Disclaimer: Thank you Riad Lune et Soleil for hosting us as your guests. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
First Off, Why Should You Visit Fez?
Fez is a city that will catch you by surprise. Its walls tell a fascinating story, somehow managing to survive the throes of time, conserving the traditional lifestyle of what once was - and what currently is.
The most notable Fez offering however, is its Medina, attracting visitors from all over the world. Its earthen clay walls harbor an intricate design of narrow dusted alleys, with the faint scent of spices filling the air and the ambient glow of lamps to guide you with each passing stall. Walking through the Medina is like walking back in time, as you navigate the complex labyrinth of intertwining streets.
What is the History of the Fez Medina?
The Medina was originally founded in the 9th century and reached its height in the 13th and 14th centuries, placing it on the map as one of the four major imperial cities of Morocco. Many of the buildings that currently line the narrow streets are dated from this time period, and standing at the forefront of the Medina is the stunning Bab Boujloud (Blue Gate) that invites guests to enter through its archways each year to explore the 1000 year old Medina ahead.
Fez was given the title as the “cultural and spiritual centre” of Morocco for good reason. To this day the very urban fabric of the city came from the Medina - from fondouks to fountains, madrasas to mosques, produce to palaces - Moroccan culture was forever shaped by things dating from this place over the centuries.
Where Should You Stay?
Staying in the Medina is the best way to experience the action of this bustling mecca. We found Riad Lune et Soleil to be the perfect mix of location, luxury and comfort - it is an oasis of lush beauty and calm in the heart of Fez.
Exhibiting traditional Moroccan style, each room at Riad Lune et Soleil features hand carved wooden furniture, intricate rugs, various Moroccan prints, a private bathroom decorated in colorful tiles, ornate lanterns and a museum like display strewn across its walls. Our particular room held musical artifacts, paintings, printed photos, leather satchels, and djellabas for decor. We were in awe; For us, it felt like being transported back in time, to a world so foreign but curiously welcomed. It gave us insight into the roots of Moroccan culture and its people … roots that we admired and appreciated.
Riad Lune et Soleil’s attention to detail is hard to deny. From the cactus gardens to central courtyard, Moroccan furnishings to mint tea and antiques, every inch of this hotel is well thought out and executed flawlessly.
The open air courtyard was our favorite place to reside at the end of each day. A white marble fountain sits peacefully at its center, surrounded by citrus trees and blossoming plants, with the sweet smell of citrus filling the air. It was the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate for the day ahead.
Each morning, a Moroccan breakfast was served in the central courtyard or enclosed dining room terrace. Menus change seasonally based on produce in the markets each week. A typical breakfast includes freshly squeezed orange juice, pancakes, sfeng (Moroccan doughnuts), country-style bread, figs, dates, olives, soft cheese, eggs, yoghurt, fresh fruit, an assortment of delicious jams and tea or coffee. Traditional dishes from the region are also available for dinner upon request, where guests can savor the flavors of local cuisine like a trio of Moroccan salads with chicken tagine, and a glass of wine amidst the faint glow of candlelight.
The rooftop terrace offers panoramic views of the city, where we felt evenings were best spent watching the sunset over a glass (or three) of mint tea. As the sun lay to rest, the stars above slowly painted the skies with their twinkling shimmer... A sight that never gets old to see.
Thanks to Riad Lune et Soleil’s exceptional location we were only a stone’s throw away from the Medieval Chouara Tannery, one of the main attractions we had excitedly awaited to explore while in Fez … and one of the most vital experiences one can ever have while visiting the Medina … this place cannot be missed.
What Exactly is the Chourara Tannery?
Built in the 11th Century, the Chourara Tannery stands as the largest medieval working tannery in the world. Here you will find locals working ceaselessly under the hot Moroccan sun as they preserve and dye various cow, sheep, goat, and camel hides that are later turned into leather jackets, handbags and accessories.
Fun Fact of the Day: Working at the Chourara Tannery is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Why you may ask? Well, the animal skins are first treated in white liquids like lye and pigeon poop to initially soften the hide material (for those of you who do not know, lye dissolves human skin and bone so it is not a chemical to be taken lightly). Animal hides are then removed from the white toxic chemical bins and placed in various dye pits to give them a specific color before they are extracted with machetes and dried out in the sun. For visitors looking down and admiring from vantage points above, the repugnant smell from below is all too overwhelming. Locals provide mint leaves, to place under your nose to help mask the smell (which does help… to a point), but the smell is minimal in comparison to the labor intensive spectacle below. It gives you a whole new appreciation for the methods that have been passed down through the centuries - and a whole new appreciation for the leather craftsmen themselves, who risk their lives day after day to master their trade to keep centuries-old techniques alive.
As you can see Fez is a mystical place. It’s a city whose beauty is raw, honest and rough around the edges, upholding the traditions of those who once founded this city and protecting it from the sands of time. The charm of the Old Medina, the lush beauty of our Riad, the rich culture and delicious cuisine, all astounded us at every turn. We had an exceptional stay from the beginning till the end and when given the chance, we think you will too.