Oppo R15 Pro Review: Full, in-depth review – Mobile Phones – PC … – PC World

The Pitch

As someone who found the last two entries in Oppo’s R-series a little stale, the Oppo R15 feels like a breath of fresh air. Sure, the R7, R9 and R11 have all been solid devices that have emulated some of the strengths of Apple’s iOS products without the caveat of having to buy into the company’s constrictive ecosystem.

However, when your niche is ‘As close to Apple as you can get on Android’, it doesn’t take long before you more-or-less catch up to your aspirations. With Apple’s products beginning to feel a little too by-the-numbers and predictable – so were Oppo’s.

Then came the iPhone X. Apple’s latest may have made iPhone’s exciting again, but it also made Oppo’s R11s look a little dated by comparison. Now, the R15 looks to close that gap.

Specs

Display size: 6.3-inches

Display type: Full HD+ (2280×1080)

Processor:  Qualcomm Snapdragon 660

Weight:  180g

Dimensions: 156.5 x 75.2 x 8 mm

Operating System: Android 8.1, “Oreo” with Color OS 5.0

Fingerprint Sensor: Yes

RAM:  6GB

Storage: 128B

Durability: IP67

Ports: Micro USB, 3.5mm headphone jack

SIM:  Dual SIM

Battery: 3430mAh

Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11ac), Bluetooth 5.0, NFC

Rear Camera: 16-megapixel (f/1.7) + 20-megapixel (f/1.7)

Front-Facing Camera:  20-megapixel (f/2.0)

Colors:  Ruby Red, Cosmic Purple

Price:  $779

Availability: JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, Officeworks and Woolworths Mobile.

Design

In terms of the overall look, Oppo’s R15 and R15 Pro hold up easily one of the most visually-arresting efforts from the brand in some time. Yes, it’s a little derivative of the iPhone X – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad look.

In Australia, the R15 is available in Nebula Purple and Frost White. Meanwhile, the R15 Pro is only available in Ruby Red and Cosmic Purple – each with a subtle, P20 Pro-esque gradient which looks slick at first glance and fails to look any less so over time.

The R15 Pro isn’t quite edgeless but the bezels are super-thin. On the whole, it just looks like a really slick piece of tech. The newly-notched display might not win over everyone, it does feel like the small gains in screen-size do pay off in some capacity here. Unfortunately, there’s no way to hide the notch if you don’t like it – which you can do with several other notched Android devices.

While the lack of any wireless charging does feel a little conspicuous absence, the R15 Pro does still manage to hit most – if not all – the usual bases for the brand. It’s got Oppo’s VOOC fast-charging. It’s got a headphone jack. It’s even got a slightly-improved take on the face unlock feature found in the R11s. Like that device, this lets you unlock your phone by simply looking at it.

Oppo say that this version of the feature does rely on a greater number of points-of-detail than the R11s did but it still isn’t quite as secure as the 3D face-scanning found in the iPhone X or the upcoming Oppo Find X.

Oppo’s ColorOS Android also picks up several new tricks in the R15 Pro. First and foremost, the way that you navigate the OS has shifted from Android’s trademark shortcut keys to iPhone X-inspired swipes. These work well and, while there is definitely a small-adjustment period, it doesn’t take long before using them felt intuitive and fast. If you don’t like them, you can always opt for the normal Android buttons. As someone who is currently itching to mess with the analogous gesture controls coming in Android P, I was a big fan.

ColorOS also now features some almost-Bixby-inspired smart assistant features built into the software platform itself. You can swipe right and it’ll give you a feed-style interface that’ll automatically incorporate things like appointments, daily steps and deliveries. It’s nothing revolutionary but, for what it is, it’s actually executed rather well.

Performance

In terms of the performance, the Oppo R15 Pro does indeed live up to the pitch of Oppo’s most impressive device yet. That said, sans a Snapdragon 800-series processor like that found in the newly-announced Find X, it does sit a significant step below the flagship-tier competition.

In addition, if you’re one of those people who just can’t stand Oppo’s one-foot-in-iOS-one-foot-in-Android ColorOS skin, the R15 and R15 Pro aren’t going to radically change your perspective on it. This latest device sees the R15 become more mature, but it hasn’t really changed all that much.

Still, when it came to benchmarks, the the R15 Pro acquitted itself well.

Courtesy of the device’s hefty 6GB of RAM, it put up quite a fight against the rest of the mid-tier crowd but lagged behind flagships like the Galaxy S9+ and LG G7 ThinQ. Notably, the R15 Pro uses the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor found in the R11s – so there’s not a huge difference in performance between the two.

If you want the Oppo device with the best performance, it’s still probably going to be worth waiting for the Find X. However, for most users in the market for sub-$800 smartphone, the experience offered by the R15 Pro is probably going to be more than adequate.

Camera

There’s a similar story to be told about the R15 Pro’s camera.

Much as you’d expect, R15 Pro offers a up solid selfie-cam that most everyday users will probably end up pretty happy with while images taken with the R15 Pro’s dual-lens rear camera look crisp, colorful and rarely come up short.

In almost every situation we threw at it, the R15 Pro delivered – with the one exception being low-light, which does remains a relative-weakness for most smartphones playing in this price-range.

Like Huawei, LG, Google, Xiaomi and others, there’s also a new AI component in the mix here. The R15 Pro comes capable of detecting 120 different kinds of ‘scenes’ and – depending on what it sees in those scenes – it’ll automatically toggle itself between one of 16 camera modes designed specifically for that subject.

All up, this isn’t massively different to what some of the competition are doing but it is an appreciated inclusion that helps keep the mid-tier R15 Pro competitive.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that, despite the addition of some sensor-integrated HDR tech, it does feel like Oppo are losing their touch on this particular front.

Compared to the groundbreaking advances that Huawei, Samsung and Google have been making in the smartphone photography space, the R15 doesn’t really seem to bring anything hugely new to the table. It’s good – and even great in certain situations – but only really within the expectations afforded to it as a mid-tier smartphone.

Battery Life

In terms of every-day battery-life, we’d easily make it through the usual 9-5 work day and often well into the evening as well. We’d still have to charge our device back to full overnight – but if we accidentally forgot to do, we’d usually still have a little bit to go on until we found a power source.

We’re talking eleven or twelve hours of average use here, though – as always – your mileage may vary. Particularly, if you watch or film a lot of video content.

There’s no wireless charging here but the R15 Pro does support Oppo’s proprietary VOOC ultra-fast charging via Micro USB, which allows you to charge up two hours of usage from just five minutes of charging.

The Bottom Line

The R15 Pro really does feel like the major step forward for Oppo that the brand has needed for a while. It feels significant and compelling ways that R11 and R11s didn’t.

The R15 Pro sees Oppo bring more of that flagship experience to the sub-$800 smartphone space than ever before to generous effect. It won’t placate tech-savvy users looking for “the best” Android smartphone out there but if you’re looking for a good Android smartphone, it’s an easy sell over a lot of the other options.

There are few compromises and caveats here, plenty of clean consolidation and lots of value.

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Death on a dairy farm: The search for answers Kaye King's children never got – Herald Sun

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Death on a dairy farm: The search for answers Kaye King's children never got
Herald Sun
Mansell checked the body lying under hessian rugs next to the pit, a shallow “sump” in the middle of an old pig pen. He saw two things clearly: the dead woman's … And there was something else: a bruise under the skin on the neck above the collar bone

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This Weekend's Kids & Family Activities in Bronx – NY Metro Parents

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This Weekend's Kids & Family Activities in Bronx
NY Metro Parents
Long before Dorothy arrives, there is another girl, born with emerald-green skin—smart, fiery, misunderstood, and possessing an extraordinary talent. …… This is a great opportunity to own unique, hand-made rugs and poufs for below retail value

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CMO Momentum: 4 marketing chiefs reveal how to weave 'culture' into the marketing mix – CMO

Building a modern-marketing function – and injecting and maintaining ‘cultural’ elements like back-end collaboration  – is easier said than done, according to a group of marketing chiefs speaking at the second annual CMO Momentum.

Former Jurlique CMO, Andrea Martens; National Heart Foundation CMO, Chris Taylor; director of marketing and communications at the University of Sydney, Johanna Lowe; and Xero Australia small business director, Penny Elmslie, all spoke during a panel discussion on the power of culture in building the right team for their organisations.

During the panel, the marketing chiefs suggested manoeuvres on the cultural front include a focus on building the right teams, perseverance when changing the way in which people work to achieve greater agility and functional excellence, and adopting a host of structural and procedural changes to achieve cross-collaboration.

For example, Heart Foundation’s Chris Taylor has had his hands full getting the marketing team right. Staff assessment and team building has already been one of his biggest challenges as the foundation undergoes ‘historic’ structural changes.

Taylor, who joined the foundation 12 weeks ago, is tasked with developing a single marketing function for the national body for the first time. As of 1 July, the foundation became one organisation.

“In Australia, not-for-profits tend to be structured in a federated way, which means that, in our case, there are eight state and territory bodies, each with their own CMO and each with their own board,” Taylor told attendees.

“For an organisation that’s been around for almost 60 years, you can imagine how difficult it is, from a marketing point of view, how difficult it is to have any brand consistency or consistent approach to strategy when it comes to marketing or digital-led customer experience.

“That changed about 18 months ago,” he said, explaining a new national CEO came onboard. The unified organisation will now be led by the national CEO, adjunct professor John Kelly. 

In that vein, Taylor has been busy developing the marketing structure and accessing the overall marketing staff and placing them into appropriate roles. He is also on the hunt for 15 people in the marketing team across brand management, direct marketing, SEO/SEM, marketing insights and social media.

“I had to quickly assess people, and then place them into the structure to basically match the skills that they had,” he said. 

But in making the initial assessments, Taylor unearthed both challenges and opportunities, which only “came to light” once he started the restructuring process and determined people’s capability and suitability for the roles. A big hurdle has been dealing with how to shift people’s traditional way of working and method of operation.

“Working for a brand like the national heart foundation, which has got incredibly deep purpose, means you’ve got people who are deeply committed to the cause – and that’s good and bad,” Taylor commented. “Good in that you have incredibly committed people who believe in what they do. Bad in that they are loath to give up the way that they’ve always done it and their pet projects because their pet projects contribute to saving lives… Culturally, a change like that for them is actually quite a big deal.”

Creating a culture of collaboration 

Like Taylor, getting the “right team in place” was the first port of call for University of Sydney director of marketing and communications, Johanna Lowe.

“I was fortunate I was able to build my own team, pretty much from the ground up. There was about 20 per cent of people who had been at the university for awhile, and the rest I was able to recruit. But that meant we had no corporate knowledge or history, and I needed people to really get under the skin of the brand,” she explained.

“The university has been around for 167 years – we’ve been there two minutes and we need to run it like we know and love the brand from the inside out, in a way that a lot of our academics do. So how we did well quickly was a real challenge for us.”

As part of the strategy, Lowe centralised functions – a move that involved shifting people’s traditional ways of working. She has physically grouped teams next to each other, including the student function next to the social media function, in a bid to inspire collaboration.

“There were people who were used to belonging to their faculty, so they only looked after engineering or science. But bringing people together into one team we had to do some complicated things like putting in a new CMS and making that digital shift, to simple things like bringing people together and making them collaborate.”

Every week, Lowe chairs a meeting where every channel owner, audience owner and stakeholder manager comes together and recites what’s happening in their respective spaces, which reveals the news and issues of the week.

“It is that culture of collaboration and sharing and reaching out to others that we needed to formalise in a meeting so that it could become organic,” she said. 

Lowe has also created a Yammer group in order to create social connections, as well as a networking group. “We are not all collocated and we are spread right across the campus. Some of us are still thinking in our siloes, as opposed to a whole, so Yammer is the place where we can talk about projects that you have, and seek input. That has increased the social connection and collaboration that’s been so helpful for our team.”

Lowe, who comes from a corporate background, started building a modern marketing function when she joined five years ago by weaving the cultural aspects into the University of Sydney.

“The pace, the cadence, the kind of professional function I was used to was quite new to the university. The lessons I learned would be ‘go hard early’ because you get one chance to go and own it all – and set what the table looks like for what you’re going to do in the future,” she said. 

The strategy involved determining the way in which people liked to work, their likes and dislikes in terms of process and even their personality type and how it related to the work environment. It was so important given marketers and academics can often be on the opposite end of the scale.

“People wanted to know what their make-up was, because we’re not all the same. We’re not all creative thinkers,” Lowe said. “Some of us don’t like to talk about our weekends for example. So everyone is a little different and the way we’ve made that okay to know that about each other is by having a label on our desk with a diagram of what our personality type is.”

Moving to a consumer-centric model

For former Jurlique CMO, Andrea Martens, the first step was taking a “step back” and evaluating the overall marketing strategy as it related to culture.

“This was a brand and a business distributed across 23 markets. It had nine CMOs in as many years, so you can imagine the change that this team, and this brand, had been through.”

At the time, Jurlique was a product-centric organisation that needed to shift to a consumer-centric organisation and Martens said she helped build a structure and approach that would bring the consumer to life in every single decision-making process.

“My role was one very much of organisational structure, but then secondly it involved investing a lot of time in the coaching and development of teams. Because ultimately it was a very new way of working, starting from the old structure where our marketing talent were based on innovation or on communication, to then move to a consumer-centric model where they would do the whole process.

“They would own the consumer, and they would see that consumer all the way through in their execution. And that meant for a lot of these marketers, that they would then be undertaking areas of marketing that they just hadn’t done before. So as important as the restructure and getting the right team is in place, it was really about putting that development in place for them, and continuing to build that so we ended up with a very high calibre marketing team.”

Additionally, Martens said cross-functional engagement was vital to the success of the company given the 23 markets. “It was definitely a challenge and one that along the way we had to take steps to make sure we adapted and flexed in terms of our style.”

As an example, the team implemented the centralisation of the business model. “It was a global brand that had been run locally, which we took into being a global brand. With that comes some loss of responsibility for some people, and then obviously a lot of responsibility and a lot of expectations for the central global team.”

Brand health, as an example, was run out across all of its markets. “Rather than doing the brand health centrally and issuing that out to the markets and saying ‘here’s the information and go and work with it,’ we actually brought all of the markets together,” Martens said.

“We worked together with the global team and local markets. We workshopped over the space of a week the data that came in. The data was the richness of their consumer, their market, that showed the problems and issues within their funnels, as well as the strategies and tactics that needed to be developed in order to resolve some of the challenges.

“That collaboration ultimately builds the trust.”

Restructuring has also been a central focal point for Penny Elmslie at Xero Australia, who said she’s had to restructure the marketing team three times due to rapid growth.

Penny Elmslie
Penny Elmslie

“I learned I had to adjust and massage our team constantly. I have done three restructures in five years. Restructure is sometimes a scary word, but certainly in a fast-paced environment it’s an opportunity,” she said.

“When I first started our team was very tactical. Our roles were like an event manager, a PR manager, and so on, and I recognised our teams, our strategy, was being determined by those tactics. So I literally threw those names out and said, ‘Now we have a head of customer, customer marketers, and partner marketers and you work on strategies for those people’.”

Elmslie said collaboration with the global team – particularly given she has a small marketing team of 20 – has been vital to her local success. She aims to have her marketing team complement the global marketing team.

“We recognise they [global product marketing] don’t need to make the cake and then our job is to sell it. They need to give the regional teams the ingredients, and then we need to go in and pick and choose what’s required, time for our market, the competition, what’s going on in our place, and then the most important thing is that we close the loop,” she said.

“We all whinge and complain that global doesn’t understand us, but how can they, unless we feed it back to them, and take them on the journey.”  

While collaboration is the ultimate end game, Lowe said someone needs to step up and take charge. It needs to be clear who’s running the show.

“One of the things we figured out pretty early on is that collaboration is all very well, but someone’s  got to be in charge. When we put projects together we expected the head of the student marketing people would talk to the alumni people and everyone would just get along and stuff would just happen. But actually you need to say, ‘I’m looking at you and I need it next Friday.’

“It needs to be very clear who’s running the show and what the deliverable is. And it has to be more than just wearing the t-shirt on the day.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

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Useful travel tips when visiting Fez, Morocco – Born2Invest

Looking for where to stay in Fez? Read our review of Palais Amani, a boutique hotel in the heart of the Fez medina. Plus, here’s what to do in Fez, including visiting a hammam, the best Moroccan cooking school, where to eat in Fez and a guide to the souks and what to buy in Morocco.

Exploring Fez

With over 9,500 alleys, 1,000 cul-de-sacs and 10,500 historical buildings, Fez-el-Bali, the oldest part of the city, is the perfect place to get lost! For us, it is our last stop on our journey through Morocco.

For some reasons, I imagine Fez (or Fes) similar to Marrakech, but I could not have been more wrong.

Marrakech is relatively flat and open, and while I didn’t think it at the time, in comparison to the souks of Fez, Marrakech’s souks are relatively open as well. In Marrakech, many of the homes within the old city, the riads, have been converted to hotels. Restaurants, cafes and rooftop terraces are plentiful.

Fez, on the other hand, is hilly, the souks and old city are a series of enclosed, narrow walkways. It is hard to grasp how large it is as you walk around as you never can see much of it at a time. There are still a lot of families living within the old city of Fez, and life continues much as it has for centuries.

What to do in Fes (or Fez)

One of Morocco’s Imperial cities, Fes, a UNESCO World Heritage site, remains much as it has for 1,200 years. The tourist brochure describes it as a melting pot, adding ingredients from the many cultures that have ruled it over the years: “Arab nobility, Andalusian sophistication, Jewish ingenuity and Berber tenacity.”

With such an ancient history, there is a lot of things to do in Fes, including visiting many sites of historical and cultural significance to Morocco.

Fes was founded by Idris I in 789 AD. In 817, families started arriving from Cordoba, Spain, having been expelled from their homes. Al Quaraouiyine (or Karaouiune), the world’s oldest university, opened in 857, and you can still see it today. The Quaraouiyine Library dates to the 12th century and houses over 32,000 manuscripts. This is but one of many medersas, (also spelled madrasa) or universities, in the city hundreds of years old. Fez was renowned in ancient times as an intellectual capital. And even today, Fez is known as the artistic, religious and intellectual capital of Morocco.

The Nejjarine Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts located within the medina (not far from the Quaraouiyine University) is in a restored foundouk, or traditional guesthouse or caravanserai for traveling merchants. Goods could be stored on the ground level with lodging on the upper levels. The rooftop offers fantastic views of Fez and has a small café.

The Glaoui Palace, the Marrakech home to the Pasha of Marrakech we were first introduced to at Kasbah Telouet on the first day of our desert tour, has fallen into disrepair like many of the magnificent palaces from the wealthy families who once lived in Marrakech.

A walk to the most famous and newest gate, the Bab Bou Jeloud or Blue Gate at the west entrance to Fes el Bali, the old city of Fez, Morocco, is well worthwhile. The gate, built by the French in 1913, features blue tiles on one side and green on the other. From here, atop a hill, there are lovely views of the city of Fez.

No trip in Fez would be complete without taking a dip at the Hammam. (Photo by David Holt via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0)

No trip in Fez would be complete without taking a dip at the Hammam. (Photo by David Holt via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0)

Where to stay in Fez? Palais Amani Boutique Hotel

Your choice in Fez is to stay within the medina or outside in the more modern, new part of town. There are many large, international hotel chains in the new part of town, most of which, in my opinion, lack traditional, Moroccan character and hospitality.

We like small, boutique hotels reflecting the character of the country in which we are traveling, with a preference for family or locally-owned accommodation. Palais Amani provides a fantastic place to experience Moroccan hospitality and explore the Fes souk or medina.

Staying at Palais Amani

All our accommodation in Morocco was nice, but Palais Amani was my favorite. It is simply stunning. After four years of renovation, the hotel opened in 2010. Amani means “wish” or “desire” in Arabic. The Palais’ original building dates to the 17th century. The more recent owners, the wealthy Lahlou family (bought circa 1920), lived in it until the 1970s, when many wealthy families moved from the center of Fez.

At one point about 30-40 of the Lahlou’s extended family lived within the walls of the Palais, and their living quarters have been converted into elegant suites by the current owners, Jemima Mann-Baha and her husband Abdelali Baha.

Over two stories, 15 guest rooms surround a magnificent garden with a large fountain in the center. A large terrace overlooks the garden from one end and a rooftop terrace provides views of the internal courtyard and of Fez.

When you come through the doors from the medina, you enter a quiet, lush garden oasis. Perfect for relaxing after the bustle of the medina.

Visiting the Hammam in Morocco

For Moroccans, this is a weekly ritual. In chatting with one of the ladies working at the hotel, she confirmed every week on her day off she visits the hammam. Moroccan women have beautiful hair and skin and one can’t help wondering if this is the reason!

No visit to Morocco would be complete without a visit to the hammam, meaning “hot water” in Arabic, also known as the Moor baths. Steam bathing, an essential part of the hammam experience, is also part of the Roman bathing tradition. You see women in the markets crushing the argan nuts to make the soft, oily soap used in the hammam. You can also buy the mineral-rich rhassoul clay, another part of the traditional ritual.

There are many options to suit any budget. The public hammam is very reasonably priced. The “spa” is much as though you would visit at home. A private hammam, you will often find at your accommodation. Our experience was at Palais Amani’s hammam.

What to expect when visiting a Moroccan Hammam?

In a traditional bath house, men and women will be separated. The treatment is usually performed naked, but if that makes you uncomfortable, you can wear a bathing suit or underwear.

Our treatment was in the hotel and we were the only people in the hammam. Our treatment was together as a couple. (One of the advantages of a private hammam.)

Traditionally, a hammam is a warm, steamy environment. In Palais Amani, the hammam is underground to help retain the heat.

The traditional Hammam treatment

As we descend the stairs entering the hammam, the room softly glows with candlelight. We sit on benches and the treatment begins with a foot and hand scrub with bath salts. A conditioning clay mask is put on my hair. Mark doesn’t receive the hair treatment. We each have our own attendant who performs the treatment.

From here we move into the large hammam, an open warm and steamy room. Here the washing takes place. The attendant washes and rinses you head to toe with the soft argan and eucalyptus oil hammam soap. A thin layer of mineral-rich clay may or may not be applied at this point.

Then you do nothing! Just relax on the bench in the steam for 20 minutes or so which opens your pores for a deep cleanse.

Next, a rinse and a vigorous scrubbing follow with a rough mitt which resembles a loofah. This removes dead skin and leaves your skin tingling. Your pores are already open from the steam and this is very stimulating!

A shower follows—in my case, to wash the clay from my hair as well. My hair was very soft following this treatment! At this point, we are swaddled in our bathrobes and led to a lovely relaxation room. After about 20 minutes or so, we head on to a massage. (The massage is not part of a traditional hammam experience, but since you are already relaxed, it makes a nice addition.) The hammam experience lasts about 45 minutes.

If you did this in a public hammam, it would be a fraction of the cost, but it is also a more public experience, and as a couple, an experience you would have separately. While not totally authentic, as most Moroccans visit the public hammam, I am happy with the choice at the hotel. It was most enjoyable and one of those things you must try at least once!

Guests dining in Fez were greeted with a lovely breakfast spread of various soups, homemade breads and cheeses.

Guests dining in Fez were greeted with a lovely breakfast spread of various soups, homemade bread and cheeses. (Source)

Dining at Palais Amani

Breakfast at Palais Amani is a feast. Each morning breakfast is different, featuring a local item and an array of accompaniments. We had not seen much cheese in Morocco, to the point we asked a couple of people as dairy didn’t seem to be part of their diet. At Palais Amani, each morning, we had the most divine soft white cheese marinated in olive oil and spices.

Moroccan breakfasts are a feast and a wonderful way to start the day. Many of the items served at Palais Amani for breakfast we had not tried elsewhere in our travels through Morocco. This included wonderful soups and homemade bread.

There is a restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner, and two bars. One on the main level which features a fireplace for cooler evenings, and one on the rooftop, for warmer evenings and to enjoy the views of Fez. Both bars serve a menu of local tapas dishes. The restaurant menu changes regularly and features a selection of local cuisine using seasonal produce sourced from the Fez souk.

You can also dine on the terrace overlooking the courtyard or at one of the tables nestled within the gardens.

Shopping in the Fez Medina

If you are at all interested in Moroccan food, (and who isn’t?), Palais Amani also offers cooking classes. The half-day course begins with a trip to the souk to shop. I think the most interesting aspect of this was seeing which stalls they shopped in—it was not necessarily the stalls or shops I would have selected.

The meat, in this case, fresh chicken, was delivered to the hotel. The fruit, vegetables and spices, we carried with us. A dizzying variety of goods are sold in the market, including fish, beef, chicken, camel meat, fruit and vegetables. Women and children pass, carrying large oven trays of dough. This is bread on its way to the communal oven for baking. They are charged a very small fee per piece for baking. Most households make bread daily.

Cheese, olives and freshly made pancakes are also sold in the market. Dried meat, an item Fez is known for, is also sold. Many men eat dried meat in a yellow lard mixture for breakfast and lunch. We tried the dried meat with eggs at Palais Amani one morning for breakfast.

People shop every day, buying fresh food, and there is little refrigeration both in the market and at home.

Kitchen tips from the pros

Following our shopping excursion, the cooking session begins in the gardens of Palais Amani. The chef and her assistant demonstrate making an eggplant salad, zaalouk and a chicken tagine. The garden is a lovely setting for the class, but by the time you visit Palais Amani, your cooking class will most likely take place in their new cooking classroom on the rooftop. The room, which was under construction during our visit, looks fantastic for a cooking class.

There were three in our class and one lady was vegetarian, so much to our amazement, we learned how to make the chicken separately from the vegetable tagine.

One of the tips we learned in this class was about cooking with olive oil. Because the chef wanted the olive to flavor the chicken (as opposed to using it to brown the chicken), the olive oil was added to the liquid after it boiled and the chicken had begun cooking.

Dessert was a simple recipe of spiced orange slices.

We enjoyed the dishes from the class served with a glass of wine for lunch.

Fez restaurants and other places to dine

Dining out in Fez is a relatively recent custom, necessitated by growing tourism numbers. When I read articles saying you should be in your accommodation by about 8 p.m. for safety reasons, I was intrigued. This is quite different from most places we travel and other places in Morocco including Marrakech.

Having been to Fez, I now understand. There is little to do in the medina in the evening. Most things close around dusk. The narrow, twisting alleyways are largely empty. It is difficult to see around the corners. And while lit, they are not well lit. Basically, the place is closed for business, so there are few places to go and few people out and about.

Traditionally, entertaining for guests was at home so there is not a history or culture of restaurants in Fez. All of which I found fascinating!

So, what do you do for dinner? Well, of course, there are options. One is to dine at another of Fez riad. Another is to dine at one of the few available restaurants. They have a pick-up service—someone comes to where you are staying and walks you back to the riad or restaurant. This is for both safety and so you can find the restaurant. Keep in mind, Fez is hilly so expect a bit of up and down on the walk through the medina. It was fascinating to be “out” in the empty streets of the medina.

Here are a couple of our restaurant recommendations for Fez:

Dar Roumana

A riad in the Fes medina, Dar Roumana offers a pick-up service from your accommodation. Following a twisty, hilly 20-minute walk from Palais Amani (we would have never found it on our own), we arrive at Dar Roumana. It was interesting using the pick-up service and being out “late” in the Fes medina.

A traditional riad, the restaurant is in the internal courtyard. The guest rooms overlook the courtyard. Dinner was 350 dirhams (35 euros) for three courses or 275 dirhams (27 euros) for two courses. Alcohol is served.

The interior of the riad is beautiful, the tiles and plasterwork, intricate. As I sat there eating, I decided I could decorate my home in Moroccan style!

Dar Hatim

This is dinner in a family home in the medina. The Bouaa family have converted part of their home into a beautiful restaurant serving traditional, Moroccan cuisine. The food here was as good as any fine dining experience.

The chicken bastilla (or pastilla), the house specialty, which we highly recommend, was a perfectly spiced combination of sweet and savory! The special of the day was a lamb shank cooked in a tagine, her mother-in-law’s recipe. Melts in your mouth!

Both the tagine and the bastilla were the best of the trip, and we ate a lot of tagines! A three-course dinner for two (no alcohol) including tax and service was 590 dirhams or 59 euros. Alcohol is not sold, but you can bring your own bottle.

However, I have saved the best for last. You must see the ceiling in this restaurant! On the ground and first floors is the most magnificent carved wooden ceiling, made by her brother-in-law. Stunning! Absolutely stunning. The craftsmanship in it is amazing. The details and intricate carvings must be seen to be believed! It took him over a year to make. They are a lovely family and you will enjoy your meal.

Dar Hatim offers a pick-up service. It is very near Palais Amani (about a five-minute walk).

What to buy and where to shop

Good souvenirs from Fez (and Morocco) include rugs, slippers (babouche), clothes or scarves (hand-woven), argan oil, pottery, spices, Moroccan lanterns or leather goods.

Wandering through the narrow alleyways of the souks is a highlight of the things to do in Fez and a must when visiting Fez. Still the center of commercial activity in Fez, auctions are held daily in the medina, selling wholesale goods to other merchants for resell in shops throughout Morocco.

Fez is highly known for producing one of the best carpets in the world or what they call "Souk Tillis". (Photo by Esin Üstün via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

Fez is highly known for producing one of the best carpets in the world or what they call “Souk Tillis”. (Photo by Esin Üstün via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

Trades or Souks in the Fez Medina

The medina is organized into souks or trades. Here is a list of some of the larger trades:

Tanners – one of the best-known trades, see below for more details on visiting the tanneries.

Weavers – making cloth and clothing.

Pottery – Fez’ blue pottery, since the 11th century, is characterized by intricate floral or geometric motifs and cobalt blue color. The exact formula for the ingredients to achieve the distinctive blue color of tiles and pottery are a closely guarded secret. (The dark green color you also find in tiles and pottery comes from a mixture of copper, sand and lead oxide.)

Souk de Henna – sells dyes and henna, ingredients for cosmetic products including rhassoul (mineral-rich clay used in the hammam), kohl (used in eyeliner and mascara, traditionally lined the eye for its antibacterial properties), and rosewater, among other things.

Knife makers and sharpeners

Embroidery – Fassi (meaning from Fes) embroidery is known for its quality. High-quality embroidery is made of very small (2 mm long) stitches on both sides, making the piece reversible.

Souk Tillis – Carpet or rug makers – see separate article for more information on buying a rug in Morocco

The Nejjarine district for woodwork including cabinets, tables and chairs. (And the museum dedicated to woodwork.)

Clothing – traditional Moroccan clothing has intricate embroidery work.

Metalworks – Es-Seffarine Square, you can rent these large pots for a party, trays, teapots, copper, metal, silver and iron works. Wrought iron and metal Moroccan lanterns are found here.

Souk Attarine – two large doors, one at each end, were the traditional medicine shops

Babouche or Moroccan slippers – the pointed toes are Arabic, while rounded toes are Berber style slippers.

Take a guided tour of the souks or proceed on your own. A couple of tips if you go independently:

  • There is actually an “official” tour route through Fes’ souks. Many of the guides follow this route on the tour.
  • There are designated places for each craft. The “official” spot for each craft is marked by a sign. Reading the sign tells you the history and a bit about the guild and their craft.
  • The sign is usually outside a shop or vendor the tourism board has “approved”

We went on a guided tour, setting out through the souk with a guide for a couple of hours. He explained the system of signs and designations outlined above.

The colorful tanneries at Fez introduces you to an array of leather goods made from cow, goat and sheep skins. (Photo by Torrenegra via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

The colorful tanneries at Fez introduce you to an array of leather goods made from cow, goat and sheepskins. (Photo by Torrenegra via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

Visiting the Tanneries in Fes

When we were walking through the souk by ourselves, constantly we were offered “assistance” to find the tanneries. When we walk along with a local, no one mentioned the tanneries! Very interesting.

Visiting the tanneries either in Fez or Marrakech is a must. In the Chaouwara Tanneries in Fes, work is still undertaken exactly as it has been done for hundreds of years. The smell is awful, but upon entering, we were given a “Berber facemask,” a sprig of fresh mint to use to help mask the smell.

Going upstairs to view the vats from one of the many terraces surrounding the tanneries provides a better perspective to understand the process.

How is leather processed in the Fez tannery?

Softening

The animal skins soak for one week in an open vat which contains lime. You see men in rubber boots stomping on the skins. Cow, goat and sheep skins are used for leather. These are the white vats.

Washing and rinsing

This happens in the covered area at the far back right near the open vats.

Dyeing

The skins are then placed in open vats once again where dyeing takes place. Multiple skins are in the same vat. These are the colored vats.

– Red dye is from poppies

– Blue is from indigo

– Yellow is from saffron, and due to the expense of saffron, these are dyed separately and not in open vats.

There is a vast selection of leather goods on sale. Check if there is a smell to the garment before you buy it—if it smells like the tannery, do not buy it—it has not been properly processed and that smell will never go away! The garment should smell like leather (clean leather).

Palais Amani at a glance

Name Palais Amani
Where Fez
Style Moroccan Elegance
Atmosphere Classy, beautiful gardens
Type Small Boutique Hotel inside the Medina
# of Rooms 15
Service Excellent, friendly and helpful
Dining Breakfast included- served in the restaurant or terrace, 2 bars serving tapas, rooftop terrace and one overlooking the gardens.
Additional Services Hammam and massages. Can arrange tours and transportation.
Extras Cooking School
What we Liked Everything!
Recommended For Perfect for first time Morocco visitors, short breaks, or food lovers. Easy to start or end a longer Morocco trip.
Good to Know 2- night minimum stay. No car required. Exclusive offers available if you book directly on the Palais Amani website.

Expect to get lost at least once wandering through the medina! It is all part of the fun. Palais Amani offers a wonderful place to stay to see what life was like in the medina for Fez’ wealthy families. The cooking school and hammam are great opportunities to experience Moroccan culture.

(Featured Image by Esin Üstün via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

DISCLAIMER: We were guests of Palais Amani. This article expresses my own ideas and opinions, based on own experience. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

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Get ready for spring! Our guide to great gifts for the season – Billings Gazette

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Billings Gazette

Get ready for spring! Our guide to great gifts for the season
Billings Gazette
New products for 2018! Unique & whimsical accessories that will round out any outdoor space. From planters, sure to match any décor, to fountains and furniture, you will find the perfect piece to help make your yard and landscape look their best

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Disturbing 'Game of Thrones' Secrets Every Die-Hard Fan Should Know – The Cheat Sheet

Games of Thrones relies on a lot of tricks in order to come out with its crazy scenes. After all, the show notably has had so many death scenes and they had to get creative to depict those gruesome killings. But the most disturbing trivia behind the show doesn’t just revolve around death.

Actors have since talked about weird things they had worn for the show that will probably make you look at their cool costumes a little differently (pages 4 and 8). Also, one of the show’s biggest stars had a pretty crazy prank done to him (page 6). Those are just some of the show’s craziest secrets.

Here are 10 disturbing Game of Thrones secrets every die-hard fan should know.

1. Emilia Clarke got stuck to a toilet while covered in fake blood

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones Even with a fake heart, this sounds gross. | HBO

Daenerys Targaryen had the memorable scene where she ate a horse’s heart. That involved her being covered in a lot of blood that led to something strange afterward.

“It was kind of like a gummy bear,” Emilia Clarke told Jimmy Kimmel. “But covered in fake blood that tasted sort of like bleach, which was gross.” She then continued, “Then there was a moment when we were filming it that I disappeared, and I was stuck to the toilet.”

That wasn’t the only gross part of doing the scene. Clarke revealed she ate about 28 hearts to get it right. “They made the heart out of solidified jam but it tasted like bleach and raw pasta,” she told The Mirror. “Fortunately, they gave me a spit bucket because I was vomiting in it quite often.”

Next: This actor really skinned an animal.

'Alien-like' rabbit foetuses, cat skin rug for sale on Trade Me | Stuff.co … – Stuff.co.nz

This stuffed rabbit is up for auction on Trade Me.

This stuffed rabbit is up for auction on Trade Me.

What do you do when your farm cat dies of old age?

If you’re Andrew Lancaster, you skin it, stuff it, and sell it on Trade Me.

The Tauranga-based taxidermist has been selling cat- and possum-skin rugs, alongside mounted rabbits, magpies, weasels and ferrets, under the user name getstuffed1 for years.

More than 70 people have added these unborn,

More than 70 people have added these unborn, “alien-like” rabbits to their Trade Me watchlists.

His most recent listing includes a rug made out of his deceased farm cat – which he said he had found dead in an outbuilding – and five rabbit foetuses which have been preserved in a jar.

READ MORE:
* Taxidermist auctions off cat-skin rug
* Taxidermy cat bag sells for $545
* How I developed a taste for exotic pest meat

Bidding on the cat-skin rug had reached $158 on Sunday morning, with two more days still to run.

Before being made into a rug, this farm cat kept rat and mice populations down, Lancaster said.

Before being made into a rug, this farm cat kept rat and mice populations down, Lancaster said.

The rabbit foetuses were proving less popular, with bids sitting at $30.

“Looking alien-like, these five unborn baby rabbits were found inside the mother which was recently taxidermied,” that listing said.

“Cool object for home, office, shop display. Looks great when lit up.”

Lancaster was also selling a possum-skin rug, a stuffed magpie and a stuffed rabbit.


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The rabbit had “probably had a few fights over the years with one ear a bit ragged”, the listing said.

In 2013, Lancaster told Stuff he usually steered clear of stuffing cats and dogs.

“You get a lot of people who say they’re pets and should be left alone and not stuffed.”

He said he sometimes received “nasty” comments about his work, but everybody was entitled to their own opinion.

“Some people like taxidermy and some people hate it.”

Comments on the cat skin rug listing were mainly positive, with people saying the sale was no different from that of a cow hide rug.

“A cat is not somehow more valuable or sentient than a pig or a dog or a cow,” one said. 

Another commenter said they did not understand how people could label Lancaster’s taxidermy ‘sick’ or ‘cruel’. 

“Bet they all eat meat and wear leather and don’t even realise what that animal went through.”


 – Stuff

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'Alien-like' rabbit foetuses, cat skin rug for sale on Trade Me – Stuff.co.nz

This stuffed rabbit is up for auction on Trade Me.

This stuffed rabbit is up for auction on Trade Me.

What do you do when your farm cat dies of old age?

If you’re Andrew Lancaster, you skin it, stuff it, and sell it on Trade Me.

The Tauranga-based taxidermist has been selling cat- and possum-skin rugs, alongside mounted rabbits, magpies, weasels and ferrets, under the user name getstuffed1 for years.

More than 70 people have added these unborn,

More than 70 people have added these unborn, “alien-like” rabbits to their Trade Me watchlists.

His most recent listing includes a rug made out of his deceased farm cat – which he said he had found dead in an outbuilding – and five rabbit foetuses which have been preserved in a jar.

READ MORE:
* Taxidermist auctions off cat-skin rug
* Taxidermy cat bag sells for $545
* How I developed a taste for exotic pest meat

Bidding on the cat-skin rug had reached $158 on Sunday morning, with two more days still to run.

Before being made into a rug, this farm cat kept rat and mice populations down, Lancaster said.

Before being made into a rug, this farm cat kept rat and mice populations down, Lancaster said.

The rabbit foetuses were proving less popular, with bids sitting at $30.

“Looking alien-like, these five unborn baby rabbits were found inside the mother which was recently taxidermied,” that listing said.

“Cool object for home, office, shop display. Looks great when lit up.”

Lancaster was also selling a possum-skin rug, a stuffed magpie and a stuffed rabbit.


Ad Feedback

The rabbit had “probably had a few fights over the years with one ear a bit ragged”, the listing said.

In 2013, Lancaster told Stuff he usually steered clear of stuffing cats and dogs.

“You get a lot of people who say they’re pets and should be left alone and not stuffed.”

He said he sometimes received “nasty” comments about his work, but everybody was entitled to their own opinion.

“Some people like taxidermy and some people hate it.”

Comments on the cat skin rug listing were mainly positive, with people saying the sale was no different from that of a cow hide rug.

“A cat is not somehow more valuable or sentient than a pig or a dog or a cow,” one said. 

Another commenter said they did not understand how people could label Lancaster’s taxidermy ‘sick’ or ‘cruel’. 

“Bet they all eat meat and wear leather and don’t even realise what that animal went through.”


 – Stuff

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