The best part of travel for me, is to get to know the locals and listen to what they have to say about their city. The folks at Riad Laaroussa are probably some of the nicest people I have ever encountered in my travels. I was treated like family and the education I received was priceless. Badĕa (left) has worked at Riad Laaroussa for two years in both the kitchen and the Hammam! She is a single mother of one adorable little girl and she is one of the most genuine people I have ever met. She patiently taught me how to prepare the great Moroccan meal that I
later enjoyed eating with her and Yahya (pictured further below) in the fabulous Riad kitchen. Helping to prepare and eating this meal was a highlight of my visit to Fes. The best part about travel is learning from and about the local people.
From the minute I walked through the door of Riad Laaroussa, I knew FZ would become my friend. FZ is an abbreviation for her real name, Fatima(h) Zahra. It is common in the Muslim faith to name the first-born girl Fatimah after the daughter of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad which the first boy is usually named after. It must be really confusing at family gatherings!
Riad Laaroussa is paying for FZ to go to English school so she was very excited to be able to practice with me. In turn, she patiently helped me with my feeble attempts at Arabic. Listening to her talk about her life while married to a man selected for her was so interesting and very difficult for this independent, western woman to understand. She is now divorced and finding her way in a more modern Muslim society and her aspirations are remarkable. I have a very funny photo of FZ holding a bottle of wine and a glass (which she was pouring for me) but I will not publish her to protect her from people not realizing it is a joke. Drinking alcohol is not allowed for Muslims.
Sabah takes care of the office at Riad Laaroussa Guest House and does an amazing job of seeing to the needs of the guests there. She is the single mother of 5 children and I am inspired by her hard work and dedication. She loves her job and she takes it very seriously. I see her as the glue that holds the team together. There is such a strong feeling of family among the staff there and I think she is a great reason for this spirit. Riad Laaroussa is very lucky to have her there.
I also spent some great quality time talking with Yahya while there. He speaks verygood English and has a BA in English studies. Like so many places in the World, times are tough in Morocco and professional jobs are not easy to come by. Yahva aspires to a career translating for a corporation doing business in Morocco and he will be darn good at it. He is well versed on the culture and traditions. He will have to complete another course to receive the proper certification to work in this field. We had some very deep philosophical conversation about religion, tolerance and human nature. I learned a lot about Islam from him and I pleased to have a better understanding of the meaning in some of the practices that were confusing to me before. He is devout and makes an excellent spokesperson for the Muslim faith. He is a very proud Moroccan and wish for him, a life of happiness.
Riad Laaroussa is a quite a distance from where a car can access so when visiting here, you will be dropped off by one of the gates into the Medina. I was met by the gracious Larbi who schlepped my suitcase and through the maze of tiny streets in the Medina to the front door of Riad Laaroussa. Three flights of very narrow and steep stairs later, the bags were safe and sound in my lovely room. Larbi also escorts guests at the Riad to and from various dinner reservation so they don’t get lost!
Last but not least are the blessed animals of Riad Laaroussa. Le chat du palais, Mimi and the adorable Labrador’s; Lou & Ben! Staying in a Riad with animals in residence made me very happy!
Next stop and post will be from the bustling city of Marrakech!