A stylish scene is emerging in Fez, a Moroccan city in the midst of transformation. Here are six new places to discover.
LE JARDIN DES BIEHN
Hidden amid the 9,600 winding streets of Fez’s medina, or old town, this former palace and its tranquil courtyard have been restored into a nine-room hotel by owner Michel Biehn, formerly a Provence-based antiques dealer and interior designer. Sun-drenched colors and mosaics fill the property with a sense of place, as do ancient textiles, bespoke furniture, and museum-quality antiques from Biehn’s private collection. Locals like to drop into Le Jardin’s Fez Café, where meals use produce from the hotel’s organic garden (13 Akbat Sbaa, Douh; 212-5/3574-1036; Le Jardin des Biehn; doubles from US$165).
RESTAURANT NUMÉRO 7
Nearby Le Jardin, Numéro 7’s black-and-white design sets a striking stage for one of the city’s most innovative culinary concepts. Underlined with a goal of cross-cultural exchange, the kitchen is headed by a rotating roster of renowned international chefs who come to spend up to four months in residency here, working with local farmers and producers to create ingredient-driven menus five nights weekly (7 Zkak Rouan; 212-6/9427-7849; Restaurant Numéro 7).
Housed in a restored riad, this bed-and-breakfast is palatial with its soaring ceilings, intricately tiled floors, and detailed latticework. The five suites are huge, and in the evenings, the courtyard transforms into a restaurant serving fine Moorish and Mediterranean cuisine. Views taking in the entire medina are afforded from the rooftop terrace, the perfect place for an evening aperitif (30 Derb El Amer, Zkak Roumane; 212-5/3574-1637; Dar Roumana; doubles from US$94).
THE ARTISAN PROJECT
From exquisite leather bags to woven throws and rugs, artisanal goods in the city souks come in choices galore. Knowing where to shop and how much to pay, however, can be a bit of a minefield to navigate. Luckily, former Los Angeles resident Nina Mohammad-Galbert offers an elite shopping service, meeting with clients to discuss their wants before guiding them to the best spots in the medina’s markets or outside of town to Berber villages, famed for their abstract weaving patterns (no telephone; Artisan Project).
On a hilltop between the medina and the Ville Nouvelle, or new town, this 50-room beauty opened last fall as Fez’s sleekest hotel yet. Paris-based architect and designer Christopher Pillet combined contemporary furnishings with Moroccan crafts, and Berber rugs, Fassi ceramics, and brass lamps are placed throughout. Along with a French brasserie and Amaraz, serving Moroccan fare, there are rooftop terraces and the first Givenchy Spa in Africa (Bab Lghoul, Dhar El Mehraz; 212-5/3594-0332; Hotel Sahrai; doubles from US$170).
Another designed-by-Pillet hot spot, this Ville Nouvelle bar and restaurant is nothing if not sophisticated. Walls of slate and hot-pink seats provide a cool, European ambience for chef Thierry Vaissière’s French delicacies such as duck foie gras terrine with fig chutney and orange mille-feuille. For a nightcap, the mezzanine bar offers a selection of cigars, cocktails, fine spirits, and champagne (Rue Ahmed Chaouki; 212-5/3562-2727; Maison Blanche).
This article originally appeared in the April/May print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Fez Time”)