Category Archives: Africa

Fes Medina

Traditional Houses in Fez – Riads, Dars, Palaces, and Caravanserai

The Fez Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is filled with more than 3000 traditional houses. Many of these are available for rent or can be viewed by visitors to the Medina.

Here is a full list of hotels and guest houses in Fez, Morocco. The list includes dars, riads, hotels and guesthouses in the medina and in the ville nouvelle.

There are several types of house that visitors typically see and within those styles there is a wide range of architecture that is both beautiful and architecturally interesting.

Fez medina riad, dar

Over the next few months, I will be showcasing several of these incredible houses and introducing readers to this beautiful city that I am fortunate enough to call home. If you would like your property featured, please contact me with the details and I will arrange a time for us to meet so you can show me (and my readers) one more reason why Fez is one of the most interesting tourist spots in the world.

RIADS

 

 

Interiror courtyard in a Fez Riad

The houses in the medina are of several different types. The most well known of these is the Riad. A Riad (also spelled Riyad) is a classic example of the kind of houses that the wealthy once and still do call home. Generally, Riads are composed of several levels with at least two salons surrounding a central courtyard. Fountains made of either plaster or zellij (ornate Moroccan tile work) usually sit centrally in the courtyard and are faced by a central salon for gatherings and visitors.

A large front door containing a smaller door which is used on most occasions leads visitors from often austere exteriors to lavishly ornate interiors that will often overwhelm your senses. These doors are carved and painted on some of the better preserved or restored riads and usually have at least one heavy iron knocker on them.

Inside, fruit trees, decorative plants, carved plaster, and ornate zellij combine to form a decadent and luxurious living or entertaining space designed to awe guests.

On the ground floor, the salons are filled with woven cushions, thick rugs, and comfortable low rise couches which line the walls. At the street level all attention is focused inwards and it’s not until you climb the narrow staircases that you usually find windows. This was for the security of the family since women usually didn’t leave the house without veils but inside would often wear more comfortable clothing to manage the house and relax at home. So the security was for both safety and to protect the harem from prying eyes.

Geometric artwork in compliance with Muslim beliefs which forbid the depiction of anything that might be mistaken for an idol often adorn every surface and the high ceilings and timbered cedar ceilings are often painted in bright reds, greens, blues, and yellows.

In addition to the salons, the kitchen and toilet are usually on the ground floor, though this has been changed in many renovations. The public fountains in Fez exist mainly because running water was not common inside houses of the Medina. Today, most do have water though in the past it was only the wealthiest who could afford the terra cotta plumbing which would bring water indoors.

A very narrow staircase (or sometimes two) would often lead to the second floor. This level was primarily used for storage or entertaining of the women when male visitors from outside of the family were visiting.

The top floors were used for sleeping during the winter months when the natural rise of heat would keep them warmer than those below. The obverse was true in summer.

Fes Rooftop Riad, Dar, Medina, Fez
The roof level, traditionally the domain of women and children offers stunning views from wherever you might be in the Medina. Some rooftops also have a final beautiful salon and a terrace area for eating meals, entertaining, or these days, letting guests be filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the massiveness of the Fes Medina and its architecture. In olden times, it was common to surround the roof with high walls to protect the privacy of those who were there, primarily women engaged in washing, cooking, and preparing the food stuffs of the house.

While Riads are the most well known style of house in Fez, there are several others that visitors should be aware of.

DARS

 

 

Fes, Dar Fez, Riad, tradtional Moroccan architecture

Dars are often smaller versions of Riads, though this is not always true. Typically they contain neither the garden nor the fountain though they do have a central courtyard, albeit oftentimes smaller than that of a Riad, but again, there are always exceptions to the rules. The architecture and layout is similar though usually scaled down to a less palatial magnitude.

Massreiya

 

 

Fes,Massreiya, Riad, Dar, Medina, Fez
When you step into a massreiya, you are often met by stunningly hand carved plaster panels, huge amounts of zellij, ornately decorated cedar architectural pieces, and other sumptuous ornamentation. These houses differ from Dars and Riads in that they usually have neither a ground floor living quarter, nor a courtyard, though as with all medina dwellings there are exceptions.

Most of the massreiya in the Fez Medina were built as either guesthouses for visitors who didn’t get the privilidge of access to the family quarters or to the eldest sons. This is one of the reasons why massreiya are usually attached to dars and riads.

Often the ground floor is composed of a medina shop along one of the many derbs and alleys. An often unnoticeable and unassuming doorway will lead to narrow stairs which lead up to some of the most highly decorated living quarters in the medina.

In times past it was rare for a massreiya to have a kitchen, but today most of them do, though in those that have not been renovated or restored there is frequently still no running water.


CARAVANSERAI

 

Caravanserai, Dar, Fez, House in Fes, Riad in Fes
Caravanserai were used by travelers, often those who were traveling the great Sahara caravan routes to Timbuktu and back to Fes. Since these were not family dwellings and women didn’t travel unaccompanied, these houses were built with men in mind. Often for men with camels, horses, and large amounts of goods that needed storage and protection. Because of the mercantile nature of these dwellings they were sometimes the most ornately decorated in the Medina, though as a place that housed camels and sweaty traders this wasn’t usually the case. These days, medina dwellers often refer to them with the standard arabic term for hotel “fondouk” or even “fundook” depending on who you choose to transliterate the arabic script, though when the caravans still tread through the Sahara sands, they were called the more regionally appropriate caravanserai.

KSAR

 

Dar, Riad, Palace, Caravanserai, Fes, Fez, House in Fes, Royal Palace Fez, Sultan's palace Fes
Finally, for those who were of the ruling classes, of course there were true palaces which were constructed on the same general plan as a Riad but on a far larger scale. These palaces are called Ksar (think ‘castle’) and usually are made up of extensive grounds, several houses, and a level of opulence that literally stunned visiting European royals. One example that is easily visited is the Batha Museum which once belonged to a Moroccan Sultan.

win a trip to Africa

Win A Trip to Africa with Peregrine

Looking for something a little different on your next holiday? To celebrate exclusively employing local guides on tours for 20 years, Peregrine Adventures is proud to announce the beginning of its 20 trips in 20 days competition. Peregrine is offering those who enter the chance to win one of their amazing adventure tours each day over the course of 20 days. Yes, you can win a trip to Africa. These tours have been handpicked by Peregrine to represent a diverse range of cultures, lifestyles, scenery and people, which all comes together to give you the experience of a lifetime. Each day over the course of 20 days is a chance to win a new trip.

win an African Safari

Today’s trip is a 10 day tour of the mother continent, Africa, and takes in 3 countries on its journey that includes Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Upon your travels you can expect to experience numerous natural wonders such as national parks, the Blyde River Canyon and even the famous Victoria Falls.

Throughout the tour you’ll have the opportunity to stay in a number of the most beautiful spots such as an intimate lodge tucked in the Greater Kruger region near the famous national park. Here you can relax by night whilst partaking in all the trip has to offer with Safari excursions and activities during the day. You will also get the chance to sleep in rondavels, which are a comfortable circular thatched unit with private facilities and balconies. At night this is the perfect viewing platform out into the wilderness or for you to gaze up at the stars.

You can expect to spend up to 3 days exploring Victoria Falls and the surrounding areas; this is classified as the largest waterfall in the world possessing the infamous Devil’s Pool. Whilst staying at Victoria Falls you will taste the best in local foods such as buffalo, crocodile and more. There is also the traditional African entertainment to look forward to where you will see a local sing and dance show featuring African drums. Don’t forget to try our pick for local cuisine, the famous Braais Sosaties which is a type of BBQ lamb kebab!

win a trip to Africa

Since this is predominantly a safari trip you will have the chance to see all sorts of wildlife like giraffe, kudu, impala, baboon, hippo, crocodile, warthog, wildebeest, impala, waterbuck, spotted hyena, jackal, zebra, elephant, lion, cheetah and the elusive leopard! All these animals on show are a perfect example of why you need to bring a spare memory card for your camera! Naturally you may be worrying about missing out on seeing some animals; however this can be forgiven as usually you will be spending in between 2-3 days at each destination taking in the local sounds and sights. Over the course of this trip, you will be visiting two national parks which are Chobe National Park and the Greater Kruger National Park. Both of these parks will provide you with some of the most spectacular scenery Africa has to offer, particularly during sunrise and sunset over the savannah.

If you’d like to get away on this incredible African tour or one of the other amazing tours and become a world adventurer with Peregrine, make sure you enter the competition. Simply check back each day for a new trip that you can win on the Peregrine Adventures Competition Page.

Holiday Malaysia

Hottest Vacation Spots for 2014 Holidays

Here we are – already at the end of the first month of the New Year – of course, it’s the Chinese New Year now, so one could argue that we are actually at the first day of the new year, but I don’t want to confuse things more than I already have.

2014 is shaping up into a great year for travel. The economies of the world seem to be picking up, currencies are relatively flat or low in the countries that are on the hot list, and there are more places to go than ever before thanks to further development of travel infrastructure, expansion of budget airlines, and the world wide boom in the tourist economy.

Without further ado – here are my top five recommendations for the trip of a lifetime in 2014.

Turkey
Holiday in Turkey
I make no secret of the fact that Turkey is my top destination in any year. Why wouldn’t it be? With a fascinating 5000 year old history, incredible foot, glorious architecture, more Roman and Greek ruins and either Italy or Greece, astounding museums, The Marmara, The Aegean, The Mediterranean, The Black Sea, The Bosphorus, The Dardanelles, Europe and Asia, Cappadocia, and Istanbul – there is something for everyone in Turkey from mountain climbing to the staff of Moses and the sword of the Prophet Mohammad. Turkey is awesome and Holidays to Turkey in 2014 are better than ever – the Turkish Lira is weak against most currencies right now, infrastructure is solid and safe, and the government is adept at weathering any difficulties.  All of this and more puts Turkey at #1 on my Hot List.
Hawaii
Vacation in Hawaii
Is there ever a bad time to go to Hawaii? Nope. Swaying palm trees, hula shows, poke (fresh marinated fish), the exploding Hawai’ian cuisine scene, surfing, and hotels that always seem to be offering something new and special. Hawai’i is the queen of tourism for a reason. Here’s a great Hawai’i tip for you – prices are lowest at the times that students are in school. If the kids are on holiday, prices go up.  Here’s another tip – Allegiant Air flies from US cities and during low times you can find round trips for as little as $150 per person – but here’s the catch – no baggage allowance. Who cares? Leave the clothes at home and wear three layers when you get on the plane. Bring your toothbrush in your pocket. It’s Hawai’i!
Malaysia
Holiday Malaysia
I love Malaysia. Nowhere else do you get the same mixture of cultures and histories that you find in Malaysia.  It’s a country with amazing beaches, exotic wild life, a booming high tech scene, scrumdiddlyumptious foods and more than it’s fair share of islands and resorts. Nearly everyone speaks English and you can find fish and chips, Indian food, Malay, Chinese, and good old fashioned milk shakes (if you ask – and since everyone speaks English, that’s easy).
Malaysia is an easy, affordable holiday waiting to happen.
The Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains
Pacific Northwest Vacation
Get ready for some high flying marijuana tourism in some of America’s most beautiful regions. The legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington State and Colorado means that you can get a Rocky Mountain High or just get stoned watching the gorgeous sunsets on the Pacific Coast. Whether you want to check out the food truck scene in Portland, the awesome coastal areas of Reedsport, or head to Boulder to get stoned – you can expect to see a lot of hippie vans and tie dye along with plenty of ‘square’ types sparking up bowls. (Note: While recreational marijuana isn’t yet legal in Oregon you can expect that to happen very soon – things just take longer when everyone is stoned.)
Morocco
Vacation in Morocco
If I didn’t mention Morocco, I would be doing a disservice to a fabulous country and a fascinating people. A trip to Morocco is the  trip you will never forget. Morocco is a fairly laid back Muslim country that will overload your senses and blow your mind. No marijuana needed. The old medina of Fez is the world’s largest car free urban area and the only inhabited Islamic Medieval city in the world. Get lost in the more than 13,000 streets and have a tajine!
Those are my recommendations for 2014 – What about you? Where are your travel holiday hot spots for 2014?