Morocco Wrap-Up, pt. 3: Chefchaouen

From Fes we took a grand-taxi (Mercedes diesel road-yacht) to Chefchaoen for our last stop of the trip. It was cloudy or drizzling the entire time, but it seemed to make everything that much more alive. We made one stop to eat some kafta and mint tea at a gas station cafe (it was the best gas station food I’ve ever tasted).

Chefchaouen is nestled in the Rif Mountains. It used to be a part of Spanish Morocco and you will still hear people greeting each other with “hola,” which after being in a francophone country was odd to my ears. The most striking feature of the medina, apart from the views of snow-capped mountains, is that it is painted this hazy cerulean color. It is amazing to behold particularly in the morning and early evening. It’s blue almost everywhere you look. There is nothing much to do – no real museums or galleries or monuments – but the wandering around, talking to strangers, and taking photos completely absorbed me. Even more than Fes, it is hard not to take a picture of every dusty blue alleyway.

Chefchaouen, being situated in the mountains where a major cash crop is kif (marijuana), is also home to all manner of shady figures trying to convince you to buy kif or hashish. This was a typical conversation as I walked back from a market eating some bread.

“Hey, you are smoking?”

“No, man. Thanks.”

“It is good stuff. The best. Why you not try some? It is legal here. Even the police they smoke it.”

“I’m okay. No thanks.”

As he let me walk away, “What? You like to eat! Why you not like to smoke?”

Kif isn’t the only thing Chefchaouen is known for. They are also known for beautiful handmade rugs and hamam, or Turkish-style bath. Having purchased a rug already, I passed on the opportunity to buy a second in Chefchaouen, a decision which I may regret sometime later in life. I did, however, take the opportunity to visit a hamam and get the full scrub down and massage. For obvious reasons, I have no pictures of what happened in that hot room, but I wish more than anything I had some sort of proof of what that guy did to me. My body, after being scrubbed pink, was put into a dozen painful positions, held for a number of seconds, and then repeatedly cupped-hand slapped before moving onto the next contortion. At varying intervals boiling hot water was poured over me from behind, adding an element of surprise to the hour-long cleanse. As uncomfortable as it was to have this mostly-naked Moroccan man sitting on my as I lay on the fire-heated floor, bending me into impossible positions and slapping me, I felt really good after. I ate a hearty meal and slept the best night of sleep I’ve had in a long time.

Chefchaoen highlights:

– Splitting a loaf of bread with a ancient goat shepard lady on a scenic overlook of the town.
– Going to a hammam (traditional bath) where I was washed, scrubbed, bent, twisted, and abused in the kindest way possible.
– Walking and photographing the shit out of that little mountain town.
– Eating chicken pastilla not once, not twice, but three times during my stay.

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One Response to Morocco Wrap-Up, pt. 3: Chefchaouen

  1. Kate says:

    So glad you did a hammam! I had them in Fes and in Marrakesh and Fes was the best by far…we’ll have to compare techniques! Picture being slid around on a wet marble slab, grabbed by the left wrist and left ankle and flipped over to scrub the other side…we’ll talk! Ha! Cannot wait to see your photos. Keep having fun and exploring. Love you, Kate

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