20.05.2012 - 22.05.2012
After a smooth 3 hour journey by bus into the Rif Mountains in Northern Morocco, we arrived in Plaza Uta el-Hammam, the central square of Chefchaouen’s medina. Unfortunately it was raining and it took us a while to find our riad that was in an alley, off an alley, off a small street. It was worth the hunt though and we were welcomed into the modern but traditionally styled hotel with a cosy room and nice rooftop terrace.
We spent 3 days in this artsy, blue-washed mountain village exploring the medina and the surrounding countryside. Luckily the rain stopped and for the rest of our time there it was warm and bright. Chefchaouen reminded us a little of the small villages we had visited in Andalusia and we learnt that when the Moors and Jews were expelled from Granada they came here as refugees and so brought the Spanish influence with them. Almost the entire town has a pale blue-wash across its white walls, the colour of the Jews.
Chefchaouen isn’t a place for sightseeing. Instead we filled out time wandering the streets of the medina, observing local life and taking lots of photographs. This place is really a photographer’s dream, although the people here run in the opposite direction when they see a camera, due to religious beliefs. It’s a shame as there are some nice wrinkly old faces we would really like to have captured! Still, we got a few…
We saw children playing in the streets, basic butcher and bakery stores, street vendors, a local fruit and veg market and lots of local craftsmen such as wood and leather workers, tailors, cobblers etc. Plus the usual tourist and souvenir shops, which are fun for a while too. Most afternoons we could be found drinking mint tea in the square and doing people-watching, just like the locals do. Sophia also joined the Moroccan ladies in the square and had some henna done.
Whilst in town, we tried out a few different food places and had some tasty and cheap food, including lots more tagines and cous cous dishes. The novelty of Moroccan food hasn’t worn off yet, although we have started to notice a lack of variety on the menus.
Chefchaouen Kasbah is a red walled fortress within the medina and we visited one afternoon to climb the tower for good views. There was also a nice garden inside and a small museum. Next door is the Grand Mosque with its unusual octagonal tower, built in the 15th century.
One afternoon we went for a walk outside of the medina. We first passed some small waterfalls where we saw local ladies doing their laundry and hanging it to dry in trees. We then walked uphill just outside of town and passed an old mosque that is no longer in use. We climbed further and had great views back over the walled medina. We passed through fields and saw men with donkeys carrying loads and ladies herding grazing goats. We eventually reached a small village where we briefly spoke to a few people. It was a nice, spontaneous walk and a good break from the busy medina.