A remarkable two-story antique royal suite with a terrace overlooking the Medina, the Massriya of the Pasha Baghdadi is the most extraordinary Massriya we have found in Fez. Originally the jewel of the house of the Pasha Baghdadi, who administered justice in Fez in the late 1800's, this suite is itself an antiquity. Its carved plaster in delicate hues has been untouched since 1880. Exceptionally fine mosaic extends throughout the suite. The spacious main salon has a high ceiling completely covered in original decorative painting from which carved plaster falls like lace in an incredible virtuosity of design. A poem carved into the plaster circles the room and welcomes the guest into the suite. Through an arched doorway is the first master bedroom, with a view of the Merenid tombs on the hillside. Below the window, the life of the old city goes on uninterrupted, with the musical cries of the mint-seller in the morning to the sound of old men leading leather-laden mules downward into the Medina.  Here, the call to prayer sounds five times each day through your window. 

We have restored this suite as an authentic experience of Moroccan tradition – then added special touches rare in Morocco – from Egyptian cotton sheets and towels to down comforters and pillows to hand-embroidered wool and silk bathrobes in the traditional style. The lighting is dramatic and the furniture is traditional and simple, highlighted with rustic antiques from the souk.

A Garden Room Contains an Intimate Domed Hammam Bath

On one side of the Grand Salon is a small, dramatically-lit Garden Room with an ornate mosaic Suquaia wall fountain. Bathe in the intimate domed tadelakt and mosaic hammam.  Created by Hussein Kadiri, the chief architect for the current restoration of the Bou Inania Medersa, this hammam – designed for four people - brings to life the traditional Moroccan community bath, created to welcome the guest for hours.  Centered by its fountain, the Garden Room is the only space that we have altered in our restoration of the Pasha Baghdadi Massriya.  Once a half-built modern kitchen, the space was adapted to fill the traditional role of the wust dar, the symbolic center of the house, with its water source centered on the main axis of the suite and visible through successive arches.  Step out of the hammam and rest in luxurious embroidered robes created by the skilled hands of Moroccan women still practicing the art of clothing kings. 

The Jewelbox Menzeh & the Roof Terrace

Quirkily situated at the crown of the house one floor above the Grand Salon level, and accessed through the common stairway, you will find the most remarkable room in the Pasha Baghdadi complex - the Jewelbox "Menzeh", the likes of which we have never seen in our extensive exploration of traditional houses in Fez.  As if the main suite below were not enough, the rooftop Menzeh bedroom is a room completely encrusted with original antique decoration. From floor to ceiling, every inch of the nine-by-nine foot space is embellished with extraordinary workmanship. The mosaic continues from the floors up the walls until it meets antique carved plaster studded with stained glass. Above this is an ornately painted ceiling in warm reds and ochres. The effect is astounding.  Three large windows look out onto the terrace, creating a bright rooftop garden retreat by day.  By night, the light from the Menzeh illuminates the deep jeweled shades of the stained glass windows where tiny missing panes and broken plaster cast lacy shadows out onto the terrace.  We will not repair the lovely webbed plaster where it has broken. We will not remove the tiny mud wasp’s nest from the sharp carved starburst of the Menzeh’s antique plaster.  All of this is part of the baraka or fortuitous blessing of the Menzeh, which we have preserved as it was found, an opulent secret place at the crown of the Fez Medina.  The Menzeh bedroom shares the bathroom on the floor below, which is accessed along the common stairway.  Despite this inconvenience, groups of four will battle each other to claim the Menzeh bedroom where, just sitting up in bed, one can look out over the moonlit terrace to the lights of Fez.

The Massriya’s roof terrace, studded with pots of rosebushes and lavendar, provides a simple retreat above the life of the city, ideally located to hear the call to prayer echo from the many minarets in the Fez Medina, to eavesdrop on the passing pedestrians below, to view the stunning Fez sunset or to enjoy a lantern-lit dinner under the stars.  The terrace is shared with two neighboring families, and while we rarely have the opportunity to meet them there (terraces are the territory of women and unfortunately ours is almost never used), there is a small chance that you will have the opportunity to meet the women of the house.

A Small Kitchen Corner is Cached in the Garden Room

Convenient for limited cooking, a small kitchen corner is hidden in the Garden Room.  The kitchen corner contains a small refrigerator, a marble sink, hotplate surfaces, silverware and dishes and a small set of antique copper pots and pans.

Location of the Pasha Baghdadi Massriya

The Pasha's Massriya is optimally located off a major thoroughfare in the Fez Medina, a five-minute walk from the only taxi entrance on this side of the Medina. It is also only five minutes from both Moulay Idriss, the Bou Inania Medersa, and Bab Boujeloud, the most popular tourist entrance to the Fez Medina.

Like all Massriyas, the Pasha Baghdadi Massriya is located at the top of the house and up three flights of stairs, sharing a stairway with other Moroccan families.  Unlike a luxury hotel, the Massriya is located within the authentic life of the old city of Fez, above the true sounds and experiences of the Medina. From the Main Salon, a privileged perch above the souk, you will hear the daily life of Fez around you. The Menzeh and the rooftop terrace are quiet retreats above the city.

The Restoration of the Pasha Baghdadi Massriya

We have just completed Phase One of the restoration of the Pasha Baghdadi Massriya, with great respect for the priceless antiquity of the suite.  We have left the gorgeous aged plaster in its original excellent condition, not attempting to over-clean or paint it to make it look new. We value the faded eggshell color of centuries-old plasterwork with its original tempera colors over the too-white gleam of "restored" plaster.

Our team has worked meticulously to remove the modern overpainting marring the historic doors of the Menzeh, the window frames, and the ceilings in the bathroom and stairwell.  We want to see the scars on the old wood.  In places where the original plaster was heavily overpainted, one man worked for a day to reveal just one foot of the original detail, deftly chipping away the paint, taking great care to preserve the original powdered pigment that gives the crevices of the plaster its depth and color.  Traditional ironsmiths in the souk have matched the original iron grillwork in the windows (we dare you to tell the new from the old).  Our electrician laughed at us as we salvaged the Massriya’s antique light switches and scoured the souk for more.  We puzzled the plumber as we refused modern faucets in favor of simple brass twists used for community fountains.  The coppersmith in Seffarine no doubt thought we were crazy as we asked him to dig out every copper spigot in his shop.  He saw tarnished overflows from copper stills created to distill flower essences. We saw spigots for the garden room.

Through the slow first phase of the restoration of the Massriya, our goal has been to reveal what has always been there.  While we have stabilized critical structural points and wholly replaced the antiquated electrical and water systems, everything that is old and beautiful must stay.  Where the modern must intervene, we have tried to interpret in traditional materials.  This aesthetic is rare in Morocco today, where many of the historic hotels have been renovated with shiny pink marble and synthetic tapestry.

There is more to do in the Massriya – a full restoration is the work of years.  The next restoration phase must include the careful repair of several small areas of deep damage in the plasterwork and mosaic.  This is delicate work because the cost of a mistake is so high – once the integrity of the original is destroyed it can never be replaced, and it is not in our aesthetic to recreate.  We are currently researching the original pigments that would have been used in the crevices of the carved plaster in 1880 so that in areas where the pigment has been destroyed we might subtly restore some of the lustrous, matte lapis blue of the original.  Each stage of the restoration work is a discovery    we learn from both our successes and our mistakes.  The mistakes we agonize over at length.  Simultaneously during this adventure we feel the daunting responsibility, the thrill, and the enormous privilege of working with so detailed, so enthralling, so spectacularly condensed an example of Islamic art.