Casa Aya Medina – Fez – Morocco

20 Jan

Fez is Morocco’s cultural and spiritual center and is an outstanding example of a medieval town created during the first centuries of the Islamisation in the country – which is why it is part of the UNESCO world cultural heritage. The narrow lanes meander chaotically throughout the medina (the old part of the town, called Fes el-Bali) and high brick walls flank them all along. There are nine thousand dwellings in the medina and no fewer than four thousand lanes and blind alleys. Casa Aya Medina guesthouse is located in the western end of the medina, at a walking distance between Talaa Kebira, the main shopping pedestrian street, and Bab Ain Azliten, one of the entrance gates through the old city fortifications.

Fez – Casa Aya Medina: location within the old medina Fez el-Bali

As you walk – coming from any direction, take care not to bump your head as you pass through a passage from the street of Ain Zleten. You enter a narrow lane (locally called derb), less than one-meter width, with a few doors and windows arranged randomly. Maybe a few children play football in this small place and you might get a ball smashed into your face. Walk ahead and you find a simple door entry at the end of a zigzag blind alley, but you’ll never guess what lies behind it. Nevertheless, the old configuration of the urban tissue will reveal discretely the authentic secrets of the area.

You enter the door of the guesthouse and step into another long L-shaped corridor at the end of which lies an inner courtyard. You are in a traditional Moroccan house, called dar (a modest version of a riad, which is the traditional Moroccan house for wealthy families). A dry fountain decorated with colorful mosaics (called zellij) stands on one side of the inner courtyard. It had been a larger fountain that during the restoration works suffered some transformations to gain more space for a new dining room in the courtyard. On the opposite side of the fountain, a traditional family salon (taklidi) and a luxury matrimonial room cluster around the court (bahn), and open onto it. Close to the main entrance, a staircase goes up to the next levels where the private rooms are.

As a rule, all the rooms of the house gather around the inner courtyard due to the principles of Islamic architecture. The main concept is to minimize as much as possible the impact of heat and direct light and provide ventilation for the inner space. The courtyard was originally open-air, but now it has been recently covered with a glass skylight and gained a new modern look.

Casa Aya Medina: the inner courtyard

Many people work usually out on the street no matter what they do – from selling something to woodcarving and loom weaving. Unlike the exterior of the house which is a working space, the inner space of a traditional house is like a haven – not only for women who might be without the constraints of clothing -, but because it is so richly decorated. The door and the window frames facing the patio have stucco plaster decorations of hand-painted multi-colored arabesques. The door’s thresholds have finely and richly colored mosaics. The inner doors and shutters are of solid cedar wood from the Middle Atlas Mountains, some painted with colorful drawings.

All the chambers are for guests on the upper floors, two rooms per floor. The modern rooms open out onto the common patio, but offer privacy inside, with two to three beds and a private bathroom. Wooden shutters, called mucharabian, create the privacy for these rooms, but once inside one can still see what is happening downstairs in the common court. The rooms have traditional motifs, from cactus silk curtains and bedspreads to old painted cedar furniture and handmade Berber carpets. Even the recently restructured bathrooms have sinks with traditional mosaic (zellij) and the ceiling of each room is cedar painted with geometric or floral designs.

The top floor terrace was once for drying the laundry – an occasion for women to meet up. It is now an outdoor dining area grouped around the last level of the inner courtyard. A green pergola covers the terrace overlooking the mosque and the old furniture bazaar (called souq) from the Ain Azletin neighborhood.

Casa Aya Medina: upper terrace with wooden pergola

The co-owners of Casa Aya Medina, Fouad and Milouda el Ouazzani had just completed the restoration works when I was their first guest in the autumn of 2015. After several local consolidations, I didn’t feel I was in a house seven hundred years old. I explored every corner with great curiosity. The house configuration and the careful interior design transposed me into another world. I heard from my bed the birds singing on the terrace every morning and the call to prayer five times a day. I saw from my room the breakfast prepares and I smelled already the mint tea poured with white foam into small glasses.

Casa Aya Medina: September 2015 (I’m the second one on the left side)

I was anxious to start my day. I pulled on my shoes with excitement and went downstairs. I had a quick breakfast and I rushed out to the street. I was ready to explore Fez.

Casa Aya Medina can be found on booking and tripadvisor.

Some more photos from Casa Aya Medina:

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23 Responses to “Casa Aya Medina – Fez – Morocco”

  1. Marius David April 7, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    Very nice house and indeed very traditional. If I’ll ever go to Fez, I’ll definitely wish to stay there. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

    • Authentic Travels April 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

      I strongly recommend you this traditional dar. It was very well restored and it’s very peaceful place.

  2. Cynthia April 9, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    What a beautiful house! My partner spent one year in Morocco before we met and he absolutely loves it there. The culture, the smells, the architecture. I’m very curious to go there one day!

    • Authentic Travels April 9, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

      I strongly recommend you this guesthouse. They restored it recently and it preserved very well the traditional architectural feature. A former architect speaking here. 😉

  3. Patricia - Ze Wandering Frogs April 9, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

    Can;t believe we never made it to Morocco yet! Such an amazing place!

  4. Martina April 9, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

    Hi Iuliana! Wow, what a beautiful place and such beautiful pictures! I feel like going there right away! I have only been once to Morocco while I was working on a cruise ship (we stopped in Casablanca) and really enjoyed it! It’s a different world! What do you think about travelling to Morocco with small kids (mine are almost 3 and 4)? Greetings from Austria, Martina

    • Authentic Travels April 9, 2016 at 9:36 pm #

      You can go with the kids in some short trips in the mountains. Or they’ll enjoy a ride with the camels. You can check out also my article on the camel desert trekking and choose a shorter trip for the kids. They’ll feel like Berber nomads on the camels. 🙂

  5. Rob Taylor April 10, 2016 at 11:24 pm #

    What a fantastic place! And it’s so authentic and perfectly what I’d want to experience in Morocco. I love that the local crafts are what furnishes the hotel.

    • Authentic Travels April 11, 2016 at 8:23 am #

      You will also hear the birds singing up on the terrace in the morning. I don’t write reviews for everything, but this one I strongly recommend.

    • Rob Taylor June 23, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

      Funny that I’ve read this before and now have thought “What a wonderful place and it’s so perfectly Moroccan.” I guess I’m meant to be there.

  6. Heather April 11, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    We hope to get to visit soon. Wish the photos were a bit bigger.

    • Authentic Travels April 11, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

      I recommend you the place. 🙂 If you click on the photos they will be bigger, and if you click them on the right up corner you will be able to see them at full size on all the screen. 🙂

  7. Taylor April 11, 2016 at 10:50 pm #

    The architecture is just stunning. The colours and patterns too having me wanting to visit more and more!

    • Authentic Travels April 12, 2016 at 7:55 am #

      You are right. All the colorful decorations are welcoming everybody.

  8. Ajay Sood April 16, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    Very well-researched and written! I wish the images were larger in size – there is so much detail to see in those!

    • Authentic Travels April 16, 2016 at 11:38 am #

      Thank you for your comment. You can just click the images and suddenly they will be bigger. 🙂 I uploaded them at 1200×800, so I thought also at the details needed in the photos. I hope you’ll like them. 🙂

  9. Shobha June 24, 2016 at 12:28 am #

    I’ve never been to Fez but have heard it is a very authentic part of Morocco. Less touristy than Marrakech. This riad looks like a great place to stay.

    • Authentic Travels June 24, 2016 at 9:33 am #

      I liked both Fez and Marrakesh as well. They are similar but yet so different. You’ll have to see them both and decide yourself which one you like most. It’s permitted to like both of them. 🙂

  10. Ami June 25, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    Fez does sound like a lovely cultural experience. Hope that I can see it for myself some day and soon. 🙂

    • Authentic Travels June 25, 2016 at 10:16 am #

      I am sure you will have the chance to see it. Fez is a real cultural experience lost in time.

  11. Voyager June 26, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    The place captures the spirit of the architectural heritage of Morocco. Some of the inlay work visible in the pictures are really exquisite.

    • Authentic Travels June 26, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

      You are right. I was fascinated by this place: so typical and representative for Morocco.

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