5 Reasons to Visit Palais Amani in Fez, Morocco
Written by Katina Hristova
Housed in a 400-year-old opulent riad, Palais Amani is a true oasis in the heart of the buzzing ancient medina of Fez. The five-star hotel is perfectly located for exploring Fez’s busy souks, incredible architecture, madrasas (Koranic schools), mosques and tanneries, whilst providing a decadent and peaceful retreat to return to. Here are our 5 reasons why you should visit Palais Amani and Morocco’s spiritual and religious capital – Fez.
1. The history behind it
Although it dates back to the 17th Century, the palace was rebuilt in the late 1920s to become a mansion and the home of a wealthy Moroccan family. The building was transformed into a hotel in 2010, but retained its authentic Moroccan feel. Mosaic walls and floors, citrus trees in the cooling shade of the hotel’s courtyard and a panoramic rooftop terrace that overlooks the labyrinthine medina – staying in this 14-bedroom riad is the perfect way to taste the culture and spirit of Fez, all paired with impeccable service and luxurious amenities.
2. The food
The Moroccan cuisine offers so much more than couscous (as delicious as it is)! Influenced by Andalusian Spain, Arabia and France, Morocco’s cuisine is a delicious combination of aromatic and spicy flavours, and luckily, the restaurant in Palais Amani precisely captures them all. The Market Moroccan concept and its monthly-changing three courses, as well as the tapas menu are a celebration of authentic Moroccan flavours and local produce, that’s been sourced from the souks in the medina. In the morning, wake up to the taste of Morocco by having a 3-course traditional breakfast that encompasses dried and fresh fruit and yoghurt, soup with freshly baked (or fried) bread, and eggs.
3. The cookery course
It only gets better when you realise that you can learn how to cook the tagine you had for lunch by the chef herself! The cookery course in Palais Amani begins with a tour of the souks in the medina, where you get to learn all about the little grocery shops that sell everything from spices to meat. Having a tour guide with you who speaks both Arabic and English and knows where everything that we’re looking for is, not only prevents you from getting lost, but also helps with making sense of how the medina works. Once we filled our basket with all the fruits, vegetables and spices that we were going to need for our three-course meal, we headed back to the hotel, while stopping here and there to try Moroccan yoghurt or take photos.
As soon as we made it back to Palais Amani, the cooking commenced. Together with the chef, we prepared a mouth-watering zaalouk – a grilled aubergine and tomato dip that is typically served as a starter (definitely my favourite dish), a full-of-flavour vegetable tagine and a refreshing orange-based dessert. The cooking course finished off with a well-deserved lunch where we sampled our creations and relaxed in the cool and peaceful courtyard.
4. The spa
For those who need to recharge after exploring the hectic medina, Palais Amani has its very own spa that offers a full range of relaxing treatments, whilst using only organic products. The one treatment that you need to try when in Morocco is their traditional candle-lit hammam treatment – a body scrub followed by a massage.
5. Fez itself
Nowadays it can be difficult to experience a city that hasn’t changed a lot since medieval times, but visiting Fez is like going back in time 1000 years. The Fes el Bali walled medina, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most well-preserved old Arab cities in the world and is believed to be one of the largest urban car-free areas in the world. Walking in the medina can’t be compared to anything else that I’ve experienced before. The streets are very narrow and bustling with people – kids coming back from school, elderly men walking along their donkeys, women buying fresh vegetables for dinner; everyone’s on a mission and seems to know the confusingly maze-like streets like the back of their hand. The leather tanneries (look out for Shop 64, where you can see them from above), University of Al Quaraouiyine, which was founded in 859 is the oldest continuously functioning university in the world, Bab Bou Jeloud (the Blue Gate) and the Koranic schools are among the many tourist attractions in Fez that are definitely worth a visit.
Fez’s charm, ancient architecture, colourful souks and lively atmosphere guarantee to take you on a journey back in time and will undoubtedly give you an understanding of why everyone is so obsessed with Moroccan culture!