Chefchaouen- The Blue Town- Morocco
Of all the extraordinary places we have visited, Morocco is way up on top of the list of our favorites.
We flew from Spain to Tangiers, where we were met at the airport by our driver Hassan. A lumbering, middle aged, tall, thick set man, with a well aged Mercedes. Most of the drivers in Morocco drive vintage Mercedes, which have been cared for and kept in excellent working condition.
We set off through fields a color of green the likes of which we had not seen since our trip to Costa Rica, when Stan and I named that particular shade of bright rich green: ‘Costa Rica Green.’ After a half hour we turned off the toll road and started our ascent into the Rif Mountains. For the next hour-and-a-half we feasted our eyes on the gorgeous countryside. We passed shepherds young and old, male and female, herding sheep and goats. The Berber men reminded us of the Armenian monks in the old city of Jerusalem. They wear jellābas – long robes with pointed hoods, generally made from camel hair in shades of chocolate, cream or grey – that give them the appearance of having just stepped out of a medieval painting. In the fields, the Riffian women wear long white pants, covered by colorful red and white striped dresses, called ‘fouta,’ and cover their heads with large straw hats.
We passed roadside pottery stands, most of them selling planters and the traditional clay ‘tagines’ used in Moroccan cooking, which produce the melt in the mouth tender chicken, lamb, beef and vegetable dishes, for which Morocco is famous. Tiny plots of land were being ploughed in much the same way as they were in biblical times: Two mules pulling a wooden plough. Rocks were being crushed by men swinging heavy hammers to manually break them apart. Young men hauled bags of cement and rocks on their backs. Tall gnarled cactus seem to be used to demarcate plots of land.
When we reached an altitude of seventeen hundred meters above sea level (5577 feet), Hassan drew off to the side of the road and announced with obvious pride: “There’s Chefchaouen,” which he pronounced ‘Chifchaouen.’ There nestled in the distance against the Rif Mountains was our first view of the pale blue town.
On we went, winding along the narrowest of paths, Hassan wading patiently and unflustered past pedestrians pushing carts and construction that blocked his path, all the while raising his hand and nodding in greeting to friends and acquaintances, until he calmly drew up into the last available parking spot outside the medina (ancient walled town).
He led us on foot through the medina to our Dar (guest house). I will never forget the sheer exhilaration of entering that medina. It felt as though we had stepped back centuries in time and been transplanted into a biblical town. We crossed the plaza – Place Outa El-Hammam – dominated by an ochre colored 15th Century Kasbah. Walked past the outdoor cafés – filled with men in hooded jellābas drinking hot tea, while lazing in the warm winter sunshine – along narrow stone lanes, their limewashed blue walls covered in vibrant colored carpets, blankets, satchels, handbags and jellābas in every color, shape and size. Overhead, straw baskets were strung across the street in shades of burgundy, hot pink, lime green and turquoise. Burlap sacks filled to the brim with powder dyes in exquisite electric colors, were lined up on blue wooden crates. Color, Color everywhere!
To Read More about Chefchaouen and take a journey through Morocco, click on the Morocco Book Cover on the Home Page or on the Book Page of this site.
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