Wylde World: Palais Amani, Fez
Report by Sarah Brown
Photography by Yamine Daaboul
When booking a trip to Morocco, most people would initially think of Marrakesh, but Fez is a great alternative for that authentic Moroccan experience. As Morocco’s second largest city, it could be said to be less westernised than Marrakesh, and it is known as the country’s cultural capital. Consisting of two medina quarters dating back to the ninth century, Fez is brimming with history. The city is known as the ‘Mecca of the West’ and has the oldest university in the world. Located in the ancient medina of Fes el Bali, which is listed as a World Heritage Site, the Palais Amani hotel embodies all the traditions of Moroccan life, whilst being luxurious enough to offer a relaxing stay.
We were greeted by Sayeed, who gave us a very warm welcome. This is the norm for every guest and is a taste of the high standard of service you can look forward to throughout your stay. We were given snacks and a damp flannel, just what you need after a long journey! Then we were shown around the hotel, whilst getting to know Sayeed… all the staff are incredibly friendly, which always felt genuine. The layout of the Palais Amani is stunning and rather unique. There is a courtyard with a garden in the centre and so the hotel looks almost as though it was built around it. It is beautifully tranquil with birds singing in the trees and taking dips in the fountains. It is so calming to be in such close proximity with nature and is a perfect respite from the bustle of the souks, which, with their maze-like characters and volume of people, can be quite intense.
The architecture is mesmerising and completely unlike anywhere I’ve been before. It is reminiscent of a religious building with huge wooden doors, mosaic floors and stained glass windows that reflect the light sublimely. The high ceilings and abundance of natural light ensure the hotel never seems dark or overbearing. There are a range of rooms to choose from to suit your needs and budget, but even the classic rooms are grand enough that they feel like a suite.
The balcony on the upper floor can be reached from any area of the hotel as it extends across the whole building, looking down into the courtyard below. Many evenings during our stay were spent up here watching the sunset. The Palais Amani is set high in the mountain side so you can see the city expand out for miles and the lights at night make evenings on the balcony magical.
The food at the hotel is an experience in itself as it is only traditional Moroccan cuisine with locally-sourced ingredients. The menu changes every month and reflects the current season so it’s always authentic. You can choose to dine in the courtyard or on the balcony which is a pretty nice choice to have! To get even more in the spirit of Morocco, the hotel holds cooking classes with the chefs so you can take a bit of the country’s cuisine back home with you.
My favourite part of our stay was our traditional Hammam. More exciting than your typical massage, it begins with a hand and foot bath, then a scrub and clay hair masque is applied. After a treatment is left to soak in whilst you enjoy a homemade lemonade, you’re given a full body scrub, which. although a little startling at first, is actually a lot of fun. It ends with a shower and a pat down. The Hammam offers a lot more for your money than spa treatments in the UK and you’re left with silky smooth skin and feel revitalised. It’s so refreshing after a day exploring the city.
The rooms at the hotel are so spacious that they’re like a mini apartment, so you get the privacy you desire, even though the staff are so attentive. I loved the touches of a chocolate on the bed at the end of the day, rose petals scattered around the room, and a knock on the door with a snack at no extra charge. The Palais Amani is truly an oasis in the heart of Fez. It is wonderfully grand but strikingly quiet. However it is the kindness and thoughtfulness of the staff that make your stay there so special.