It was time to leave Marrakech. Thanks to my Moroccan friend, who hosted and accompanied me for 7 days in the Red City, it was a hassle free travel round. And even though before going there I read about some negative experiences from female travelers, I felt very comfortable everywhere I traveled in Morocco.
My last stop before heading home, is Chefchaouen, also known as “The Pearl of Blue”, the mysterious town that I was looking forward to see.
Before boarding my flight to Tetouan, the nearest airport to Chefchaouen, my friend reminds me:
“My dear, you had tried the world best and strongest hashish in Marrakech, I hope you won’t get addicted on that now. Just keep in mind that Chefchoune is located in the Rif mountain where the major plantation and production of marijuana is. Locals call it hashish and is quite strong. A big part of the world’s marijuana production grows here. Not every tourist comes to Chefchoune for the blue ambiance, some are coming just to smoke weed and relax. Please mind that some people might approach you in town to sale you hashish, but is totally illegal and I don’t want to travel all the way to Chefchaouen to get you out of prison!”
Now seriously, how could I miss out this important and juicy piece of information when doing my travel research to Morocco? Suddenly I became more curios …
The journey from Tetouan to Chefchaouen is such a scenic drive; it passes lakes, rivers, mountains, and villages. After an hour plus of driving, I can see Chefchaouen nestled at the foothills of the picturesque Rif Mountain. Upon my arrival at the bus station, the staff of my guesthouse is already waiting to take my luggage and lead me to uphill to my accommodations. Officially, my blue journey begins.
Soon after I wake up in the morning, after a more chill out night from those of Marrakech, I’m heading to the local medina. I am not following any particular route, the smell of aromatic herbs that fill the streets leads me to the morning market. Fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, fruits, meat, fish and household stuff are all displayed in the middle of the walkway.
Surprisingly, the market is busy but not loud at all. The vendors seem much more relax here, as they would greet and smile at you when you pass by.
The medina of Chefchaouen is a maze of a miniature. Every single corner, walls, steps, doors, and alleys is a surprise in its unique way of decoration, all painted in a sort of washed blue. I call it the town of 50 shades of blue, but there are definitely more than 50…
Getting lost in the medina is not frustrating, as at every corner of its alleys you will find some “wow” factors. Chefchaouen is relatively a small town, so at the end, you still find your way back.
When I was strolling around the market a carpet man approached me in front of his shop: “Come and have a look at my beautiful carpets”.
I rejected him politely, ‘I am so sorry, your carpets are beautiful but I have to fly back home..’ I thought he will start negotiating strategically like everywhere else in Morocco, but he didn’t. Instead, he invited me for a cup of mint tea in the shop so, without hesitating, I accepted; after all, he was the only local who guess my Malaysian origins.
From Rachid, the carpet man, I learned about the different versions of the city’s color: 1st version – blue paint was designed to keep away the mosquitoes. 2nd version – Chefchaouen was painted blue by the Jewish refugees who lived there during the 1930’s, as a symbol of the sky and heaven. And the 3rd version – the tourists want it to be blue! I laughed when I heard this last one and I think it’s probably the most convincing one.
Rachid also told me that during the spring time, after the rains of winter have washed the town, villagers repaint or touch up their walls and steps. The local authorities supported these actions as they provide the paints and brushes. Throughout our conversation, Rachid didn’t promote any carpets or souvenirs to me, we just had a relaxing tea talk, it seemed like meeting an old neighbor. He even asked me to come back and have lunch with him, but unfortunately I couldn’t find the way back to his shop. I got lost with the even more vivid, vibrant contrasts of blue.
Instead, I meet the hashish vendor man, right there in the middle of the square, just as expected. He tried to convince me to go on a trip outside of town, to the marijuana plantations and get a “free experiment” of the goods after I learn about “how it’s made”. Well .. as tempting as it sounds, I balanced my options and decided I really want to get back to Malaysia in time to start my new semester, and not get stuck in Morocco’s jails, so I kindly rejected his proposal.
I remember my first hashish experience from Marrakech. It’s hard to describe the sensation, I would say it’s almost an unbearable pleasure getting high, but I won’t try it again alone or with strangers. Trust me, the impact is beyond your control. Luckily the seller was not pushy and he left me alone after I refused him the second time.
The next day, I decided to go hiking; the green was calling after the blue overdose. I followed up a trail to the Spanish Mosque and then detoured to the base of the rocky mountain. I encountered a friendly shepherd woman and her goats. We sat, exchanged a few looks, and then I was guided through a path that led to a beautiful viewpoint of Chefchaouen. I wanted to thank her somehow, so I gave her a peppermint candy.
It was a hassle free and relaxing walking around the mountain. Chefchaouen is officially my favorite town in Morocco. I love how quiet and relax the town is, and even though it can be packed with tourists, it still has the feeling of calm and peace. It is just ridiculously gorgeous, like a piece of art with its uniqueness. It went beyond my expectations.