DDW sat down with Fanny, owner of Dar Fanny, to talk about the intricacies and values of staying in a traditional Moroccan Riad in the heart of Marrakesh’s bustling Medina.
Fanny, owner of the splendid Moroccan Riad of Dar Fanny told everyone around her she needed a year off – a gap year of sorts, back when Covid hit.
“To travel”, she said.
Instead, she worked incessantly to build, redecorate and shape what has now become many a travellers’ second home in Marrakesh. Dotted with intricate Islamic detailing in a courtyard of arches and wooden doors, Dar Fanny feels like a welcoming embrace in the heart of one of Morrocco’s most notorious Medinas.
But, What Exactly is Riad?
A Riad is an architectural term. It refers to a specific type of building that is constructed around a central courtyard and is often historically associated with palaces of the Islamic period. The name comes from the word garden in Arabic, and is very much associated with Northern Africa and Andalusia.
These self-contained havens are often only connected to the outside through a small front door, the singular threshold between a Riad’s inner peace and hustling outside. Even the front door, when opened, faces a corner – letting no passerby know what awaits inside.
What does await, if often a secret garden. Riads have patios and fountains, frequently open to the sky and positioned within enclosed courtyards. Their concept of intimacy is everywhere, even down to the very rooms, as every detail of a Riad is focused on privacy. It all somehow contributes to the illusion of being alone, even if you are (like at Dar Fanny) amidst Marrakesh’s Medina – the epitome of busy.
Dar Fanny’s History
The Riad was once a guesthouse owned by a French couple before being given a new lease on life and becoming Dar Fanny. It was also quite possibly a school, as Fanny, the Riad’s owner, tells us some people once knocked the door in excitement to proclaim it.
Bought during Covid times, Fanny took the Riad on an interior design journey led by none other than herself. It was a work of fate. Colours, designs, books, and evenings aside, the guesthouse took shape in an intensive period of hard work. But its attention to detail paid off, and that is the thing about Dar Fanny; everything has a story – even down to the room names.
“Fantasia, the little one, was not a room. It was a second salon. We changed that, and made the rooms. Fantasia was the name of the other Riad”. Fanny tells us. Another is named after Fanny’s very own horoscope. There is one named after Baltasar, one of the Three Kings. Gabrielle is her grandmother, and so forth. There’s no details left to chance, everything has a story, and everything is thought through.
In terms of location, Dar Fanny is set amidst traditional families, homes passed on from generation to generation. It doesn’t get any more real than this. Located within the old Medina, the Riad is conveniently placed alongside markets and shops, but surprisingly enough is just within the limits of the Medina’s pedestrianisation and is still accessible by taxi. In terms of accessibility, this is a gem. With rooms on the ground floor, Dar Fanny hosts an incredible amount of accessible access, which is rarely found in traditional Riads.
At night however, a Riad goes quiet. With mosques and family homes surrounding it, Dar Fanny works with the intricacies of a home, meaning nightfall beckons peace and rest. It’s part of the beauty, the respect it evokes by housing and being surrounded by people of all walks of life.
“You can have a Maserati, and on the road an old taxi – and that’s the reality of Marrakesh”, speaks Fanny, “it’s a big city, where you have the traditional and modern people”.
Dar Fanny’s Values
With only seven rooms, Fanny speaks of the kindness and consideration of her staff. Featuring a small and intimate atmosphere, she likes to think of her customers as her children – even if only for two nights. Void of all the de-personalisation of a chain hotel, staying at Dar Fanny is an experience where people do in fact, care. Fanny also explains that although making money is essential to keep things running, it is by no means the prime motivator behind her work. Instead, she cherishes the opportunities it grants her, the chances of meeting people and offering a convergence point for all kinds of cultures.