I See Blue.... Everywhere, Hashish, Rooftop Living

Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Marituana Rooftop

Flag of Morocco  ,
Friday, September 5, 2008

The landscape seen from the bus from Tangier to Chefchaouen was dry and brown and sandy until we hit the mountains and land became more lush. We passed clay pot stalls, fruit stalls and hard working donkeys laden with goods. We also got a glimpse of the Berber rural people, the women recognizable by their red and white stripey aprons and straw hats decorated with coloured woolen string. All the Moroccans were asleep on the bus because they had stayed up all night eating and praying for Ramadan. We were starting to get into the Ramadan vibe too because it is difficult to sneak food during the day and it is noisy to sleep at night because everyone is up.

Chefchaouen is everything you dream a Morrocan town to be. Enchanting and beautiful. The architecture is wonderful with houses and buildings rendered and painted in crispy shades of  blues and white making it a photogenic place. The blue rinse tradition comes from the town's former Jewish population. Everything is blue and alot of locals wear blue kaftans or shirts. The taxis are blue and we even saw a cat with blue hues. Most people dont like to be photographed so you have to resort to sneaky shots or shots with no people in them, rooftops are perfect for the silent sniper camera. All respect because we feel grateful to be wandering around as these people live their daily lives here. The town sits in a valley surrounded by the Rif mountains giving it a nice energy and the size of the town keeps its people friendly enough. There is a tourist trade and lucky for that because it meant we could get coffees and sit on the sqaure in one of the tourist restaurants for breakfast.

We met a girl travelling alone from New Zealand named Merete at the bus station and after dodging a tout named Mohammed we all did the trek up the hill to a popular budget hotel. There were no rooms left but we were offered the rooftop terrace to sleep on and this suited us. The hotel had a beautiful courtyard downstairs and the roof had some great views out over the rooftops and mountains and hashish smoking hippies who had taken up residence there. We were able to wash our laundry by hand and hang it up to dry on the roof, 30 dirham was the price for sleeping space and that is under AU$5, a good deal and we could play our music too.

We feel like we are on the set of the Alladin movie and it does seem like magic flying carpets and genie lamps could in fact exist here. We did a walk into the medina which was fairly laidback and revealed lots of little artisan shops (souqs) and local businesses like sewing shops and barbershops. The little food stalls were all tempting and we tried goats cheese, olives and fresh bread. A medina quarter is a distinct city section found in many North African cities. The medina is typically walled, contains many narrow and maze-like streets, and was built by Arabs as far back as the 9th century. Medinas often contain historical fountains, palaces, and mosques and have a magical, old world feel about them. The fountain taps are fed by a river that runs through town and all the locals drink from them, except during Ramadam when they cant drink anything. It is possible to be arrested for drinking alcohol at this time. We are getting tired of hearing the words because of Ramadan. Because of the very narrow streets, medinas are free from car traffic but we were constantly getting out of the way of scooters in the medina. We also saw a herd of goats in there and donkeys laden with goods.

The countryside around the town has a reputation for being a prolific source of marijuana, as the land is unsuitable for much else. Hashish is subsequently sold all over town and we met many new friends, all called Mohammed who would try to sell us the sticky little balls of hash. You want hashish? or a little smokey, smokey for your rooftop?. Once we refused the offers, the guys would disappear as quickly as they had come. We took a walk out of the city walls and up the mountain a little way to visit a ruined mosque where we chatted to some locals. It was too hot to trek too much further. You could get a panorama over the whole city from here.

The touts and hagglers are very educated in selling. Some of them speak many languages and are incredibly persistent. The common calls are what is your name? where you from? Excuse me lady? you come into my shop, it will make me very happy, etc etc etc. Many of them know alot about your country of origin, can guess where you are from and try to make a bond with you. We have even met some vendors who can do a perfect Australian accent. We did a little browsing and asking of prices for shopping in order to get a feel for what things are worth. We like the leather poof seats and genie shoes. We all tried on some kaftans but none are too attractive and i guess that is their purpose.

We all ate at an ambient restaurant called the Al-Kasbah where we ate shishkebabs, tajine, couscous and vegetables and drank sweet mint tea. Other foods we saw in the street were roasted chickpeas and we sampled some flat, hot, cheese bread pastry hybrid dish.

The rooftop living was good, we had a true Islam crescent moon, lots of stars and a breeze, better than staying in the rooms i say. Not much privacy though. We played Liza Minnelli tracks and monkey danced with his new Converse shoes on whilst i danced with an umbrella. There was a child on the rooftop next to ours who did crazy rooster impersonations and sang to us. Chefchaouens Ramadan prayer time was loud and the priest didnt seem to be a very good singer. At 2am every morning a guy would stand on a roof top blowing an air horn and then another guy would run all through town beating on a drum hard so everyone could hear and be ready for their last meal at 4am. For us tourists, it was torture.

Merete and i convinced Nadine to get a hair clippering of the mohawk from one of the tiny barbers in town and we chose a smiley, little man with professional clippers for the job. And a great job he did for 20 dirhams. I almost wish i had a beard so i could experience a shave from his chair.

We went in to the Kasbah palace and walked around the gardens and into the rooms. The best thing about it was that they had one of those painted wooden boxes with handles on it that Islamic princesses and kings would have been carried in by four people lifting the person above their heads and then they would have paraded through the city streets waving at the people.

Nadine has been turning a funny shade of orange and we have just worked out that she has been using fake tan that she thought was moisturiser, we cant read Spanish. Holiday tans are all the rage in  Europe darling!

We took the 1 oclock bus from Chaouen to the first of our Imperial cities, Fes.

I can tell you we have met alot of Mohammeds.
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