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Published: February 10th 2014
Chefchaouen (hereafter referred to as Chef' as I'm tired of writing it in full. That AOUE thing is a chore somehow) is located on a Rif Mountainside about 4 hours drive North from Fes. You can take a bus for 70 Dh from Fes or you can opt for a driver if you plan to stop along the way. In that case you will pay 800 Dh. Our driver was a Berber from the Sahara who had swapped his camel for an old Mercedes 240D.
Morocco is not what we expected. It is as green as Ireland and as fecund as Vietnam. Vast fields of food crops tended to by men, donkeys and dogs. Beautiful rolling hills covered in fuzzy, silver-green olive trees. People along the road man large produce stands that hold the largest strawberries and onions I have ever seen. We saw farmers cleaning tall, conical piles of picked olives by shoveling them up into the air where the winds buffed them to a shiny, purple-black shine. Women tending flocks of sheep. So many sheep here. A lamb-chop lover's dream come true. The food is very good. They make creative use of herbs and spices. Tomato
Karlie, Abbie, KJ and 'Funami'
Our last dinner together as everybody was heading off to new destinations in the morning. Wonderful stories told, food eaten and warm feelings abounded. I haven't laughed so hard in years.
based sauces with complex constructions that you can't stop yourself from dipping bread into. Lots of bread here. All kinds. Big fat, crusty round loaves and baguettes and crepes and cookies. Vendors sell fresh hot bread all day from trundle carts that they roll through the steep, twisting streets. There's a whole bunch of good food.
In the 1470's, Queen Isabella kicked the Muslims out of Spain in recognition of their contributions in art, literature, science, mathematics, agriculture and culture to Spanish society. After hundreds of years of residency the Moors were told to take with them only what they could carry so the Queen could abscond with their property. Some of them moved into the Rif Mountains, built a walled city and swore an oath of death on any Christian that came their way. In 1492, Isabella did it again. This time to the Jews who had also lived in Spain for generations. But now Isabella had a twist. If you were Jewish and had a child younger than 7 years then you had to leave the child behind to be raised as a Roman Catholic. Some Jewish women killed their children and then themselves rather than comply.
Whenever the pavement is painted it indicates that the lane is a dead end. Useful to know when you are navigating Chef's street maze.
The exiled Jews fled to Morocco amongst other places, and some settled with their Moorish friends in Chef'. The Muslims and the Jews from Spain considered themselves one people as their beliefs were so similar. My, how things have changed. One of the residual effects of this migration is that the people here all speak Spanish.
Chef is a walled city. The houses tumble down the mountainside like spilt, toy, building blocks. The homes are painted shades of blue that add an underwater shimmer to everything. Narrow twisting streets filled with robed figures and children flitting about like wayward wrens. The whole place has a 'Santorini' feel to it. As different and as intoxicating as its sister in the Greek Cyclades. Friendly folks all. At this time of the year there are few visitors in town. In the summer the hotels are booked solid and late arrivals are lucky to find a bed. We stayed in the Riad Baraka (http://www.riad-baraka.com/) a kitschy, Dali-esque joint owned and operated by A British woman and her two sons. A great spot away from the touristy part of the Medina. We met a bunch of folks there. Yes, they were ALL
Reda, Mike, Santana and Karlie
The guys were just heading out to Casablanca to catch flights to Rio and London. Superb human beings who schooled us on the hospitable habits of the Arab peoples.
younger than we but receptive and talkative and fun. I haven't laughed as much in the past ten years as I did during the four days we spent in that little hotel.
We hiked the hills. Watched blanket weavers at work on ancient looms in tiny whitewashed rooms. I spent an interesting morning having a glass of coffee in a hazy cafe. Funnels of thick Kif smoke cycloned slowly upwards from every other table as old robed men puffed happily away on their long, wooden pipes. Cannabis is THE cash crop here. Though marijuana is illegal in Morocco the authorities lay nary a finger on the citizens of Chef'. A gram of hashish costs $2.00 to $2.50 though drug tourists are known to have paid much, much more. Why a Pot smoker would come all the way over here to get high is beyond me but they do.
Every evening is a party. We shared long, talk-filled meals with Dutch, American, Chinese, Taiwanese and Arabic folks. All eager to share stories and travel tips and laughs. It is a very mellow scene in Chef'.
Note: I had to keep this one short as internet can be spotty
and uploading fotos quite laborious though I know it's the photos that are most favored. It is chilly here. So much so that we are heading off to Vietnam where the temps are more congenial and the sun rides higher in the sky. Sound good Dina? We're traveling with a girl named Karlie from South Virginia. As stalwart as ourselves and intelligent to boot. It's like Christmas. Shout outs to all. Jan; I do not know why you haven't been getting the blogs so I'm re-entering all of your info. Zach and Kathleen; Congrats on the betrothal. We'll be in contact after we set down in Saigon. Until then; Happy Trails....... Oh, and Abbie; Please stop worrying so much.
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