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Published: December 20th 2017
It’s a little chilly, everywhere, all the time – heaters are a luxury that the better part of the third world has agreed against – so we dine in our room. Breakfasts here are bready. Everything is bready. If you sat down in a restaurant to order bread, it would come with bread. Anyway, we rise with the yeast and head out into the Civil War tribute blue streets and grey skies.
We have no specific plans for today other than to try and get lost in the medina. The people here are insanely sweet and friendly. The most fierce looking, unshaven, snaggle-toothed, comic book-bad guy Arab, if taunted with a, “Bonjour,” will break into a smile and respond with, “Ca va bien?” The throaty tones of Arabic have been so vilified in our protectionist ears that it takes an adjustment period to relax and just let it be a language. Your average, impoverished Muslim has no beef with you, in fact he simply has no beef. These people are just thinking about their next meal, and their families. We stroll out of the medina and down into town where kids hang out and general life has speed by virtue
of volume, while the actual participants move at a slow roll. There are no big stores, only small shops and wares displayed right on the street. A line of ten or more ladies behind numbered sales carts, peddle exactly the same… wide, round loaves of fresh bread. Bread is the understood to be the essence of life here.
Petit taxis stalk, kids horse around and men fill snack joints to drink mint tea and smoke. We pop into one such joint and, of course the staff is awesome. We find a seat on the upper level and watch the men watch some Nat Geo “Graphic Death is Beautiful” circle of life nature thing, before heading back through town and up the hill to our blue heaven.
The day turns to evening and we continue to wander. Two things we love about this place are the ubiquitous kitties and the wizards. There is a garment the men wear, especially in cool weather, called the jalaba. It’s a long, pull over gown that can be made with cotton for summer, blends or, for most part now, wool. They’re generally found in subtle colors and tones. Black jalabas are worn by
Arab Muslims, ones with any color at all are Berber Muslims. What makes them awesome are the hoods. The men, many of whom are bent over canes, and/or prominently bearded, wear the hoods with their peaks straight up over their heads and the front flap offhandedly flipped. They are totally fucking wizards. So, we spend our evening strolling, browsing little shops or eating bites of streets foods (generally bready) and constantly pointing out, “kitty” “wizard.”
As Julie poses for a photo in some reflected street lamp blueness, an old wizened wizard glances into the viewfinder and remarks that it’s a great shot. His English is very good and his face is caved with deep wrinkles and hollows. Steve quips back at him and his eyes blossom in plowed rows of smile lines. “You will come sit with me and have some tea?” he asks. We don’t turn down invitations like these.
We follow him like thread behind a loom needle, left and right and up and down through the blue, finally arriving at a painted metal door. Inside there is a small front room with less “chairs” and more “things upon which one might sit.” It’s unkempt, but
with so few possessions that reinforcements would be required for him to build a proper mess. His name is Said (Syeed) and he has never left Morocco. He’s small and fragile, but reasonably sharp minded. He busies himself making tea using a small cooktop that rest literally at the top if a small propane tank. A TV mumbles TV bullshit in a dim back room. We sit and we drink and we chat, then… he rolls a spliff of tobacco and hash. Eureka! Being lovers of a good smoke, we have been dying to sample the local product but we won’t chance commerce with the local touts. He uses an interesting technique that utilizes the cigarette’s filter into the end of the joint. Our friends will see this put into practice when we get home. Because Chefchaouen is the cannabis farming center of the countries highly lucrative hash biz, it is very tolerated here. And, it turns out, quite excellent! The chatting gets much funnier! Said breaks out a small photo album featuring pictures of himself and dozens of other tourists who have come to his home to drink his tea and smoke his hash. Now, we’re all laughing a
lot and getting hungry so we invite Said to dinner. He had planned to go pray with a friend, but he has another friend with a restaurant, and decides to postpone his other plans. Maybe he could have considered our invitation a prayer answered?
With our now stoned feet back to traversing the hill street blues, the city is even more surreal and vivid. When we arrive at the restaurant, it turns out to be the one we had scoped earlier for our dinner. Said lets himself in, navigates to the basement dining area and turns on the lights like he owns the place. It’s called Fouad’s and Said’s friend is Fouad, who is the host, waiter and chef. He’s a lovely man and provides us with another example of Muslim hospitality; we tell him we need to check and make sure we have cash for dinner and Fouad laughs and says, “Even if you have no money, you eat.” But we do… and we do… and it is delicious!!! Fouad rocks! Said is ready to roll another spliff, but we pass because… Moroccan hash is doesn’t just go away in an hour or two! Said also offers to
take us hiking to the mountains or the villages tomorrow, but we already have reservations in Fes and can’t cancel this late. We know the way back to our hotel from Fouad’s so we pose for pictures with the promise of sending some back snail mail once we get home and can print them out.
Said appears to be, by western perception, about 90-years-old. And a rather precarious and hard worn 90 at that. He is two years older than Steve; 60! This adjusts our whole concept of age in this country. We return to the hotel and prepare for bed, Steve applying a little extra Retinol to his eyes!
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