Palais Amani, Fez, Morocco

All Marrakech-ed out? Try grand riad style in the magical city of Fez


Reviewed by Philip Watson

PRICE: Doubles from £143, B&B
ADDRESS: 12 Derb El Miter, Oued Zhoune, Hay Blida, Fez Medina, Fez, Morocco
TYPE OF HOTEL: Boutique|romantic| luxury| design| 
TYPE OF BREAK: Romantic getaway| city break| shopping| cultural| art| exotic  
HOTEL STYLE: Moorish|arty


Marrakech may still be the fashion crowd’s favourite Moorish city, but the ancient imperial city of Fez, 250 miles to the north, is every bit the Red City’s equal: older and more historic, cultural, authentic, and, winningly, more laid-back. ‘Compared to Fez,’ declared one unapologetically partial local guide we met, 'Marrakech is like Vegas.’

Founded in the 9th century, with two hilly labyrinthine medinas forming the world’s largest car-free urban area, Fez has been described as ‘the greatest medieval Arab city intact anywhere in the world. It is considered the country’s spiritual and religious capital, its sacred and symbolic heart. 


Tucked away among the  elegant mosques, monuments, fondouks (inns), medersas (koranic schools)  and private residences, Palais Amani is a former grand family house rebuilt in the late 1920s (after a landslide destroyed most of original 17th-century building). Its current English and Franco-Moroccan owners meticulously renovated it over three-and-a-half years, transforming it into an impressive 14-room hideaway. A creative mix of high-ceilinged salons; spacious courtyards and terraces; intricate mosaics, woodwork and embroidery, the look is traditional Moroccan with a European twist. There may be plenty of geometric zellige terracotta tile-work on the walls and floors, but the mood is light and symmetrical; more classical than quirky. Everything is visually calming; cooling to the eye -  mostly due to the generous 600 sq m central garden of citrus and olive trees, ferns and exotic plants that is a very long way from the small leafy internal courtyard you find in regular riads.  In fact,  Palais Amani feels like a cross between a large riad and a small hotel: small enough to feel personal, large enough to offer privacy and a high level of service (there are 23 members of staff).


You awake to diffused light seeping through stained glass windows and the chirruping of birds drinking from the mosaic fountain in the garden. Climb up to the panoramic rooftop terrace for sun-loungers, daybeds, shaded verandas and outdoor showers.  Arabic and classical piano music gently resonate around the riad during the day and evening. At night, bedrooms are scattered with red and pink rose petals.

The ELLE Edit

Best room: Room 12, the Grand Suite, is a huge, apartment-sized series of rooms in an entire first-floor wing with unrivalled views over the garden courtyard (around £430 per night). Misriah 2 has its own private terrace; the junior suites have balcony-style mezzanines.

Best dish: Chicken tagine medfouna, a sweet and savoury Moroccan dish made with shredded saffron chicken hidden within a dome of vermicelli sweetened with raisons, cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Fashion/design credentials: The owners worked with a team of Marrakech-based designers to create a clever mix of extravagant traditional Moroccan and understated European Art Deco.

Who stays here? ‘Anybody from Austrian princes to adventurous Americans, the well-travelled and culturally curious,’ says co-owner, Jemima Mann-Baha. 

What’s hot?

– the sense of grace and space, even when the hotel is full

– tailor-made house party packages, in which groups of up to 32 guests can hire the whole palais and enjoy treats such as henna rituals, private concerts, belly dancing and themed dinners (around £200 pp per night)

What’s not?

– no gym or swimming pool

Need to Know: Palais Amani

Number of rooms: 14, including nine suites

Check-in/check-out times: 2pm and 12 noon

Room service: A drinks and tapas menu is available from 11am to 10.30pm

Wifi: free throughout 

Swimming pool: No

Spa: A series of candlelit staircases, strewn with rose petals, leads you to the basement spa, traditional mosaic-tiled hammam and salon de détente. Massage and beauty treatments are also available.

Eating and drinking: Palais Amani’s restaurant is housed in a lofty dining room with Art Deco touches (oversized brass and frosted glass pendant central light fittings); the three-course set menu is around £30. There is a smart bar in the old winter salon on the roof terrace; try the house mojito – you may be a long way from Havana yet the quality of Moroccan mint gives the traditional Cuban cocktail a lively and fragrant appeal.

Foodies should book a ‘From Medina To Plate’ tours or a ‘cuisine break’.  Half-day trips with the palais’ 27-year-old, Fez-born head chef Houssam Laasiri take in local food markets, souks and street stalls, followed by a cookery class back at the riad. Learn to make your own lunch of  traditional dishes such as chicken tagine dermera and zaalouk (£100 pp including recipes, a spice basket and Palais Amani apron).

Near to:  The many souks, tanneries, medersas, museums and gates of the magnificent medina

Getting There: Fez airport is 13kms away from the city centre; journeys by taxi take between 20 and 45 minutes depending on traffic. 

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