Sophisticated Living Indianapolis

JUL-AUG 2012

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Pastries in the medina at Marrakesh. Sofitel Fès Palais Jamaï Our first traditional Moroccan meal was had at lunch in the stunning courtyard of Riad Didi Meknes, owned by direct descendants of sultan Moulay Sulaiman. Te confines were such a visual treat, resplendent with polished tiles on the floor and mosaic walls in rainbow hues, painted woodwork and intimate rooms that invited exploration, that I quickly forgot my hunger, until our first course, little plates of "cooked salad," was presented. A veritable feast of beets, carrots, potatoes, olives, eggplant and white beans, all scented with aromatic spices that lent unique flavor profiles, was enough to draw me back to the table. En route to Fez we made a late afternoon stop at Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once an important Roman town on the westernmost border of Roman conquests, the ruins, heavily damaged by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, hint at the sophisticated city that once flourished there. Among the highlights are 30 high quality mosaics that remain in their original location, oil presses, an aqueduct, a judiciary basilica and a triumphal arch. Located within the walls of the medina in Fes and boasting both Moorish and Arabic architecture, the Sofitel Fès Palais Jamaï provided a welcome respite after a long day of travel and exploration. While certainly luxurious, the property still retains ample authenticity to underscore its exotic locale. Still satiated from our feast at lunch, we opted for light bites and Moroccan wine in the hotel's Al Mandar bar. While most observant Muslims avoid alcohol, our group never had a problem finding a good glass of Moroccan wine (a good dry martini was a little harder to come by). Awakened at sunrise by the Islamic call to prayer, I stepped onto my balcony to watch as the medina slowly came to life. After an American-style buffet breakfast by the outdoor pool, Saida met us sporting a traditional and colorful djellaba, a loose-fitting robe worn by both men and women. A narrow alleyway just steps away from the hotel's front entrance leads to a labyrinth that links the 187 neighborhoods inside the medina. Within just a few steps, sensory overload commences and intensifies with every turn. Tis is where the services of a guide are imperative, first of all to keep one from becoming hopelessly lost and second for help in finding the best artisans for leather goods, rugs, silver, copper and brass pieces, spices and the like. Saida was an invaluable advocate, ensuring shopkeepers gave us their finest grade of saffron, providing bargaining tips, and knowing when to step in and when to let us try our hand at haggling. slmag.net 39

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