From Tangier, we headed south to Chefchaouen via private car, figuring we’d splurge on a little luxury since the price was amazingly cheap considering it was a 3 hour drive. We arrived in the morning and had the traditional mint tea and various breads on the rooftop patio of our riad with some friendly cats.
Chefchaouen is a small mountain town, but famous in travelling circles because all the buildings are painted bright blue, making it quite the spectacle. Though it’s still touristy, the atmosphere is much more relaxed than the hectic medinas of the bigger cities. The ubiquitous blue hue is thought to originally be from the Jews that came here fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, who used it to represent the sky and God. Others think it’s possible the colour is just to deter mosquitos and/or look pretty. Today the locals periodically touch up the blue paint to keep the tourists flowing in.
Chefchaouen is also popular amongst backpackers because of the easy availability of drugs. It happens to be right in the middle of one of Morocco’s main cannabis producing regions, so there are people offering you hashish left and right. Many were also offering tours of their plantations, which Chris thought would be interesting but also possibly dangerous, so we passed.
Anyways, the main thing to do in Chefchaouen is wander around taking pictures of all the blue alleyways and looking at the multitude on handicrafts for sale, so that is what we did.
Seems like they make everything in Chefchaouen, from the traditional carpets to leather bags to woolen sweaters to woven baskets. We refrained from purchasing anything, mainly because we didn’t want to carry a carpet around.
We learned early on not to trust overly friendly people who invite you in for tea, or you will soon be having carpets shoved in your face. Turns out the downside of the smaller, less hectic medina is that you see the same salespeople over and over, so we soon had to start avoiding certain streets.
Chefchaouen is also home to a lot of cats.
One of our best discoveries while wandering was The Magic Lamp, a very adorable if obviously tourist-aimed restaurant with an amazing rooftop patio overlooking the town. We visited several times to eat and also just to lounge around, drinking tea and enjoying the mountains.
We were feeling active one evening (or at least I was, Chris was a bit whiny about it because he wanted to eat instead) so we hiked up the hillside to watch the sunset over the town. It was quite picturesque, passing by a river where everyone seemed to be washing their clothes, and a bunch of little kids chasing their donkeys home for the evening. There was also a guy with a pet ostrich, though I’m pretty sure that one was a tourist money grab.
Anyways, the evening lights make the town look even more blue, and as the sun sets the evening prayer call goes out from all the mosques, which is kind of neat.
The next morning we got up super early to take some pictures before all the vendors set up shop. It was quite peaceful and mostly empty at that hour. Note the “mostly” though, if you thought it would be okay to wear a tank top for bit because no one would be around to tsk-tsk you, you would be mistaken. Whoops.
After breakfast we took a wander up to the city walls, where we discovered you can climb up into some of the watchtowers. The northern walls are kind of up the side of the mountain, so you get a pretty sweet view from up there.
We also wandered up through a cemetery full of sheep to a fancy hilltop hotel to see the city from the other side. It was pretty cool although even up on the hillside people seemed to pop up out of nowhere to offer you weed. Chris also got an offer of opium, which was new.
We spent our last night doing some more rooftop dining alongside some Asians with very hardcore camera setups, before catching the bus to Fes the next morning. This was a bit of a gong show, first because the only way to buy the ticket ahead of time is in person at the station the day before, which involved going down and back up a big hill (Chris was not pleased). Then we weren’t informed that we also had to buy tickets for our bags until we were about to get on the bus. We weren’t the only ones, so several of us ran back to the ticket counter, except for some reason the bus company only had like one employee, who was currently loading the bus and thus not at the counter. Fortunately after much yelling everything got figured out and no one missed the bus. Good thing I had several hours to relax before getting to Fes though.