History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

29 January 2007

The Riad

That's right, I'm in Morocco! Yeah, my day job sucks. LOL! I had no idea when I got here what a riad was. I mean, I knew it was a house, but I didn't understand what that really meant.

When you enter the medina (the twisting, turning, maze that makes up the heart of every major city; the old city that exists behind what were once the defensive walls) you enter a secret world. On the outside it can be dingy, dirty, even repulsive (as the streets of Fes were today, due to the overflow of the tannery, oh the stench!). But behind those same walls is a secret . . . the riad. The heart of the Moroccan
home. This is the street face of La Maison Bleue, the first riad turned hotel in Fes, and thus the oldest riad hotel in all of Morocco. Seeing it you have no idea what you are about to find . . .

You enter into a tiled hall that leads to a three story central chamber with a giant sky light (I've been in eight riads now, and they're all like this). Rooms off to either side of the "great hall" have things such as built in book cases or doors to hidden gardens. The steep, circular stairs lead up to the chambers behind the windows . . .

These are amazing rooms with tiled floors that look inward to the "great hall", as do all traditional Muslim houses. At right is the view from my room. It's amazing that all of this is hidden inside the median. Over and over. A plethora of stalls selling everything from cheap dolls from China to extremely expensive antiques crowd all around you, the smell from the tanneries blends with rose water and mint tea. Children swirl around you. Beggars hold out their hands. All of it unchanged from the time when the city was built, hundreds and hundreds of years ago . . . I'm feeling inspired to write a story set here.

My guide today told me what the small, concave, wooden shutters were for, and I can feel the story forming . . . he said they were so that the woman of the house could see who was knocking without her face being seen, and if it was someone she wanted to enter, she could drop the key through the hole in the bottom of the window. So much room for a story, don't you think?


Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Kalen, I'm green with envy about your trip. Those photos are so ROMANTIC!! As you say, if you can't come up with a romantic story with all this inspiration, you're really in trouble. I hope you'll post again about your Moroccan trip. I'd love to visit there one day. I think I've been fascinated by the place since I used to love Arabian Nights movies as a kid. The Desert Song, anyone?

11:26 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Thanks for sharing these photos! Takes me back to my very favorite romance of all time: As You Desire by Connie Brockway. The setting was nineteenth-century Cairo, not Morroco, but you just don't see too many romances set in that part of the world.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Fabulous, Kalen. Keep us posted. I love the "living history" reports!

2:05 PM  
Blogger Keira Soleore said...

Kalen, I'm enjoying dreaming of the woman lost in a riad in the middle of the most complicated souk of Rabat, or perhaps Marrakesh.

I'd written a travel story a few years ago about a woman's solitary travels in Morocco. And since then I've been dying to go. We'd made a lot of our plans for Octobe 2001. Then 9/11 happened, and we've not been able to make travel plans to go there again so far.

So I'm echoing the other Hoydens here: Please do keep your travel reports coming.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Thanks so much for the post -- and especially the photos.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Victoria, I LOVE As You Desire! It's in my top 11 romances of all time, and man, did I have trouble sticking to 11, but that book was just a shoo-in. Isn't Harry the most gorgeous hero? Have you read Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase? That's another gorgeous one set in Egypt with an archaeological background. Actually, strangely, it was in my top 11 too. That's a good average for Egyptian romances. As you say, there aren't actually that many of them!

10:20 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ok, I have a couple of hours this morning and access to the web so here I am! I'll run another post about the medina this weekend if Vicki will be so kind as to put it up on Sat while I'm on the train to Marrakesh (and yes, I have the Crosby, Stills and Nash song on my iPod).

1:14 AM  
Blogger zebrafeet said...

i am so green, yellow, purple with envy. the pics are stunning.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

That's right, Anna, I forgot about Mr. Impossible! That was another great one. Maybe the Egyptian romances are so good because only the great writers can manage to get them published! *wink*

Harry (from As You Desire) was only the best hero EVER! So unbelievably original, and that "You are my country," scene with Dizzy. . . *sob* Ohmigod. I'd lost my copy, so I bought it right before RWA last year. I was reading it on the plane and then I saw Connie Brockway that night, and I'm sure I made a total fool of myself slobbering over her.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Anna Campbell said...

Oh, dear, I slobbered over Connie too at the conference - do you think she's been suffering post traumatic stress since? Or do you think her stuff is so darn slobberworthy that she's used to it? It's just I've admired her writing for so long - although Harry's story was special. Oh, the 'you are my country' speech. Gets me every time too!

Read her Hot Dish over Christmas and it's marvellous! I was sad when she wasn't writing another historical but this is a wonderful book with a really sweet, quirky central romance.

4:10 PM  

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