Woodsmoke, Mint, and a Day in Chefchaouen

In blogging, I can only share with you through words and images. But if I could share with you through smell, the smell of Morocco would be woodsmoke and mint. Two days and two towns in, I can safely say I will likely forever associate those smells with Morocco. And after today in the beautiful blue mountain town in Chefchaouen, I would also probably have to add the smell of hashish.

IMG_20160327_133508572Chefchaouen, the blue city

Early this morning, Keith and I had a full Moroccan breakfast of coffee, tea, cheese, olives, bread, egg, and sweets. Then we hopped in the cab with our trusty cab driver Mohammed, who drove us the 2 hours from Tangiers to Chefchouen, through the ever-mounting Rif mountains. About halfway there, we stopped at this stunning lookout point for a stretch and photo.

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As we neared Chefchaouen, Mohammed told us that his son Mohammed (yes, that’s correct) was a grand taxi driver in Chefchaouen, and could take us to Fez the next day. We called Mohammed II, and are set for Fes on Monday! I am going to see if Mohammed II has a cousin in Marrakech who will want to drive us around… might as well keep it in the family.
 IMG_20160327_182715126_HDREvery Moroccan dwelling has a roof, and every roof has it’s laundry… and a satellite dish
Arriving in Chefchaouen was the biggest test of the trip so far – finding our friends Sarah and Isa, who had arrived the night before. As we dragged our luggage through the medina and up many (many) stone steps, I looked up, and who do I see waving at me from a terrace but Sarah! Yes, Chefchaouen is that small, and I loved it already.

IMG_20160327_115741048The view from our balcony

IMG_20160327_124735267Reunited!

We spent a relaxing day, wandering through the blue-hued medina, haggling, and making the gentle climb up to the ruined mosque on a small hill facing the city. Why is the city blue, you may ask? The predominant color used to be green, a color more associated with Islam, until the Jewish population became more predominant in the 1930s and painted many things blue. This is what caught Sarah’s eye as we were doing our trip planning research. She added to our must-see list, and I am so glad she did.
IMG_20160327_133518549This is what happens when you ask Isa to pose nicely against the pretty blue wall

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As Isa observed, we spent our Sunday very much like a Moroccan would have – a hike, a walk through the town, and lots and LOTS of mint tea and good food. We even did a little haggling, and started buying a few souvenirs to take home with us – a leather bag and hanging lamp for me and Keith, textiles for Sarah and Isa.

IMG_20160327_154446942The view from our walk up to the abandoned Spanish mosque

IMG_20160327_184113300_HDRThe kasbah, viewed from a terrace in the medina

Haggling is a part of Moroccan culture – if you give the shopkeeper the first price he asks, he will not respect you. But, once you agree on a price, you have entered into an arrangement, and you must purchase the item. Keith and Sarah abhor haggling – it irritates Keith, and makes Sarah so nervous she can’t watch. And so it leaves me and Isa to make the deal. With the combination of my French and him being Muslim, we have been pretty successful so far.
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IMG_20160327_190516133One of the million street cats in Moroccan cities. This calico looks so sweet against the blue.

My goal is to make the shopkeeper come down more than I go up. Here is how the haggling went down for my meta and glass lamp, which will hang in my bedroom:

Me: how much?
Shopkeeper: 280 Dirhams (about $28)
Me: No, too much. And, I don’t know if I want to carry it ALL over Morocco the next 2 weeks.
Shopkeeper: Ok, how much you want to pay?
Me: 100
Shopkeeper: Ah, no, I buy them for more than 100, I need to make some money. For you, 260.
Me: 140
Shopkeeper: Ah no. 220.
Me: No. 150
Shopkeeper: No no no, I cannot, I give you 185.
Me: 175
Shopkeeper: Ok, 180, final price.
Me: 180. Yes.
Score: Rachel +80; Shopkeeper -100. Rachel for the win. All future haggling matches will be scored thusly.

IMG_20160327_190615983_HDRThree doors, three blues

All that haggling made us thirsty, so we found a 3rd floor terrace with a view of the town to drink a mint tea and snack on Moroccan pizza, made on a pita-type bread. Then, we meandered back to the hotel to catch a view of the sunset.

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As a perfect end to our day, we took the recommendation of our Riad hostess and went for dinner at Casa Hassan, a thoroughly Moroccan establishment decorated in a charming classic style – wood and pillows everywhere, and a fireplace in the courtyard.
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Over sizzling tajines and fluffy cous cous, we laughed until I cried, and I was so very glad our friends were with us in Morocco.

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Tomorrow, it is off to Fes with Mohammed II. For now, bonne nuit!
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2 comments on “Woodsmoke, Mint, and a Day in ChefchaouenAdd yours →

  1. What an adventure. Really enjoying the beautiful landscape, buildings, food, and the four of you! You’ll have to share what Isa was up to in the one picture of him grasping a building and you laughing! So glad that all of you are traveling together and obviously having the time of your lives. Can’t wait for the next installment. Love & Hugs.

  2. Beautiful pics. They must like blue a lot. Stay safe hope you keep a picture album and a journal. You don’t want to ever forget these adventures

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