It occurs on the third day, after our bookbinding class, having spent the morning deep in focus studying methods to Coptic-stitch and emboss our personal leather-based journal. Inside minutes of leaving the attic studio, deep within the coronary heart of Fez’s sprawling medina, we develop into hopelessly and unavoidably misplaced. Was it the alleyway to the left of the stall piled excessive with spices and contemporary figs? Or the opposite one which opens right into a market sq. with stacks of dried fruit and couscous, cages of stay chickens, rugs and candy-coloured lanterns, pottery and crushed copper plates?
My teenage daughter strides forward, weaving expertly via the patrons, previous the odd mule weighed down with wares. She turns round to smile at me every now and then, liberated by the truth that that is the primary time we’ve been contained in the medina with no information. She turns sharply left, then proper, then left once more. We wander down a maze of darkish passageways which might be narrower than earlier than, stained blue partitions with no home windows, studded right here and there with heavy oak doorways. One is open and we peer right into a hid interior courtyard shaded with fig bushes and paved with intricate mosaics relationship again centuries.

Pores and skin deep: the huge tanneries of Fez, constructed within the 16th century. {Photograph}: Konstantin Kalishko/Alamy
What makes Fez medina so distinctive is not only how massive it’s – greater than 8km of metropolis partitions encircle the 200,000 dwelling right here – however that additionally it is one of many largest car-free zones on this planet. Even a Mini would wrestle to suit via the maze of passageways. Constructed within the ninth century, it was designed with 5 parts in every space: a mosque, a steam tub, a Qur’an college, a fountain and a bread oven. No marvel we’re discovering it difficult to get again to our lodge. There aren’t any markings or road names, no maps and no GPS sign. There’s simply you, 9,000 unnamed alleys, 40,000 useless ends and your sense of course to information you.
I shortly uncover that odor could be a more practical method to orientate your self than a way of course. Down one alleyway I recognise the heady and pungent aroma of the tanneries Chouwara, in all probability probably the most memorable sight within the medina, and I do know that our lodge is positioned close by. Leather-based skins lie on the roofs, drying within the solar and males expertly step out and in of the round vats of dye: turmeric yellow, indigo blue and poppy pink. The strategies right here have barely modified because it was constructed within the 16th century when Fez changed Córdoba because the centre of leather-based manufacturing. Together with the tanners, there are craftsmen in all places you look: tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths and carpenters creating all the pieces from embroidered wedding ceremony clothes to ornately carved funeral caskets.

Spice of life: studying to cook dinner a vegetable tagine. {Photograph}: Omar Chennafi
It’s troublesome to think about wherever else you would fly to in lower than three hours from Gatwick that may take you thus far again in time, and so shortly: pre-technology, pre-globalisation and positively pre-mass tourism. Which implies, as we lose ourself within the crowds, and I let go of my concern of “being misplaced”, the actual appeal of this medina takes maintain. Not like virtually each market, from Marrakech to Portobello, Fez doesn’t depend on vacationers. This may occasionally change now that you would be able to fly direct, however for the second the stall holders aren’t angling on your cash. They’re happy while you purchase one thing, however nobody is pushy as a result of it’s a market that caters for its close-knit neighborhood that has been right here for 850 years.
Once we do lastly get our bearings, it’s sound fairly than odor that guides us. We cease for tea – an infusion of geranium, verbena and mint – listening to the frenetic hammering of coppersmiths in Seffarine Sq., the place craftsman pound copper outdoors their workshops, promoting something from incense burners, teapots and couscous steamers to samovars. We additionally attempt a bowl of bissara at a small kiosk – a scrumptious native favorite of broad bean soup, served with olive oil and chilli.
Down one other tiny alleyway an indication tells us that, lastly, we now have made it again to base. Behind a pair of historic studded doorways lies Palais Amani, a riad relationship again to the 17th century, however re-built within the 1920s and lately renovated by the house owners, spouse and husband Jemima Mann-Baha and Abdelali Baha. Initially, the couple lived in London, however they’d at all times needed to maneuver again to the place Abdelali was born and open a lodge.

‘There’s simply you, 9,000 unnamed alleys, 40,000 useless ends and your sense of course to information you’: getting into the souk. {Photograph}: Jeronimo Alba/Alamy
After a prolonged search, they fell in love with Amani. Initially owned by a service provider household, it’s a sprawling palace that had fallen into disrepair. Now each element has been superbly restored, from the artwork deco tiling in gold and azure, to the 18 individually embellished bed room suites – ours was Morocco meets the Jazz Age with black and white tiles, mahogany and chrome fittings. There’s a lounge bar on the roof terrace, however the coronary heart of the lodge is the ornate courtyard stuffed with lemon bushes below which you’ll be able to get pleasure from a pomegranate mojito.
It’s additionally the place we eat breakfast every morning, a diffusion of figs and olives, flatbreads, honey and preserves. Then comes the mid-morning dilemma: one other exploration of the medina or stress-free in Amani’s luxurious underground hamam, massaged with argan oil and scrubbed with rosewater and bran? For supper, we enterprise out once more.

Again at base: Palais Amani’s backyard reception space. {Photograph}: Palais Amani Lodge
Dar Roumana, a close-by restaurant, is a luxurious affair, Paris meets Morocco in decor and menu. In a tiled courtyard open to the sky, we hearken to Louis Armstrong and revel in plates of gnocchi. Clock Cafe, excessive up above the town, is cheaper and quirkier – run by a Yorkshireman who was once a maître d’ on the Wolseley. There’s an eclectic combine on the menu: pancakes, Berber eggs, burgers, apple crumble and their particular camel burger.
Amani additionally affords cookery courses and on our final morning, my daughter and I spend a few hours making ready a vegetarian tagine. Our workshop begins with a ultimate journey to the souk to purchase contemporary substances then it’s again to the out of doors kitchen the place we grate tomatoes and garlic and char aubergines over an open flame, seasoning them with coriander, cumin and paprika. For dessert we drizzle orange slices with orange blossom water, cinnamon and sugar and, an hour later, we get pleasure from our feast on the terrace, figuring out that nonetheless nicely I replicate the recipe at residence, it would at all times be lacking an important ingredient: the odor of lemon bushes and the view throughout the traditional medina to the mountains.
Method to go
Flights from London direct to Fez with Air Arabia Maroc begin at round £80 return. Doubles at Palais Amani from £144 B&B. Cookery courses together with a tour of the souk and lunch value £67 (group), £84 (personal). For particulars on bookbinding courses in Fez go to craftdraft.org