Dar Bennani: The Almost Perfect Home

Saturday, October 25, 2008 | Fès, Morocco

Dar Bennani: not a bad place to hang your hat, if I do say so myself.
Two weeks ago Jacqueline decided that she just couldn't take it any more, and informed me that we were moving out, toute de suite. In their ongoing war of attrition, the little apartment in Ziat had outlasted her.

As for me, while I agreed with Jacqueline that our apartment had its share of imperfections, I was learning to love it for what it was, and really settle into the rhythm of daily life there. Sure, the squat toilet wasn't pretty, the kids in the street were so loud they sounded like they were in the living room, and besides being lopsided our bed also smelled like moldy pine needles. But no home is perfect, right?

I was outvoted in a landslide, 1-1, and our housing search resumed.

Thankfully, it ended as quickly as it began, at the second house we visited. Jawwad, the young
caretaker, led us down a claustrophobically narrow street, not much wider than my shoulders, to the house's entrance. "The smaller the streets, the bigger the houses. This is what we say in Fes," he grinned as he unlocked the thick wooden door.

Jawwad was not exaggerating. From the small entry hall, we stepped into a sweeping salon, ornately decorated in traditional zellij tilework, exquisite woodcarving and painted plasterwork. The bedrooms and the rooftop view were equally awe-inspiring. The house, the largest specimen of traditional Fassi riad I have seen, is big enough to have its own name—Dar Bennani—and website.

It also has a Western-style toilet, Jacqueline noted. We moved in yesterday.

In between puffs on his kif pipe, and with several breaks along the way to catch his breath, a local cart-pusher hauled our gear through the medina's bustling streets to the Dar Bennani. With the help of some neighbors, we managed to track down Jawwad. He let us in, and laughed when I slammed my head on the way through the small doorway. "Don't worry, first time, it means good luck for you!"

The rent for our new palace is not as high as you might expect, if you're sitting back home in the US. Four of us live here—Jacqueline and I, plus Ryan (who's come with us from our previous apartment), and another Fulbrighter named Addie. All together, the monthly rent for the four of us is less than I paid for the tiny sunroom in my apartment back in Washington, DC.

The catch—with a deal like this there is a catch, of course—is that we have to vacate for three weeks in December, when the owners come from their home in New York for their semi-annual visit. We plan to spend that time traveling around Morocco though, or perhaps touring the region at large. It seems a small price to pay for the privilege of living in this palace.

Unfortunately, there's also a second catch—that exquisite courtyard, with its intricate tilework and plush sofas, has no roof. As I write this, sitting at a desk here in our room, comfortable and dry, I can see the rain spattering down into the salon below. No home is perfect, right?

At least this one sure comes close.

1 comment:

Patrick E. said...

"I was outvoted in a landslide, 1-1"
That almost made me spit out my coffee... very well done :) Glad y'all found a new place!

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