Riad Dar Bensouda, Fez

We stayed at Riad Dar Bensouda for seven nights. Here are a few photos and observations that we made during our stay, and at the bottom of this review is a video that’ll give you a further idea of the hotel.

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Location: We took 20 minutes to walk to the door from the bus station. We didn’t need a guide and if you want to go on your own, follow these directions. Walk straight down Talaa Seghira, one of the the main alleyways of the old city, and when you come to a sign pointing off to the right to the Ruined Garden, take that. That will wind around to the left where you will then pick up dark red signs to Dar Bensouda.

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The Dar is also on the green signposted tourist route that’ll help you get to and from the front door from wherever you are in the old city. It was the most well signposted accommodation in the old city, in our opinion, and we never failed to find our own way back there after a day out (something many tourists cannot say about their accommodation in the maze that is Fez old city!).

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When we walked out site-seeing each day we were just 10 minutes walk from the main mosque and central market area of the old city. If you are driving or taking a taxi to the city, you can park about 15 minutes walk away and ask the Bensouda for help in transferring your luggage.

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Check-In: We arrived at 1pm and had to sit by the pool for 45 minutes as the room wasn’t ready. It was a bit of a pain but worth the wait as the room was pretty special. Also, the pool is lovely so it was no big deal to sit around it.

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The Room: Our room had huge wooden doors that we were told are original 17th century. The room is on the first floor of a part of the riad that was centered around a quiet courtyard housing a star shaped shallow pool and a few sets of lounge chairs and tables.

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The room had a wooden ceiling and was as tall as most rooms are long. The bed linen and the pillows were of a high standard and very comfy.

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It’s walls were clean white and the multicoloured original 17th century tiled flooring was covered with a large woven rug that was changed once during our stay.

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The aircon unit was very powerful and we only needed to turn it on for 5mins at a time to cool the room down.  The high roof helped retain the cool of the night so we only actually needed the air con on during midday (we visited in July, which is the hot season in Fez).

The room was made up whenever we required it to be and there was a full length wardrobe for storing your clothes and bag so we were able to keep the central space tidy with ease. Wifi could be had in the room, we stayed for a week and 5 days out of 7 it was very good whilst for the 2 days it was ok if you went down into the lobby.

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A lot of riads we stayed in had creaky, ill fitted windows that were difficult to open and close but those of Dar Bensouda were easy to open and looked newly renovated.

The lights are ornate and when turned on they’re dim but within a couple of minutes they brighten to illuminate the entire room. We felt in the midst of luxury whilst staying here; the bed was comfy, the decor minimalist and classy, the bathroom a spacious treat and for 99% of the time we experienced total silence (the nearest road is a long way away and no motor sound can be heard).

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The bathroom matched the large scale grandeur of the main room. It had a powerful shower, constant hot water, thick, fresh towels and plentiful toiletries and it’s bare walls reminded me of those of a sauna or steam room. The tap water also tasted fine, not over chlorinated, and with our ‘Water-To-Go’ filter we were able to drink it and therefore avoid buying those plastic bottles of water, which pollute the environment and which all too often isn’t pure water anyway.

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The Breakfast: Breakfast is served in one of the seating areas in the colonnade surrounding the swimming pool and in the open library/chill out room. It changed every so often but generally consisted of strong black coffee, a jug of hot milk, a decanter of orange juice, bread rolls, crepes or parathas, some sort of fruit (melon, cherry), goats cheese, black olives and a couple of choices of jam. It’s a quiet area and you could easily spend an hour or so lingering as you ate. The food quantity was sufficient and we generally didn’t feel hungry again until dinner time.

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The Pool: The swimming pool gets the sun from about 10:30am to 3pm in July. It’s about 5 foot deep, cleaned daily and the water is cool and refreshing. The tile work is a pleasant mixture of blues and green and when the sunlight hits the surface of the water it looks very beautiful indeed. There are 7 sunbeds next to the pool, all decorated with fresh towels. Birds flutter in from time to time and at night it’s sensitively lit.

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The rooms leading off from the swimming pool patio used to be the stables when this house belonged to an Imam in the 17th century. It’s now a comfortable seating area with a big screen TV. When we were there it was always turned on if there was a big sports game playing, although the volume was kept low so as not to disturb the guests.

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The Roof Terrace: This terrace on the floor above our room has a shaded area covered by a white tent and a number of sun lounges dotted around.

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The view over the old city of Fez is amazing and it’s a great place to sit as the sun sinks behind the hills of an evening.

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It was also a good place to watch birds roosting. We saw falcons, homing pigeons, swallows and storks during our stay.

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There is an in-house Hammam. We didn’t use it as it takes a few hours to get the heat up to full power and we never planned things too well but here are some photos of this very peaceful part of the old house where you can just sit in the steam or also receive a traditional Moroccan massage treatment.

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The staff of Riad Dar Bensouda are professional and happy to arrange services such as a walking guide to other riads where you might like to eat during an evening. They could be friendlier, apart from the manager who seems a very nice chap, but at least they give you space which is a welcome thing after the close attentions of the people outside. We enjoyed our week staying here and recommend it if you want a classy, quiet, no hassle base in the old city of Fez.

Here’s a short video that we made during our stay. It’s not meant to be a glossy promo film, more an honest look at what you might experience yourself if you stayed at the hotel.

For more info please see http://www.riaddarbensouda.com/index.php/en/

To finish, here are some more photos to give you an idea of the amazing antique interior of Dar Bensouda.

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