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Commonly Asked Questions

RIAD OR DAR?

Traditional houses in Morocco have a central courtyard that’s open to the sky.  There’s usually a cover for use in inclement weather.  A riad has a garden in the courtyard, often planted with citrus trees.  A dar doesn’t have a garden in the courtyard.

While the word ‘riad’ means garden in Arabic, it has come to mean a guesthouse. You might find a guesthouse called Riad XYZ which is in fact a dar, and sometimes even Riad Dar ABC, to add to the confusion!

HOW TO MAKE A RESERVATION

Decide on your budget per night, then browse the Budget, Medium, Luxury or Houses to Rent sections of this website.

Choose some guesthouses that appeal to you and send an email to Fez Riads to find out what’s available. Mention your dates, how many rooms you’d like and the bed arrangements (double, single, cot), as well as any disabilities or dietary requirements. We’ll get back to you with a list of options.

HOW TO PAY

Most guesthouses ask for your credit card details: the number, expiry date and CVV number. Some take a deposit from your card; most don’t, unless you cancel at the last moment or don’t arrive.

Those houses that have card facilities, have a cancellation policy which will be sent to you which should be read carefully.

Some guesthouses don’t have card facilities but ask for your card details anyway, as a form of guarantee that you will arrive.

WHAT DOES IT COST TO BOOK THROUGH FEZ RIADS?

Fez Riads doesn’t charge you to make a reservation. The service cost is absorbed by the guesthouses, who donate a minimum of 2% of your accommodation costs to the Fez Riads restoration fund.
DO I NEED A CONFIRMATION NUMBER?

No. Guesthouses in Fez are small (usually 4-6 bedrooms) and work more informally than standard hotels. A confirmation from Fez Riads is all you need.
WHEN IS HIGH SEASON?

Morocco generally: Christmas and New Year, Easter and the end of October.

Fez in particular: the above, plus the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music at the beginning of June.

February and August are the quietest months.

HOW WILL I FIND THE GUESTHOUSE?

All guesthouses will send a taxi to meet your train, bus or flight. This is not included in the room rate.

A member of the guesthouse staff will meet you at the closest drop-off point, organise a cart for your luggage and take you to the house.

DO I NEED A GUIDE?

It’s useful to hire a registered guide for half or a full day. Your guesthouse can arrange this for you. Guides speak various languages and are very knowledgeable. Make sure your guide doesn’t take you into lots of shops where he’ll earn commission – make it clear before you set out that you don’t want to shop. Prices rise by at least 50% if you shop with a guide.

Do not hire false or unregistered guides. Their knowledge is questionable. Beware the men who board the train at Meknes and offer their services as guides – it’s a scam.

SHOULD I GET A GUIDE BOOK?

Lonely Planet’s Fez Encounter 1, published in March 2008, is the best guide to Fez with details on what to see and where to shop. However, its information on eating and drinking is now a little out of date. Lonely Planet’s latest Morocco guidebook will be published in September 2014.

There’s another excellent book called Fez Bab to Bab available in bookshops situated around the Central Market in the New City. It contains a series of well-structured walks through the medina, a large map, and is available in English, Arabic and French and costs Dh160.

In the streets of the medina, you’ll spot rectangular street signs in different colours. These denote colour-coded tourist walking circuits with different themes, such as walls and ramparts, traditional crafts, palaces and gardens and so on. They relate to wall maps that are placed in strategic areas, and also to the Fes Guide book published in English by ADER-Fès. It’s also available in French, and contains a good map. It’s available at hotels and guesthouses, as well as bookshops for around Dh100.

WHAT'S THE WEATHER LIKE?

The temperatures in Fez are pretty extreme: it gets very hot in summer in July and August (up to 45 degrees C) and very cold in December and January (dropping to around 8 degrees C during the day, zero at night).

Most guesthouses have air-conditioning and all have heating for those cold winter nights. Spring (March and April) and autumn (September and October) are very pleasant.

WHAT ABOUT DAY TRIPS?

Fez Riads organises day trips using a reputable (and fully insured) transport company that provides recent-model people carrier vehicles with drivers that speak various languages. Just let us know when you would like to go.

The most popular day trip from Fez takes in Volubilis (the Roman World Heritage Site), Moulay Idriss and Meknes.

Other trips take you to the Berber towns in the Middle Atlas mountains:  Azrou (particularly good on a Tuesday when there’s a big market) and the surrounding cedar forests,  Ifrane, Sefrou and Bhalil.

WHAT CAN I DO IN FEZ?

Fez Riads has various activities on offer, such as:

Cooking course: go out into the souk to buy your ingredients, then prepare and eat a traditional Moroccan meal.

Photography: spend half a day with a professional photographer from Fez

Artisanal Affairs tour: this popular tour visits artisans in the medina. Step into the workshops of traditional craft-makers, see their skills and find out about their work, pick up their tools and experience their daily lives. Tanners, weavers, coppersmiths, zellij (mosaic)tile masters and potters are among those visited. No shopping involved.

Carpet Window-shopping: considering buying a carpet but don’t want the hard sell? On this visit, you’ll learn about the methods used in carpet and kelim making, and the designs used by different tribes throughout Morocco, while enjoying a glass of mint tea.

FES FESTIVAL OF WORLD SACRED MUSIC

The 20th Fes Festival of World Sacred Music takes place from 13-21 June 2014, with the theme The Conference of the Birds: Journey of Cultures.

See the programme here and buy your tickets online through us.

You can book individual concerts or take a pass just for the concerts, or a pass to the concerts and the colloquium. The colloquium lasts five mornings, beginning on the first Saturday. It’s held at the Batha Museum.

There are two categories of seats for the concerts at Bab al Makina in the evenings, A and B. The seats are unreserved, but the B seats are further back. It’s a huge auditorium (actually a parade ground in front of the Royal Palace ) and the seating is raked, but the B seats are not as good as the A seats, as is reflected in the pricing. There are screens either side of the stage. Please note that if you buy a pass, you automatically have A seats.

It is sometimes possible to buy tickets at the venue prior to the concert, if it isn’t sold out.

There is just one category of seating for the afternoon concerts at the Batha Museum and it’s a much smaller venue.

There are three Nights in the Medina, during which several concerts held in different riads in the medina. You can’t get to them all.

There are free events in the Jnan Sbil Garden, free concerts at Boujloud Square each evening at 18h30 and free Sufi Nights from 23h00.

WHAT'S PUBLIC TRANSPORT LIKE?

The railway network is very good. You might like to travel first-class as it’s a little more comfortable and not much more expensive. See www.oncf.ma for schedules, but you can’t book online.

Local buses are best avoided, but inter-city buses are good. The best bus company is CTM with good vehicles. It’s best to go to the CTM bus station and book at least one day in advance.

Petit taxis go as far as the city limits; grand taxis go further (the airport run can only be done by grand taxis).  You can always squeeze in with the locals in a shared grand taxi – it’s much cheaper.

HOW DO I GET FROM CASABLANCA TO FEZ?

Take the shuttle train from the airport; the station is under the airport. You can buy your ticket here straight through to Fez. The shuttle runs on the hour every hour from 06h00 to 22h00 every day, and the journey to Casa Voyageurs station takes 36 minutes. At Casa Voyageurs, change for the train to Fez which takes 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours.

An alternative is to take a grand taxi from the airport and drive up to Fez. This costs Dh1800. Avoid the touts inside the airport who offer to get you a grand taxi; it’s not necessary as the taxi rank is right outside the airport.

Also be warned about men who sometimes board the train at Meknes, the last stop before Fez. They seek out the tourists on board and tell them that their hotel is burned down/full of thieves, hoping to lure them to another hotel where they get a commission. They might also offer their services as a guide. Don’t be fooled – registered guides don’t do this.

WHAT'S FEZ LIKE IN RAMADAN?

Ramadan in 2014 will start around 28 June and finish around 27 July (on sighting the new moon). The fast moves forward 11 days each calendar year in accordance with the Islamic calendar, which is based on lunar months.

Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours. Cafés and restaurants are closed during the day and some close altogether during Ramadan as the staff take their annual holiday. Establishments around Bab Boujloud and some restaurants catering solely for tourists remain open during the day. The others reopen for f’tour, or breakfast, at around 17h30 when people take their first meal of the day.

It is impossible to get a taxi between 17h00 and 18h00. It’s also best not to be walking in the medina at this time as anyone else around when they should be eating will be up to no good!
Evenings are lively with a party atmosphere and there are often funfairs in public places. Moroccans eat dinner at around 22h00 – 23h00 and get up before dawn to eat breakfast before the first call to prayer. You might be lucky enough to hear the singer who wanders the streets to wake people at around 3h00 so that they can finish eating before dawn. Tempers can fray towards the end of the afternoon …

Alcohol is not available in the supermarkets and off-licences are closed from three days before Ramadan until three days after the Eid (celebrations at the end of Ramadan). It is available to foreigners in licensed restaurants, but sometimes the bar or restaurant might run out of some drinks.

It’s good to be aware that this is a holy month and clothing should be more conservative than usual. It’s respectful not to eat, smoke or drink on the streets during this time.

Business hours also change, with banks, post offices and shops opening later and closing earlier so that staff can get home in time for f’tour. Often the opening hours displayed outside banks and post offices do not relate to Ramadan.

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?

It’s not necessary to cover your head. Bear in mind that the more conservatively you dress, the more respect you gain from locals. Short shorts, miniskirts, bare midriffs and lots of cleavage are not appreciated. Men also should not wear short shorts or sleeveless t-shirts. People are more conservative in the medinas and in the countryside than in the big cities.