Chefchaouen: The Blue Pearl
Chefchaouen and its blue medina absolutely live up to the hype.
I spent two nights here, and I could have stayed longer. After being dropped off at the main entrance to the medina, I asked a police officer how to find my hostel (a great one — will write a review soon). The police officer called over a local man to take me there.
In case you’ve never been in a Moroccan medina, it’s basically a maze.
We turned corners, went up stairs, through tunnels, down inclines, and around more corners. I thought this guy knew where he was going, but he asked no fewer than 16 people for directions along the way, and it was only about a 6-minute walk once we had found it! He does things like this for tips, as do lots of children who spend their days running amongst the tourists in the medina. This is both a positive and a negative about Morocco — someone is always willing to help, but their kindness is not free.
I arrived in the early afternoon, so after enjoying my first proper Moroccan meal of cous-cous con pollo y veduras, I explored the medina.
It’s a wonderful place to get lost, because after a few hours of walking around, you realize you can’t really get lost.
The center square is never very far away, and you know if you’re going uphill, you’re headed toward the back of the medina, and if you’re going downhill, you’re headed toward the front, near the rest of town. There are a few mosques’ minarets poking up into the sky to give you a sense of place. Though it may seem like the blues of the medina are random, if the ground is painted blue at the entrance to a lane, it means it’s a dead end. Cerrado. Ferme.
And the blues! The blues were my favorite. Calming, hypnotic.
Each lane looked different depending on the time of day and the way the light shone; the shades of blue change. The medina at night is a different place from the medina during the day.
In my wanderings, some shop keepers were friendly in an effort to ensnare me, but a few were friendly just to be friendly. I met this pair playing pachisi, and although the one on the left invited me to have a look at his shop next door, he didn’t get up from his game, and they even invited me to play.
The next morning, I met another American couple at breakfast in the hostel. They invited me to come with them on a walk, so we went, and we were rewarded with some great views of Chaouen. In the second photo below, you can see lots of graves in the foreground:
Then we sat in the square and had a leisurely mid-day meal with tea. Most of the black tea I had in Morocco was the same: not very strong, REALLY sweet, and with lots of mint. I liked it quite a bit, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it tea! I enjoyed the food even though it didn’t seem to be incredibly diverse — I ate lots of cous-cous, and several tagine dishes, which is meat (I had both chicken and lamb) on a plate with a few vegetables, lots of juice, and french fries.
I’m so glad someone suggested Chefchaouen on the Lonely Planet forums I read sometimes. I think it was a really great, low-key, beautiful introduction to Morocco. I’m glad I came here first.
All photos on this site copyright Abbie Redmon 2014.