“Always ‘la shukran’, oh my god!”

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Africa » Morocco » Tangier-Tétouan » Chefchaouen
June 25th 2015
Published: June 26th 2015
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After Assilah, we took a private taxi 3 hours east through the arid interior of Morocco, up into the hills to a small mountain village called Chefchaouen. The entirety of the tiny village, perched on the towering hills, is painted a pale shade of blue, leaving you with the impression that you are actually under the sea, rather than high in the mountains. Chefchaouen has many of the staples of a backpacking town – lots of small shops selling Moroccan handicrafts (mirrors, lanterns, carpets, homemade soaps, hand knit hats, etc), a multitude of restaurants vying for your business, and the usual backpacker types with flowy pants and prayer beads. It is also the “kif” capital of the world, a fact that the locals are very proud of, and liked to remind us of literally every few steps. The touts were also much worse here. We could never make it more than a few minutes without someone trying to sell us a carpet or drugs. They were always very friendly though and made sure to let us know that they “weren’t pushy”. Hmmm… we must have different definitions.

The Medina of Chefchaouen was ridiculously picturesque. Literally everywhere you look is a beautiful vignette with differing shades of blue, intricate designed doorways, and grape vines. It was also much more active during the day than Tangier or Assilah. I’m not sure if this is because people are getting more used to fasting so they are out and about more, or if it’s because the Medina is more residential here. Whatever the reason, it made the city feel much more awake and welcoming. Kids ran up and down the lanes kicking soccer balls, men doze off in the shade, and women chat happily with one another. Even though the climate is still quite hot, the scent of the air reminds you that you are in the mountains.

We stayed in an adorable little place with smooth, rounded blue walls, and beautiful Moroccan artifacts and paintings throughout. The roof terrace was again one of our favorite places to relax, read, and look out over the town. On our second day there, we decided to hike up one of the hills on the east side of town to the Spanish mosque. On our way we passed several kids playing in the waterfalls on the edge of town, as well as Berber women herding sheep. Upon reaching the mosque we stopped for our make do lunch of cookies and granola bars, and only got offered kif from one person. Not bad.

After freshening up from our hike, we wandered out after dark again to seek out dinner. The first night we ate dinner at Casa Aladdin, a restaurant with terraces on 4 different levels looking out over the Plaza Uta el-Hammam, the main square in the interior of the Medina. Directly in the middle of the square stands an enormous evergreen tree with strings of lights in it, as if it is Christmas year round in Chefchaouen. Across from the tree is a brightly lit mosque (which a man stood on top of and played a trumpet each night), and next door is the historic Kasbah and gardens, which we explored earlier in the day. Casa Aladdin provided an amazing view of the square. It had beautiful brightly colored curtains, colorful paintings of the Medina hung on the walls, and arabesque style windows and doors. For our second night we opted for something more casual on the main square, where we could watch the action of the night unfold. As we walked into the square a man approached us with a menu for his restaurant. Thinking it was the same restaurant that we had been invited to 10 times already we sat down. Every time we had passed the café in the previous days, the same gentleman had invited us to sit down, but we had declined. He had joked with us many times saying “always ‘la shukran’ (no thank you in Arabic), oh my god, why, why”. I thought the original invitee would be happy that we were finally sitting down at his restaurant, but as I looked across the restaurant at him smiling, I saw a look of forced hurt and betrayal in his eyes. I suddenly realized the café we had sat down in was not his, but in fact his competition’s, right next door that looked absolutely identical. We quickly realized our mistake and immediately got up to relocate to the correct restaurant which caused a huge tiff between the two men. They spoke to each other in loud abrupt bursts, which I can only imagine was a slew of swear words. Five minutes later they were fine, smiling and talking casually to one another. Oops.

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26th June 2015

These places are just too lovely with their simplicity and colorful art/decorations. Keep the pictures and commentary alive!

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