Having only been in Morocco for a few days, this was our first of many stays at a Riad, and this one, by far, was the best. Historically, in an effort to hide the presence of wealth, Riads were built to be very nondescript from the outside, but passing through a series of doors leads you to a pristine and beautiful courtyard that is the centerpiece of a traditional home. For westerners, the closest equivalent would be a bed and breakfast, but that description doesn't quite do this justice...
Walking down a narrow passageway in the medina, between high earthen walls you arrive at a door. There are no other windows to the outside world, and no indications of what lies within. We are greeted at the door by our host, Kasim and led through the first door into a small greeting room. Passing through the second door and turning to the right, we are led into a beautiful, sunlit courtyard, elegantly tiled and lushly decorated, with a central fountain. As is common everywhere you go in Morocco, guests are greeted with (totally awesome) mint tea and some conversation.
Narrow, winding staircases take you up to the upper levels of the riad where the guest rooms are located. All of the rooms face into the courtyard and the only windows point inward Continued climbing takes you to the roof, where you are met with an excellent view of the city and a multitude of satellite dish antennas that are mainstays of rooftop views all across the country.
Within the walls, all is quiet and cool; a pleasant reprieve after the hustle and bustle of the medina. Our room ran the length of the courtyard (read as HUGE) with open air windows that faced the interior. The bed fits about 16-43 people (an estimate, we didn't really put it to the test) and the room has all the amenities one will need including cable TV, speedy wifi, A/C, hot water.... When you close the shutters on the windows, don't plan on seeing anything until you open them again. Without the lights, the room is pitch black and silent, perfect for sleeping. If you don't set an alarm, you might just sleep for several days, and within these walls, that is NOT a bad thing.
After a long day on the road, we opted to have dinner in the riad, as opposed to going out and it may have been one of our smartest decisions ever. The in-house chef, Fatia whipped up a lamb and prune tagine that I still find myself dreaming about weeks after being there, and I'm not a particularly huge fan of lamb. All meals are served in the courtyard, at quaint tables surrounding the fountain. Even with other guests eating close by, the fountain allows for private conversation without whispering. The staff provides excellent service with the kind of personalized attention that makes you feel more like a guest in someone's home.
If you are staying in Fes, Riad Ahlam is the perfect place. The staff are friendly and accommodating; excellent hosts, and the riad itself is exceptional beyond words. I highly recommend it!