The four hours bus ride from Rabat to Chefcaouen felt like a dream. As the bus left Rabat the buildings became sparse and the scene quickly changed to rows of olive trees. When the bus started its ascent on the foothills of the Rif Mountains the sun had just begun to set, casting its golden rays all over the valleys and farms along the way. The road was winding and the motion of the bus shifted me to and fro in my seat. I started to feel sick. So I closed my eyes for what feels like hours. When the bus slowed down I finally opened my eyes and I did not want to blink as I saw a city drenched in the colour of the sky below me glimmering under the late afternoon sun.
I inhaled the fresh cold air and smelled a hint of burnt cannabis in the air. The Chefchaouen region is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco and hashish is sold all over town.
Chefchaouen is a dazzling mountain city in northeastern Morocco. Its name refers to the shape of the mountain tops above the town shaped like the two horns of a goat; Ichawen, the Berber word for horns. Its walls were whitewashed with blue accents, creating a beautiful harmony like pieces of puzzle laid against the slopes of Rif mountains in the background. Built over the mountain slopes, the city had narrow streets and alleyways, criss-crossing like a giant spiderweb and interlinked by steep staircases. As the last beam of sun left Chefcaouen I could feel the cold air on my skin.
Chefcaouen’s location on the mountains blessed it with fresh air. I inhaled the fresh cold air and smelled a hint of burnt cannabis in the air. The Chefchaouen region is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco and hashish is sold all over town. Although illegal, it is readily available in the Medina and attracted a flock of European tourists seeking cheap blunts. I smiled at the touts selling me a blunt for a fraction of its price back in Glasgow.
I stayed in a riad near the town square. Riad is a Moroccan style inn, offering you Moroccan style rooms and traditional breakfast in the morning. No wonder that Morocco is a popular tourist destination, anyone living in Europe can escape the suffocating daily costs at home and jump straight into a 1001 Nights scene with a 2 hours flight on a budget airline, then sleep like a king for less than how much their lunch costs at home, which was exactly what I did.
Chefchaouen’s town square itself is a tourist trap frequented by touts and filled with restaurants selling overpriced low quality tajines, but when I left my riad at dawn I’ve found the town square and the narrow alleyways of the Medina so quiet. All the shop windows were shut and I was the only one on the streets. Occasionally I would see a cat staring down at me from the roof of the shops, or one that scrambled down the stairs as I walked by. I shuffled down the narrow alleys, climbed steep staircases, and almost always ended up in a plaza-like open space with fountains decorated by coloured tiles or prayers. I could hear water trickling down the covered waterways. This serenity would be broken around 7 when the first shop opened its doors selling traditional Moroccan bread for breakfast.
The Medina would soon be filled with tourists and locals alike. The shop windows would entice you with Moroccan curiousities and handcrafts that you’d not be able to find anywhere else Morocco, and the small snack shops in the Medina would stop you for tajine or chicken pastries. If you don’t feel like spending your dirhams, the colour of the Medina would be a feast to your eyes already with coloured powders used to colour the city in the past, pretty murals on its walls begging to be photographed, or its famous blue doors. Its narrow street would surprise you on each bends, and occasionally you would have to share the streets with donkeys carrying huge stacks of this and that on its back or men wearing djellaba, traditional Berber wool robe with its baggy pointed hoods. Like a huge maze, the alleyways would trap you.
Chefcaouen’s Medina was so surreal. It was like breathing underwater with all the blue walls around you and the moving shadows cast by the sun behind the Medina’s tall walls. But there was something that I needed to see. The Blue Pearl itself from above.
After breakfast I took a short hike to the top of the hills overlooking Chefcaouen. There was a whitewashed mosque on the top of the hill and two local teenage boys smoking pot on the back of the mosque. I was able to get a sweeping view of the whole city, the minaret of the mosques in the town, it was 7 of them that I saw, and the busy town square. The cold bluish hue of the town contrasted with the warm morning sun and I saw the horizon blurring with the sky in the background. No longer did I feel like I was underwater, the city looked as if it was floating on the clouds.
Chefchaouen is a dazzling mountain city in northeastern Morocco. Its name refers to the shape of the mountain tops above the town shaped like the two horns of a goat; Ichawen, the Berber word for horns. Its walls were whitewashed with blue accents, creating a beautiful harmony like pieces of puzzle laid against the slopes of Rif mountains in the background. Built over the mountain slopes, the city had narrow streets and alleyways, criss-crossing like a giant spiderweb and interlinked by steep staircases. This alley had traditional hats from the Chefcaouen region in one of its corners, and I couldn't help but to stop and took a snap of its beautiful contrast against the Medina's blue walls.