After a rather pleasant four hour train journey from Casablanca to Fes, a taxi driver met us at the station with our name on a sign. A short drive into the Medina and we were met by a member of the Calife staff, with a wheelbarrow for our cases, who led us through the alley to the riad.
When we booked the transport from the station, I thought it was a little over the top – we’re reasonably competent grown-ups, surely we can make our way from a train station to a hotel on our own. Having now done the journey, I’m certain that no way would we have made it to the riad without either crying/screaming at each other/or giving up completely and paying way over the odds for a different taxi.
The riad itself is at the end of a winding alley that holds no clue to the amazing place beyond. It’s impossible to see from the alley as blank walls stretch on both sides, until you turn a corner and enter through a thick wooden entrance door. Inside it is absolutely beautiful, the central courtyard full of palms and a couple of fountains that are lit in the evening.
Le Calife has been expertly restored, which means all the original tile-work; tiny and intricately patterned is in place, with dark wooden ceilings drawing your eye to the beautiful metal fretwork chandeliers. We were tired from the train journey, and as it was getting dark we started regretting not booking an evening meal as it felt a little daunting to be venturing out the first night we were there.
After talking to the owner about what to do in Fes, and covering a tourist map he provided with ideas, we asked about food, thinking there was no chance of anything but some bar snacks. Instead, he opened the kitchen and had the chef cook us an amazing tagine with all the added courses that Moroccan meals always have. We were stuffed by the end, and went back to our room ready for the next day. We also went up onto the roof terrace to view that skyline at night, and it was an amazing sight, almost unchanged (apart from satellite dishes) since medieval times.
The room was amazing, on the ground floor opening out onto the courtyard, with an en-suite shower room and beautiful local decoration in the bedroom. A plate of pastries and water were waiting for us, together with a mini library of paperbacks to flick through. Everything you could need, including a flatscreen tv (why you’d need that though I don’t know!)
The Riad itself is situated a few minutes walk from the old market, through an archway into the central place, where you are able to wander into the warren of alleyways that lead to all the main souks in Fes. Metalwork, leather, shoes, silver, all have their own areas where you can watch the goods being made by craftsmen. Once it all gets too much, which is bound to happen, the riad is close enough to pop back and have a mint tea and some biscuits.
The hospitality shown by the team at the Calife was great – from making sure everything was just right, to serving amazing breakfasts (fresh orange, Moroccan pancakes, eggs, enough to keep you going until dinner!). Helping with advice on how to get to places beyond the souks and the best places to eat, drink and buy the local crafts, Calife offers one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, from any hotel anywhere. Add in a beautiful and one of a kind city, and it’s just about the perfect place to spend a few days!