When Mike Richardson exploded onto the fairly limited Fes dining scene in 2007, he took the medina by storm. Suddenly there was someplace where locals, tourists, and a handful of resident expats could convene. They came to view exhibitions by up-and-coming young artists, to hear Sunday sunset concerts featuring the likes of Houariyat—an all-female drumming band—and to tuck into the café's legendary camel burger. All these attractions are still going strong, but Clock has expanded and begun offering excellent traditional-cooking classes, and holds movie nights in a screening room furnished with vintage cinema seats. It now also has a sibling in Marrakech and another soon to open in Chefchaouene, and a country cousin in the Scorpion House in Moulay Idriss, which you can book for private lunches. If all this doesn’t whet your appetite at least come at brunch for the best coffee and Berber eggs in town.
Quirks Galore at Café Clock in the Fes Medina
It’s a long, fragrant walk through the food markets to Café Clock before you duck into an unassuming alley that leads you up to this eccentric little haven. Tour the three-story townhouse before you settle on a spot; each turn reveals something new and unexpected: decor ranges from a brass-horn chandelier to a collection of fez hats hanging on the wall to graffiti adorning the wall of a tiny cinema. The menu serves everything from quinoa and tofu (good luck finding that anywhere else in the medina) and grilled chicken sandwiches to — for the more adventurous palates — a camel burger. On any given night of the week, there will be concerts, movie screenings, folk-art lessons, henna classes. It’s a gathering ground for tourists and locals alike — OK fine, when we went it was predominantly tourists, but we also chatted with a few employees who were hanging out there on their day off. Have you ever wanted to chill in your place of employment when you didn’t have to? I didn’t think so.
Down a Dark Alley Deep in the Medina
At first glance, the narrow alley you have to maneuver to get to Café Clock -- does not look advisable. In fact, while walking down the path, I remarked to my friends, “This looks like a place in which we might find weed for sale.” Yet the best adventures often begin in such a manner. You will feel glad for the thickness of the Riad walls that house the café, it’s a break from the sensory overload that is Fes. The staff is young, fluent in three languages and enthusiastic. Even kind. It’s another variation from the world outside. Decor reflects the history of Morocco while also representing those who visit. There’s a mannequin keeping watch high up on the wall, dressed in the robe of an Arab princess, and horns hang upside down forming a sort of chandelier between the three levels of the cafe. Food is fresh, made to order, again representing both Morocco and foreign palates. There’s a small movie theater that plays local films on Tuesday evenings and western films on Fridays. Make your way up top to the roof terrace and you have the perfect spot to relax for sunset. There are yoga lessons available, henna application and the chance to hire a local guide. Café Clock is nothing like the rest of Fes, and that’s not a bad thing! Breakfast is served all day, WiFi is free and jewelry is for sale handmade by the female staff; there’s even a cookbook you can take home that compiles classic Moroccan recipes, with a twist. (Perfect souvenir for mom, or your favorite chef!)
Fes' Best Kept Secret?
In the middle of the chaotic, restless and quirky medina of Fes rises a tall, unassuming (in true Moroccan fashion) building that would be the answer to what I precisely needed that day. Calmness. A short parenthesis from the bustling outside world. Spread out on three different levels with each 2-3 different rooms, including a lovely rooftop terrace that overlooks the medina, Café Clock is one of the funkiest cafés I have ever been in, and it was never more welcome. While still very Moroccan, with its hues of brown and ornate carvings, the café is also home to many funky works of art, starting with the gorgeous central chandelier. What makes this place so special, outside its beautiful and modern setting, is its menu. Exit tagines and couscous. At Café Clock, you can eat grilled veggies sandwiches, milkshakes, hummous, falafels, pancakes and other delicious delicacies. And even if you aren’t particularly hungry, thirsty or in need of a break, Café Clock has something to offer - namely, free wifi, cooking, calligraphy, yoga and dance classes, concerts, and movie showings, to name but a few. Morocco is an incredible country, and the Fes medina does not disappoint - but sometimes, all a girl needs is free wifi and a decadent chocolate milkshake away from the hustle. And Café Clock is just the perfect place for that.