Yesterday’s trek from Tangier to Chefchaouen was long and the countryside looks exactly like Spain. Our driver Abdulrahman only spoke Arabic or Spanish, so we spoke Spanish the entire day, which was fine by me, because my French is merde at this point. And speaking of language, Moroccans typically speak a minimum of three languages fluently–Arabic, Darija (the local language) and either English, French or Spanish–or all of the above. If you speak any of those languages you’re fine to travel throughout Morocco. While neither Doug nor I speak Arabic, we always tried to speak a few words of it out of respect for our hosts and those who took care of us: thank you (shukran), no thanks (la shukran), hello (as-salaam ‘alaykum) and the reverse (hello, back at you: alaikum as salaam), along with a slew of others.
Once we arrived in Chaouen, we were greeted by Hasán, an old man wearing a rustic djellaba and a pair of babouches that kept getting dust in them. As he guided us around, speaking English, he smoked a cigarette and pointed to various streets and said, “Take a photo!” He did it so often and the streets all started to look alike that I began to pretend I was taking photos just to appease him. He told us the city was blue to help keep everything cool. But, there are other speculations. To get rid of mosquitos, as a tourist trap, and/or a spiritual color that Jewish settlers post WWII chose to honor their dead. No one really knows. Whatever the case, the city is a spectacular pop of color and an Instagram Influencer haven.
We opted not to stay the night in Chefchaouen. I admit it. I have luxury taste in hotels and riads and I wasn’t finding the level of luxury here that would have lured me in. Besides, I have an aversion to marijuana and Chef, located in the Rif Mountains, is practically the kif capital of Morocco. Kif, hashish, cannabis, whatever is produced here in abundance and readily available. But, there’s a BIG however. However, it’s completely illegal. There have been tourists arrested for buying, so…buyer beware. The other reason we opted not to stay the night in this more or less remote mountain village was that I worried about services. Yeah, I know. High maintenance tourist. At least on this leg of the journey. Bottom line, I felt that we could stay an extra night in Fes, which is exactly what we did.
At any rate, as part of our tour we were taken to a local Berber rug shop. When in Morocco you do run the risk of buying cheap, imitation souvenirs from China. It’s not as prevalent in places like Chef, but in bigger cities like Marrakech, you often cannot tell the difference between a traditional, handmade Berber lamp and a cheaper Chinese import. Make sure to do your research. Abdulsalam, pictured left, had an incredible selection of local artisanal berber and persian rugs. We spent an hour with him, we had mint tea while discussing a price, and then we asked to have the rug shipped back to USA. It arrived before we did.
Lunch was at a place called Hicham, and I cannot say I highly recommend it. Because we only had three hours and I didn’t exactly do my research, we ended up at a typical touristy spot. Better than the food, it had great rooftop views and served its purpose. Our driver was waiting for us at the designated time and location and we were ready to head south to Fes. Onward!