 2007 to open a riad and to share the house with people like us. Now his family has 103 members and they oftentimes come here for a visit. He has only two children. (Moroccan families today usually have 2-4 children while they used to have 6-7.)
Rashid insists his riad is not a hotel, but a house--"so, please feel at home," he told us. He wanted to avoid the rigid system that a hotel brings and make his place more homey or like what we would call a bed and breakfast (B&B).
Here is the dining room, which was originally an interior courtyard and garden.
Here is a shot from the third floor, where my room was.
Here is the view of the three floors rising up from the original courtyard. The carved wood banisters and facings is probably cedar from Lebanon, although the French planted cedar trees in Morocco when they colonized the country in the early 20th century.
Notice the elaborate decoration on the pillars and ceiling and cornices.
Our hostesses were dressed in traditional kaftan silk with beautifully embroidered belts. They prepared a four-course meal for us and first presented it to us when they invited us to their kitchen.
We had soup, salad, and turkey (or chicken) with prunes and a prune sauce for an entree. Delicious!
Yemni looks over the turkey (or chicken) cooked with prunes.
Garry and Rae finish their delicious meal with a little mint tea.
Before we ate supper, we had a little entertainment with some local musicians who played traditional Moroccan music. The youngest man (standing) had a tassel on the top of his hat that he kept swinging around and around--all night. As he engaged us, he captured Lester's eye, who not only put on the hat and twirled the tassel, but he danced. He got a lot of laughs out of us.
You can see the tassel twirl on the young man at the bottom of the photo. A couple of the women cousins and Rashid (right) enjoy the entertainment....
.....as we enjoy the entertainment.
Upon entering the riad, our hosts gave each of us a red rose. I put mine on my bed. It was a nice touch.
Although I had to climb up to the third floor to reach my room, I was astounded by its beauty and comfort. I felt like a queen--and allowed myself to enjoy it. We have truly been spoiled on this trip!
I'd typically leave a light on in my room. In the riad, I left the colored light (left of the head board) on above my bed.
Here is a shot from the other end of the room. The doors lead to the hallway.
This large bathroom had a wonderful, hot shower.
A riad (Arabic: رياض) is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. The word riad comes from the Arabian term for garden, "ryad". The ancient Roman city of Volubilis provides a reference for the beginnings of riad architecture during the rule of the Idrisid Dynasty. An important design concern was Islamic notions of privacy for women inside residential gardens.
When the Almoravids conquered Spain in the 11th century they sent Muslim, Christian and Jewish artisans from Spain to Morocco to work on monuments.
The riads were inward focused, which allowed for family privacy and protection from the weather in Morocco. This inward focus was expressed in the central location of most of the interior gardens and courtyards and the lack of large windows on the exterior clay or mud brick walls. This design principle found support in Islamic notions of privacy, and hijab for women. Entrance to these houses is a major transitional experience and encourages reflection because all of the rooms open into the central atrium space. In the central garden of traditional riads there are often four orange or lemon trees and possibly a fountain. The walls of the riads are adorned with tadelakt plaster and zellige tiles, usually with Arabic calligraphy, with quotes from the Quran.
The style of these riads has changed over the years, but the basic form is still used in designs today. Recently there has been a surge in interest in this form of house after a new vogue of renovation in town such as Marrakech and Essaouira where many of these often-crumbling buildings have been restored to their former glory. Many riads are now used as hotels or restaurants.