In this episode of ExtraVirgin, we meet writer and photographer, Suzanna Clarke, who was on holiday in Morocco with her husband when she decided to buy and renovate a dilapidated house in Fez, Morocco. Always up for a challenge, the adventurous Suzanna settled on a 400-year-old house in Fez’s world-heritage-listed Medina.
The couple, with a team of tradesmen and artisans, restored to its former glory one of the Medina’s famous riads, a traditional multi-storied Moroccan house built around an internal courtyard. The move to preserve these historic buildings, which were once the stately homes of Fez’s wealthiest citizens, has sparked a revival of the many handcrafts and artisan trades required. Imagine completing an entire renovation of a 400-year-old building with only hand-tools, and donkeys to deliver your materials.
Suzanna wrote a memoir about the experience of buying and restoring the riad, called A House in Fez. It chronicles the meticulous restoration but it is also a journey into Moroccan customs and lore and a window into the lives of the people of Fez. You can find it on Booktopia.com.au, Amazon.com.au, Bookdepository.com and Wordery.com.
Suzanna and husband, former ABC broadcaster Sandy McCutcheon, have gone on to build busy and fascinating lives in Fez. They run a charming guest house in the Medina called Dar Malika, write an English-language blog about Morocco called The View From Fez and have expanded their hearts and family by adopting two local children.
You’ll also hear how Suzanna and friends created the Medina Children’s Library, which encourages literacy and a love of reading in the local children. The library has been enthusiastically received by the children of the Medina with about 1200 visits per month. If you’d like to help share the joy of reading, you can make a donation which will be used to buy more books by clicking here.
Finally, we get Suzanna’s hot destination tips to help you get the most out of a visit to Morocco. From the labyrinth-like laneways of Fez’s Medina to unspoiled coastline and glamping under incredible starred skies in the desert, there’s magic to be found; Morocco just may be your – and our – next big destination.