Fez to Ifrane: The Michlifen Suites & Spa Hotel

If you remember 'The Little Prince', the tiny jewel from Saint-Exupéry that we should be reading more often, there is a passage that says:

Grown-ups love figures (...) If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get an idea of that house at all. You have have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $20.000.000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”

Assuming you're a grown-up I will tell you that it took 790 million dirhams (around 70 million Euros) to bring it back to life this hotel in the biggest facelift in history, with permission of Berlusconi. The Michlifen Hotel instantly became a landmark when first opened in 1973, surrounded by a cedar forest in the highest spot of Ifrane. Such a place could not escape from the hedonist eyes -and the rest of the body- of Gatsby. When he first visited the place it was still under renovation, but his dearest friend slept there and told him that he had never seen such a place in Morocco, and barely anywhere in the world, leaving Gstaad apart.
The Michlifen Ifrane Suites & Spa counts 70 rooms all boasting luxury and mountain resort glamour with Pierre Frey linen, has a 3.500 sq m Spa with all kind of treatments, a 2.500 sq m gym, exterior and interior swimming pools and a helicopter runway for the VIP's. The gorgeous interiors are blessed with Ralph Lauren furniture and others. It belongs to the same group as La Mamounia of Marrakech, which gives you an idea of the standards.
The prices are the only thing that bring you back to reality, the rooms start at 5.000 dirhams up to 80.000 dirhams for the 800 sq m Royal Suite. But don't worry, if you're not Terry Benedict you can go only to enjoy the restaurant, their chef was trained with the famous Pourcel brothers and it will cost you around 500 dh per person. And if none of the above suggestions convince you just head towards the bar, where you are likely to find Gastby begging for happy hour on Champagne magnums...Bollinger '69, of course.

Weekend Away: Fez to the North of Morocco

As you may very well guess Gatsby's friends rank from the lowest scum of society to the highest possible classes, including some retired celebrities, photographers, actresses, models and even some just very nice people. Were exactly those last ones that made me discover the north of Morocco more than two years ago. Fez can get very hot in summer, and from time to time you need some days in the beach like you would do elsewhere in the world.
But where do moroccans go? I was asking myself. It's very simple: they just follow the King, after all if he is the King he must know better. And he does. He spends the Summer in a palace close to Cabo Negro, between Ceuta and Tetouan. He practises some jet-ski, sails in his magnificent boat and eats from the same cook that runs our favourite restaurant up there: 'Les Vitamines de la Mer', in Martil.
From Fes it takes about 4 hours by car, and there is really not other way of going, unless you take a horrible bus and then a taxi in tetouan, which Gatsby is not doing again. But the trip is totally worht it: nice beaches, good food, sangria when sunbathing, some nightscene, kind weather, and every known head from the Fez, Casablanca and Rabat 'elites'.
If you go, try to stay in Marina Smir or Kabila, where charming villas and apartments are surrounded by green beauty, and if no one of your friends invites you to their house you can always go to the nice Barcelo Smir Hotel or to the Kabila Hotel, or simply change friends.

Imminent Threat to Morocco

Informers from different sources that would put the Mossad to shame have told Gatsby that this man is about to land in Fez and establish his headquarters in our holy city for an indefinite period.
This man is extremely dangerous. We repeat: this man is extremely dangerous.
If you see him contact immediately the Fez Guide redaction or call our special emergency line, and DO NOT TRY to approach him.
He speaks different languages without accent, is a master in camouflage and has repeatedly eluded the police for the last 31 years. His criminal CV is highly regarded in the London and Madrid underworld and includes: serial womanising, pretending to be a psychologist to treat anorexic models, traffic of chorizo, lomo, ham and other pork derivades, and stepping into taxis in Fez carrying alcohol bottles.
May God be with us.

Made in M, Gifts & Cookies, Fes Medina

The tourist is always asking himself what are the good bargains to buy in such a place as Fes: babouches?, carpets?, some pottery?, a chilaba?, some hash? Well, yes, you can buy all of those, but then again Gatsby has something new for you. In the Tala Kbira, not far from Ain Azliten, Made in M reopens its doors under new management and with a totally different look, as glamorous and as beautiful as its new owner. Made in M offers you all kind of traditional moroccan cookies and pastries: corne de gazelle, griba, etc, either to take away in lovely crafted boxes or to degustate 'sur place' with some juice or good mint tea. And they also provide pleasure to the rest of your senses with a nice selection of oils, perfumes, candles, books and much more in this tiny little gem of a shop.

Marjane My Love, Fez Supermarket

As anyone living in the lovely Medina of Fez knows, the street markets and the grocery shops can provide you with pretty much everything you can dream of, including the best truly organic vegetables and fruits. But once in a while is good going back to our roots and experience once again the western way of shop. Is not unusual that Gatsby runs out of Gin in the middle of the week, or that suddenly he has an irresistible whim for oysters. In those cases you run to Marjane. At a merely 5 km from the medina, just opposite the Zalagh Parc Palace Hotel, and exactly at 14 dirhams from Ain Azliten, you'll find this huge supermarket -the first chain in Morocco- where you'll be able to find everything from bread to towels, from flat plasma screens to beers and spirits. Cleaning products, socks, cheese, ham, scooters, medicines...the list is almost never ending in its 6500 sqm. The fish is freshly delivered twice a week and the bakery has specially good cakes.
As a foreigner, we all had the same thought the very first time we stept in: 'I CAN live in Fez'.
And even now, years after our first 'affaire', our love story with Marjane continues, and I'm already thinking in my date with her on Monday, as usual.
Gatsby says let's play one game, is called: 'which photo was taken in Fez?'

Best Places for Secret Dating in Fez

As one of the best regarded members of the Fez 'intelligentzia', Gatsby faces several requests a day about what to do in the Medina, where to eat, how much does it cost this or that, etc etc. During the last months people seem to be thinking of only one thing, and couples and wannabe lovers have been asking the same question again and again: Where can we go for a secret date?
Luckily Gatsby has been working hard so you can really succeed in conquering her/his heart away from the public eye.

Swimming Pool in Riad Alkantara
Spend a few hours in the gorgeous swimming pool surrounded by beautiful gardens. Drink sangria, talk about life and play cheeky underwater games like the ones you played when you were 14.

Bar of the Hotel Batha
In this old fashioned retreat you will hardly find anyone known -or anyone at all-, but the place makes a good setting for long beer chats and love declarations. Most of the time not even a waiter is there.

Fes et Gestes
Not that secret on the outside, you can still have some privacy on the inner rooms and pretend you're a big Proust fan in the good library: 'I swear, the first 825 pages of In Search of Lost Time always make me cry...'

Backroom at Fez Lounge
Perfect to hide in the Medina, plus you get a leather bed to relax with your drinks or dinner. You could even start some action here, and no one would know.

Mount Zalagh
Looking for somethig casual-chic? Take her/him on a picnic to the Zalagh Mountain and enjoy a privileged view of the Medina of Fez. Bring foie-gras, smoked salmon, caviar and a bottle of Bollinger '69. Doesn't get more Bond than that.

Mezzanine's First Floor
Not as exposed as the terrace, the first floor provides you with the right space for a secret lunch or dinner hidden from the fashionnable crowd upstairs, specially if you face the windows in the left table.

Yuba Spa
Already more than friends? Surprise him/her with a private room for two including the Hammam ritual and massage in a very Emmanuelle-like environment. 400 dirhmas aprox each and the whole treatment lasts about 2 hours.

Zen Garden's Upper Floor
Ask to have dinner in the upper floor of this well known restaurant, and no-one will know you even were there...except the owners, who know pretty much everyone in Fez and really like to gossip.

Relais de Paris...Meknes
Sure, Gatsby is cheating again, this is not Fez; but jump into your car and play some Julio Iglesias music for the road. Its just one hour away from Fez and your privacy is guaranteed like its secret sauce in this good french bistrot.
46, rue Oqba - Ibn Nafia - Meknès
tel. +212665186818

Royal Golf de Fes

Fes is a big city and has a lot to offer to either its lucky residents or its occasional visitors.
One of Gatsby's favourites pastimes is going to play some golf at the Royal Golf Club of Fes. Not that Gatsby has much to show off in that particular game, but as a gentleman he has to practise every kind of sport. The Royal Golf of Fes is a pleasure for the senses, designed by renamed architecte Cabell B. Robinson, it has 18 holes packed with lakes, olive trees, and multiple family flowers.
Strolling along its extremely well manicured fields makes the perfect demi-journée; temperature is always kind up there -the Golf is located 10 kilometers out of Fez, at the foot of the Atlas mountains-, and you can find all sorts of interesting people: local businessmen, funky expatriates, some politicians, tourists practising their swing, and even world top players.

You can either become a member and pay an annual fee or you can just pay by de day;
the 18 holes cost approx 550 dh, and the caddy around 100 dh.

Their website www.royalgolfdefes.ma does not seem to work.

Is better if you phone them in advance:
Tel : 00 212 (0) 5 35 66 52 10/12 – 00 212 (0) 5 35 66 50 66

Fez Palace: Dar Adiyel

Probably one of the most beautiful Music Conservatories in the world, the Dar Adiyel Palace houses the dreams of more than 100 students that excel in Andalusian Music and other disciplines like Melhoun, Samae, or Rabab. This impressive 'Dar' was restored with funds given by the Italian Government, and opened in 2001 after a deep makeover. Gatsby loves this place because of the smooth colors of its interiors, that somehow make it very contemporary without losing the charm of the old times. Some days of the week the students give public performances and then...everything makes sense: the acoustic is perfect, the volumes allow your soul to fly and the whole experience is worth the trip to this -rather forgotten- side of the medina. The entrance fee is about 10 dirhams, so it wont brake your bank account neither.
During the Festival of Sacred Music Dar Adiyel hosts every year several performances, on this 2010 was the turn of Epi, an amazing musician from Mongolia that Gatsby enjoyed to the full.

The address is Rue sidi Ahmed Chaoui, Sidi nali
Tel.0535 623 993

Fez is Cool

For some days Fez was turned into a fashion capital when Hunter & Gatti and its army of models, art directors and photographers landed in Fez to turn into a reality an special catalogue from spanish brand Mala Mujer.
Searching for the best insiders in Fez they fell into the hands of your beloved Gatsby, and he made sure they got the job done in the best possible locations and with the help of the authorities, that love all that sounds bling-bling (read money-money). But of course there were after parties in Riad Fes, lunches in Fez Lounge, and a visit around the medina that fascinates everyone. The most difficult part of it? Well you try to persuade a fassi pension owner that you need a room not to sleep but just to shoot a girl in lingerie...luckily sometimes Gatsby is able to perform Jedi tricks.

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