After everything I had read about Fez, I wasn't expecting much. I most definitely wasn't expecting to have my preconceived notions changed in an instant. Unlike the abrasiveness of Marrakech, Fez has a warm and homey feel. It is a town for locals, not tourists... but its charm is ever apparent.
The city is built inside castle walls. Large cathedral doors and archways lead you into the the roof covered souks. Lights cast a golden glow on the streets and surrounding buildings. The atmosphere is one the Dutch would call gezellig. Cozy.
We arrived at our family-owned riad in the evening and chatted with the son, due to his fluent English. Aside from asking him where the nearest internet cafe was, for Natalie and Travis to print out airline tickets, we asked him if there was a patisserie nearby that was still open. Natalie and I hadn't stopped thinking about eating more desserts since the pastries we had eaten the previous day. He turned to his mother, who was standing nearby, and asked her in French. She said it wasn't likely, so we gave up on the idea. Instead we got settled into our room and practiced our French with her young granddaughter who was also in the riad lobby.
An hour after our arrival, we left with the son who offered to take us to an internet cafe. His mom and little cousin also left the same time we did. They were going home, he mentioned. A beautiful home that we were invited into once lead to the doorstep. A large courtyard with an orange tree filled the center of the house. Other rooms branched off it.
"There used to be three old fountains here," the son explained. "But my mom didn't like them so she had them ripped out and planted a tree instead." His mom turned to us and explained the same thing over again in French.
The 8 year old girl showed us the house, leading us from room to room until we reached a sofa where she asked if we'd like to sit down and have some treats, in hopes to satisfy our earlier request. None of us knew how to say 'oh, no, we don't want to impose' in French, but our looks of surprise was probably enough. She reassured us that it was their pleasure, and said her grandma was already in the kitchen assorting things on a plate.
So there we sat, with a tray full of homemade (and absolutely delicious) cookies placed in front of us while grandmother and granddaughter showed us photos of the family. We felt like honored guests, and were welcomed just as warmly when the husband and another son arrived.
Just before leaving for the internet cafe, we were told next time we return to Fez (since we were only there for the night) to not even think about paying for a room at the riad.
"From now on," the son translated to us, "our doors are open for you to stay in our home... as friends."