Palais Amani Hotel, Fez

We stayed at the Palais Amani for three 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.

There are no signs pointing to the Palais Amani but when you see the Pension Dalila, take the small alleyway on the left of the building.

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It’s literally no more than 10 minutes walk from the very centre of the old city, or a taxi can drop you 2 minutes away, in the position I took the above photos from. We got a little lost walking from our previous Riad and were given directions twice by local people who volunteered information and didn’t ask for money in return which says to us that it’s a pleasant part of Fez!

There’s a very ornate wooden front door which leads you to by far the largest courtyard we’ve ever encountered in a Riad or Dar style accommodation. Here’s the view of it from the Palais Amani’s second floor.

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The courtyard is lush with plants, trees and birds, centered around a lovely fountain and wide enough that it gets the sun for long period of the day.

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The floors and lower walls are covered with what appears to be original 18th century tile work and furniture that’s as comfy as it is good looking.

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We were welcomed with cool drinks and biscuits and then filled our registration forms in whilst sitting in the common room off to one side of the courtyard that doubles as a TV and reading room.

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Our Room: From the ground floor we took the lift up to our room on the second floor and then walked along a tiled corridor lined with huge windows – half of which refracted light through coloured glass – and strewn with heavy, colourful rugs.

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It was particularly ornate and stylish, in fact, from the moment we walked into the Amani we’d thought it looked like something out of a coffee table book devoted to vibrant, classic Moroccan interior design.

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There are only 14 rooms in this large Riad so we weren’t surprised that our own room was massive. We had three large windows down one side; the coloured glass ensured privacy. At one end was our bedroom.

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There were complimentary slippers, a music system (Bose), rugs on the floor either side of the bed and a wardrobe complete with security safe and ample hangers.

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At the other end of the room was a sitting area with TV, two large sofas and a coffee table. The walls were decorated with excellent street photography of the Fez medina and complimentary water bottles and biscuits waited for us at the table.

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Between sitting area and bedroom was a modern bathroom and a separate room for toilet with a sink.

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The bathroom which had the bath/shower and sink was the larger of the two rooms and had a range of high quality toiletries, bathrobes and soft towels. It was the first bath we’d had in Morocco, the shower was very powerful and it was our best bathing experience whilst on the road for a few months in the country. The bathrobes, made of soft cotton. felt high quality.

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A pleasant surprise was that around 4pm each day a lady came to our door and offered fresh mint tea and biscuits. That’s the first time we experienced that in Morocco and we loved the gesture.

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The table in the entrance hall was sprinkled with fragrant, white flowers as was the sitting room table and the area around the bathroom sink. There was also wine, water and snacks left there and it seemed that these were complementary as there were no price list near them but we asked how much they were before we tucked in and I’m glad we did ask as they’re weren’t complementary, not by a long way!

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There’s central aircon but we never used it. The room is so tall, it retains the cool due to it’s age (in the old days, buildings were constructed with extra thick walls to keep the heat in during winter and the heat out during summer, such is the case with the 17th century Palais Amani). I liked the uneven floors in the room; sometimes the little tiles come adrift but you do feel like you’re walking on history and it’s a very authentic feeling.

Unfortunately the two main wifi networks didn’t work. The hotel had left a note saying that “please note that although our broadband connection is the highest offered in Morocco, it is not as efficient as in Europe and can be slow at different times of the day”. That was clearly not true because the Riad Baraka in Chefchaouen, a small village a few hours away from Fez in the mountains, had wifi as good as Europe and consistent throughout the day.

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The Roof Terrace: The terrace has a handful of wooden sunbeds and a green tiled shower section to cool off in shaded by jasmine growing over an iron trellis.

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There are a couple more areas dotted with colourful cushions and shaded by either palm matting or broad white umbrellas.

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The beds of geranium and large pots of frangipani add yet more colour giving the whole terrace a very Mediterranean/Greek feel.

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The silence on the terrace really helps you feel like you’re miles away from the busy Medina yet you’re actually on it’s very edge. We enjoyed watching the shadows fall across the mountainside and the olive groves as the sun fell behind the Merenid tombs.

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There’s also an elevated seating area with wicker chairs and deep cushions. You’re looking down into local peoples roof terraces, the places where they come to relax among the drying washing.

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Breakfast: Breakfast was served on the terrace under a sun umbrella overlooking the orange trees of the patio which at that early stage of the day were full of birds singing. First course on our first day was a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, vanilla yogurt with raisins on the side and fruit salad.

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We had a choice of hot chocolate, coffee or tea and we chose the chocolate. It was milky, just sweet enough and sprinkled with chocolate powder on top.

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We were asked how we wanted our eggs: fried, boiled, scrambled or in an omelette. We chose omelettes with cheese, tomato, onion and mushroom. Whist they were being cooked our second course arrived which were a couple of rounds of olive bread with a dip of olive oil and local herby goats cheese with a side of cucumber and tomato salad.

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As well as this, crunchy toasts and hot rolls arrived with a platter of three jams, honey, black olives and chilled butter.

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When we finished our hot chocolate, two more cups were offered, then the omelettes arrived.

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I really liked the omelettes; they were perfectly cooked and seasoned. The breakfast experience on this first day was every bit as good as we hoped it to be. It lived up to the magnificence of the leafy courtyard and the splendour of the rooms. This was definitely not food you’d provide yourself at home and therefore you could call it fine dining. The presentation and service was superb and the quality of the ingredients couldn’t be faulted.

Unfortunately the Palais Amani breakfast experience is wildly inconsistent. On day 2 we had some yogurt and raisins, same as the day before. But then there was only 1 conserve served instead of 2 and the toast was cold. Also, instead of chopped fruit salad, there was a bowl of fruit.

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I expect a bowl of fruit in my room if they wished to serve it but not on my breakfast table. I don’t mean to sound like an overprivileged rich person and if we were having breakfast at a hostel or a one-star place then this would’ve been great but the fact is that the Amani is 5-star place and this 2nd day breakfast was nowhere near that. You can’t eat the black olives on their own, as we were expected to. At every single place we’d visited in Morocco, even the cheapest, the olives were served with soft cheese on the side to balance the bitter flavour.

The hot chocolate served on the 1st day was brilliant; on the 2nd morning it was watery and not good, tasting like it was made with water, not milk.

On day 3 breakfast declined in quality even further. We had yogurt, what looked like cinnamon buns without the taste and some small toasts with jam and honey. Our hot chocolate lacked both milk and even a chocolate flavour and no fruit was served at all this time. Overall, we were glad to leave the hotel after 3 days as the pattern at breakfast told us that the next morning we probably would’ve just got dry toast with some jam, and maybe some warm water.

Our opinion is that the management of the Palais Amani have failed to grasp that the sort of people that would stay in their very high end accommodation generally demand consistency and no surprises. Absolutely none. Finding our breakfast declining in quality so dramatically day by day (and being charged for things we didn’t order upon checkout as well as city/tourist taxes which are normally included) were surprises we could do without, and which shouldn’t happen at all in a 5 star accommodation.

Overall, we’d say our room was fantastic, it was easily the best Moroccan bed we ever slept in and has inspired us to invest in good beds when we go back home, and the building is a visual treat throughout. The fact that both reception and restaurant were staffed by women gives the establishment the gentleness we’d been missing in Fez. If only the food (we also had dinner there, which wasn’t great, and Tapas, which were very good) matched the consistently high standard of the rooms, the Amani would indeed be a fantastic palace. So, if you can afford it, do stay at the Amani but perhaps think twice before dining there as we ate far better Fez food at places such as Dar Hatim, Dar Roumana and Dar Attajali.

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.

To discover more about the Palais Amani, please visit http://www.palaisamani.com/

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