PORTRAIT It’s one of the particularities of Fes: a homestay in a traditional riad. In 2001, Lalla Fatima was the first riad in the city to open the doors to her home. Since then, her only wish is “that God gives me the strength to host tourists for the rest of my life.”
“I was an embroideress before. Then in 2001 when my two sons left for Germany, I was going to sell my house, it was too big. I had a lot of people looking at it each day, the price increased by the hour. But then a man came. He worked for the government and he asked me to open a homestay bed and breakfast, the first in the city.”
To keep Fes from becoming the next Marrakech.
“I didn’t know what to do. A foreigner had never stepped foot in my house.”
But she learned, first hand. On her own and in direct contact with the clients, she gradually figured out how the industry worked.
“At the beginning, to get the house up and running, they sent me students from the American Institute. Angela, my first client, spent six months here. I recently went on vacation to visit her.”
Because when you stay at Lalla Fatima’s house, you’ll inevitably become friends. Over a tea or couscous.
“Here you’re in my house. And during your vacation, you’re with Fatima, and Fatima is with you.”
So if you are looking to shut yourself in your room and avoid contact, this place is not for you.
“A second mother to me”
But the beginning wasn’t always easy. For many years, Lalla Faitma had to continue working as an embroideress while also opening the doors to tourists.
“Now, it’s all through word of mouth. My clients in 2010 were all returning clients or friends of former clients.”
And indeed, the regulars who continue to come back are here for a reason.
“A second mother for me,” confessed on of her guests who came with her family.
The historical status as the “first homestay bed and breakfast” has brought Lalla Fatima celebrity status. Côté Jardin, Des Racines and Ailes, the first Moroccan television station, have followed the story.
“Another interview? Ok. But while I finish preparing the couscous, I have guests to feed.”
Just another service available here.
« Encore une interview ? Bon, d’accord. Mais pendant que je finis de préparer le couscous, j’ai des invités à nourrir, quand même ». Des clients ? « Non, des invités. » Une autre façon d’envisager l’hôtellerie.
Text and photo : Mathias Chaillot
Translation: Mandy Sinclair
Riad Lalla Fatima, 19 Arset El Hammoumi, Bab Ziat, Fès.
Tel :+212 (0)5 35 63 72 17 ou +212 (0)6 64 28 75 56
Prices from 35 Euros per room. Lunch and dinner are available.