Chefchaouen, and a little taste of Scotland

October 20th, 2010

Last weekend was spent in a little city nestled in the Rif Mountains.  Chefchaouen is probably one of the prettiest cities I’ve been to in Morocco so far.  It fully satisfied my insatiable thirst for mountain scenery, a geographical feature I really miss when I’m in Rabat, or even back at Wooster. Chefchaouen is built on a mountain, so the streets slope steeply, which is either really good if you’re going down hill, or a really great work out if you’re going in the other direction.  Chefchaouen is know in Morocco for three things, water, textiles… and hashish.  While wandering around the medina it was not uncommon to smell the hash that shop keepers or tourists were smoking.  It was an interesting experience to say the least.  Another really cool thing about Chefchaouen is that the medina is painted almost entirely blue.  All the houses, doors, windows, streets, stairs, everything, was painted some shade of blue.  It was very mellowing, I felt like I was under the sea, like I was the Little Mermaid or something.  If you know me well, you’ll know that The Little Mermaid was probably one of my favorite movies as a little girl, so this was a lot of fun for me. 🙂

The Hotel we stayed at was called Hotel Scotlandy, and it was run by Scottish people.  It was really interesting, not to mention a little surprising to find these Scottish family who ran this hotel in the middle of Morocco.  They had a son who was the same age as my brother, and actually also had the same name as my brother.  It was weird, and kind of funny because my brother was actually voted “most likely to become British” by his eighth grade class, although I don’t think that Scottish people technically think of themselves as “British.”   So, anyway, the son was really cool and didn’t mind showing us around the medina (or making us tea).  Seriously, I had forgotten how good Earl Grey tea is.  I’ve been drinking sweet mint green tea every since I came to Morocco, and don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious, but sometimes it’s nice to drink something unsweetened.

On Saturday, we ventured into the Medina to do some shopping and sight seeing.  We got invited to a rug factory.  The owner picked us out of the crowd and led us to his factory where they made us mint tea and spread many Berber rugs in front of us.  They also had beautiful fabrics and really warm looking sweaters.  We sat on couches and picked out the stuff we wanted, and then spent a really long time bargaining them down to reasonable prices.  I mean, they asked for 700 dh for a small area rug!  Really?  I’m not paying that, so we spent a long time bargaining the rugs down to half the original asking price.  Not bad.  A couple of us also hiked to the outer edge of the city where there was a small waterfall.  It was really cool because they had built these cement structures at the waterfall that collected the water as it ran down the water, and the women were able to wash their clothes.  It was really cool!  We hung out at the river for a little bit and then walked (up hill) back to the hotel.  I did some more shopping, picked up some gifts for people.  It was a good day, and we had a very delicious dinner at a nice Moroccan restaurant.  The meal cost 85dh, which in US$ is still only about $10.  Win.  Even though goods and services in Morocco are inexpensive relative to US prices, it is still too easy to spend too much money, so be careful.

Saturday was really the only day we had in Chefchaouen because the only bus back to Rabat left at 7am.  So we woke up early and drank some espresso, or as our host called the “Turkish Eye-Openers” and ate some toast, and then boarded the bus back to Rabat.  I personally slept for the majority of the four hours, so I couldn’t really talk about the scenery, although I’m sure it was beautiful.  My Sunday concluded with a glorious visit to the hammam with my mother and host sister.  I got the full scrub down.  You buy this brown gel soap and rub it all over your body, then you rinse it off, and then you use this scrubbing cloth to scrub your whole body, and the dead skin just peels off.  It’s disgustingly satisfying, especially since the hammam is hot and steamy like a sauna so you are comfortably warm.  After you scrub all the dead skin off your body you can wash your hair and soap up like you would in any shower.  Let me tell you, I’ve never felt cleaner.  It’s definitely something you must do at least once if you ever visit Morocco.

So, that’s about it.  I don’t have any pictures to post because my camera batteries died on me the minute I got to Chefchaouen.  Hopefully, I’ll have something fun to write about next week.  I’m planning on staying in Rabat this weekend.  Who knows what might happen? 🙂

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