French Fry Fiasco in Meknes
Note: if you are American, Riad D’Or doesn’t need your business…see update at the end.
It should have been perfect and for a few hours it was. Our room was large and light. We had a semi-private salon just outside our door. It felt as if we had the place to ourselves; a perfect escape from my in-laws house; a perfect place for my daughter to play and be loud; finally, a place where we would not disturb anyone. We ran around a zillij column in the main salon and pretended it was a tree. We giggled. We admired: “Mommy, it’s so beautiful!” The water was hot for our shower. So what if they forgot to leave us any soap? It was a fraction of the cost of staying at a riad in Fes.
We were in Riad D’Or in Meknes, a recently opened, very large riad. There is evidence of ongoing renovation efforts, such as construction of a small pool on the roof terrace and flimsy stair rails on the way to one room. The décor is a little over the top for my taste, with multi-colored plaster work surrounding stained glass windows set in pink-painted walls the growing from multi-colored zillij floors. The purple table clothes seemed a bit out of place with the traditional architectural details. But there are lots of traditional touches, such as fantastic wood ceilings, and some amazing spaces to discover and enjoy. Overall, the space is lovely. I thought it a bit odd that the manager watched a movie in another room instead of sitting with us while we had the customary welcoming tea, but casual service would work fine for us. For a few moments, it was a small paradise for me. That was, until the French fry fiasco.
I asked Amine, the manager, about dinner times and menus and he said having dinner at 6pm wouldn’t be a problem. The menu was fig tagine. Would it be possible to have some French fries for my daughter? No problem! Perfect!
The plate of fries served to us was so large that after dinner, I asked if we could save the fries for tomorrow so we could reheat the leftovers. Amine took the plate and I went to his office to use the Internet because the riad doesn’t have wifi. Amine returned and with flaring nostrils and tight lips began to explain to me what a maison d’hote is and what it is not. Clearly, I had violated some rule and he was angry with me. I couldn’t understand why. He stormed off and I sat stunned. What had I asked for? Help organizing a tour to Volubis? Access to the Internet? An early dinner? French fries? I found him in the kitchen reheating the French fries. “Oh!” I thought “A simple misunderstanding.” I explained that I had only wanted to save the fries, that I didn’t expect him to reheat them on the spot, and that I didn’t expect special service for my child. “Good.” He told me in French “I understand you. Now you understand me.” His lips were still tight although his nostrils were no longer flaring.
This situation bothered me. I had only been in the house a few hours before the hotel manager felt he needed to check my expectations. I went downstairs to talk to him again. “If it will be a problem for me and my daughter to stay here, please let me know and we can leave. I came here to be left alone, not to be treated as a burden.” I got a little emotional as I’ve had an exhausting month and began to cry. His mother was sitting with him and she hugged me. He angrily told her “She has no reason to cry.”
It would have been customary to throw a casual arm around me, laugh, or offer me a drink. He could talk about me as the crazy guest for the rest of his life. What would I care what he said about me if only he could make me feel welcome for a few days? But, he made no gesture of welcome to me. He actually did the opposite.
We went for a walk and I found another maison d’hote down the street. I told them we would be back the next night. When we rang the door at Riad D’Or to return to our rooms, Amine answered. He offered us no greeting. It was as if we weren’t there. He only talked to a man who was standing behind us.
How could I stay in this place any longer? I felt I had no right to ask him for help with anything. I only needed him to offer me a bit of kindness, a little understanding, and a place to store leftover French fries.
When I paid for the night I wouldn’t be staying there, he lectured me on my need to be polite. “I’ve never had a guest like you before” he scolded and judged me. I hope he never has a guest like me again. No guest should be made to feel as low as Amine made me feel.
We found refuge at Riad Safir, a much more stylish and much, much smaller riad a few turns from Riad D’Or. We knocked on their door at 10pm without reservations and were compassionately welcomed with warm hot chocolate. Perfect.
My Moroccan husband was upset about the treatment his ladies recieved at Riad D’Or, so he called to talk to the manager. The manager explained that he was upset about me requesting to reheat the fries (which I didn’t actually request). He stated that it is a bed and breakfast and guests are expected to take care of themselves. Then, he explained that I had (mistakenly) used his personal computer. “So, you want people to treat the place like their own, but not use certain things?” my husband asked. “Don’t you see a contradiction in that?” Amine admitted that but went on to say “I want this to be a casual place. I don’t really need the business of the three or four Americans a year that come here.”
I wish Amine told me that before I came to Riad D’Or. At least, I can tell you.