Still struggling as an Overseas Filipino Worker in United Arab Emirates, I’m renting a bed space in one of the most conveniently accessible flats located in Deira, Dubai. I’m usually out to work either on day or evening shifts, ergo sharing a place simply to sleep, and do some cooking and laundry isn’t a big issue to me; in fact, it makes me feel I’m backpacking daily in a flat with centralized air-conditioned room and whatnot.
For almost 7 months of being a bed-spacer in Dubai, staying in an elegant and luxurious, however unbelievably affordable accommodation in one of my dream destinations in another continent was indeed, a heavenly treat!
11 October 2014, Saturday. On my third day in North Africa, I left Chefchaouen, the charming town washed in powder blue, located in Northeastern part of Morocco, at exactly 9AM via a pre-arranged grand taxi in my hotel. I could’ve opted for a cheaper alternative via public bus however, I gave importance to much needed comfort. During the road trip, I battled with somnolence and fatigue, but the bilateral views by my taxi windows were too difficult to miss!
After the long road trip from the upland, to zigzagging our way down to several hills and mountains, I finally reached Fes in one piece at around 1PM. The taxi driver parked his vintage Mercedes sedan across Cinema Amal at the famous area, Place Rcif, just few steps out of the Old Fes medina. My problem that moment was neither I had a local sim card nor availed of roaming service. Good thing that the taxi driver who barely speaks English but fluent in French and Arabic, volunteered to call Riad Rcif to notify them that I’ve arrived and for them to send their personnel to pick me up.
Walking to Riad Rcif from the main street via the narrow and hilly alleyways of the medina was never a walk in the park! My physical state was moderately challenged! Carrying a 50 liter backpack and a duffel bag (with my souvenir bag carried by Hassan) in the world’s largest car-free-urban-zone that goes uphill and downhill with left and right turns, was something I was never prepared of. However, my fatigue and panting melted upon the sight of my chosen kingdom for a night in Fes.
Wow! Amazing! Wow! –Those were the only words I uttered upon entering the riad.
It’s absolutely different when you see it up close than just looking at the riad’s photos online. Who would’ve thought that such opulent beauty is hidden amidst the ancient medina?
Mariam, the receptionist who speaks good English warmly welcomed me with a smile and offered me Moroccan mint tea. While attending to her to fill out the guest’s form and presenting my passport for identification, I was preoccupied focusing my gaze at every corner of the courtyard, sipping that one-of-a-kind-refreshingly-hot-mint-tea, and taking photos using my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (I brought my Nikon D7000 with its kit lens and a new 50mm lens only to find out that my cam’s sensor is already dirty and is screaming for maintenance cleaning!)
Then a family from Australia came in. Funny, we had the same reaction upon seeing the interiors of riad. Drop-jaw in awe!
Hisham, the owner and architect of the entire Riad Rcif welcomed me like a family. It felt like I came home to Fes!
“You were at the train station in Rabat the other day! I saw you wearing sunglasses and carrying backpack. Yes, It was you!”
Apparently, Hisham and I were on the same 2 hour train ride from Casablanca to Rabat on my first day in Morocco.
I introduced myself to him and the next thing I knew, he upgraded my room to the most handsome suite for FREE! Sweet!
He mentioned Riad Rcif, built in 1372, was renovated for 6 long years by almost 200 carpenters and artisans who tediously worked tile by tile to its opulence and grandeur. His family was supposed to convert the then mansion of a governor, Pasha’s Palace to a museum, however thought of restoring it and converting to a visually stunning accommodation. Riad Rcif has been operating for barely 2 years but already gained recognition from TripAdvisor and actual guests. Salim, Hisham’s brother showed me the video of restoration of the riad from his laptop after I had dinner that night.
“Riad Rcif has 8 rooms and suites beautifully restored according to Andalousian-Moorish-Islamic architecture, with cedar wood ceiling, intricate wood carvings, columns and plasters with mosaic tiles, brass lamps, exquisite embroidery and luxurious fabrics.”
The panoramic roof deck offers a 360 degree breathtaking view of the old city or the medina of Fes. It has a terrace-restaurant where dinner is served when it’s not drizzling.
I booked online via Agoda.com the Ambassador Suite, but as earlier mentioned, Hisham provided me a free upgrade to Cherine Royal Suite that boasts of large canopy bed, with 2 single beds, sculpted and handpainted cedar ceiling, Moroccan tiles, sitting area, flat screen TV, fridge, mini bar, toilet and bathroom, wardrobe, stained glass windows and doors, refreshingly good airconditioning unit and most importantly, free and fast wifi access!
Cherine Royal Suite
Few minutes before 8 in the evening, Hassan, the hotel staff knocked on my door and invited me to go down for my pre-arranged dinner (after I asked Hisham, the owner, for his recommendation).
It was drizzling in Fes that night (which I so welcomed as it has been 7 months of no rain for me since I left my frequently-stormy-country, the Philippines and transferred to Dubai), so dinner was served at the courtyard instead of the terrace. I had mine along with two other senior women in the other table inside a gorgeous tiled room by the riad.
From smoothly coordinating through e-mail with Hisham’s sister who’s based in London (who manages all Riad Rcif’s correspondence from there), to pre-arranging an amusingly smart local guide, Abdul for a 3 hour walking tour within the selected alleys from 9000+ narrow streets (that deserves a separate post obviously), and pre-arranging an airport transport at 4AM the next day for me to catch my local flight to Casablanca at 6, to the friendly hospitality of the staff and the owners, to the extraordinary Moroccan interiors with homey atmosphere and more importantly, clean and almost spotless rooms, to the savory home cooking of Fathima, the matriarch of the family, I savored my one-day-millionaire-travel-experience entirely with pure bliss!
I promised myself to find time in the near future to revisit Fes and stay again at Riad Rcif, perhaps for a longer break.
I came home to retire to my single bed in our flat in Dubai with a smile on my face and pleasant memories to cherish for a lifetime!
I may be financially unstable at the moment and presently drown with problems, but if I die tomorrow,
I’m wealthier with memories and experiences!
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” -Barack Obama.
- Riad Rcif : Jewel in the Medina of Fes, Morocco
- Chefchaouen, Morocco
- Medina of Fes
- 5 Places to Visit in Rabat, the capital city of the Kingdom of Morocco
- Arrival in Casablanca to Rabat, Morocco