As a traveller, I generally hit the “safe zones.” As the kids are getting older, so is our ability to travel to some edgier spots and Morocco is just that. A wee bit edgy.
Last spring was our first foray into Morocco. We took the fast ferry from Tarifa, Spain (35 minutes), and arrived in Tangiers, Morocco.
Stepping off the ferry in Tangiers, you are greeted by the looming walls of the infamous Kasbah and swept into another world.
After hearing mixed reviews about Tangiers, I prearranged a driver to transport our merry herd of 8 (grandparents, children, husband, and sister). After seeing the chaos at the taxi stand – it was a great call.
Our trip to Morocco was only 2 nights and as mentioned it was Morocco lite. We did not stay in a riad, we stayed at a Five Star Resort on the Mediterranean. As also mentioned….travelling with grandparents and children so comfort was key.
Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay did not disappoint. Even though the weather did. It poured. We were more than comfortable during our short but luxurious visit
Chefchaouen – “Blue Pearl”
Having one day to tour, we choose the village of Chefchaouen tucked deep in the Rif Mountains.
Chefchaouen also called the “Blue Pearl” is a smurf-like blue village with a kaleidoscope of blue buildings, streets, and alleys.
The effect of the blue against the backdrop of the mountains is dazzling and once again that unworldly feeling swept over me.
Take a Guided Tour
I recommend you take a guided tour. Our guide, Ahmed, was a fascinating character. He wore a traditional djellaba, picture a long hooded Ewok style robe and spoke a crazy amount of languages. I asked: “How he learned so many languages?” He looked at me like I was daft and answered: “By listening.” Best answer. Ever.
So Ahmed walked us up and over the narrow cobbled blue streets. We explored the random passageways that cropped up along the way. Most of the alleys housed steep mysterious stairwells that led to yet another blue door. Ahmed said the blue paint was meant to repel mosquitoes which seems reasonable and accurate as there were no mozzies.
Try the traditional mint tea which is a favourite of Moroccans, and signifies hospitality and friendship. Note: Alcohol is not served in many places. But is not forbidden.
Shop the Medina
The ancient Medina is a very cool combination of Moroccan and Andalusian influences. Rhonda, Spain, also a mountainous town is the sister village to Chefchaouen. The two villages have many similarities.
The Medina holds loads of treasures: painted genie slippers, brightly coloured Berber rugs, hand-woven blankets and an array of leather goods.
Moroccan food is delicious and a feast for your senses. The flavourful slow-cooked stews served in beautiful clay tajines are packed with savoury and rich spices. Also try the kefta (lamb meatballs), and the goat cheese.
If you’re a cat lover, then Chefchaouen is the place for you. There are loads of feral strays everywhere. Some of you might find this charming. Me, not so much, as many of the alleys smelled of cat piss. However, if you are a feline lover, cats can be found lounging and very much at home in every corner of Chefchaouen.
What is a hammam? Traditionally, it’s a public steam bath, and still, often practiced ritual in Morocco. Men and women are segregated but everyone from children to the elderly participates. Oh, and you’re naked.
In the deluxe spa version you are still naked, but a hammam masseuse scrubs, rinses, scrubs, and then layers you in clay, and then scrubs, rinses, etc… You get the idea. It’s all very clinical and your skin is basically left exfoliated to newborn babe standards.
If modesty is your thing. Then a hammam is not likely for you. My sister and I went together and were kept together through the entire treatment. It’s certainly not the time or the place for your naked ass to become bashful. 😉
More on Morocco
The Kingdom of Morocco, commonly known simply as Morocco is the northern portal to Africa. It borders the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and is a melange of Berber, Arabian, and European influences.
Our day in Chefchouen was lovely, and although it felt other-worldly, it felt safe.
However, when the call to prayer (adhan) came over the village, and the streets became devoid of local men (women quietly went about their business). It was another other-worldly moment. But not a comfortable one. The disparity between gender equality became very prevalent.
the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest gender gap report: Morocco Ranked 136th in the world, just two positions better than Saudi Arabia.
Morocco is a male-dominated, conservative Muslim country, and although the Government is taking some progressive actions to make a change, there is ample space for growth.
My friend was recently in Rabat (the capital) with her 14-year-old daughter. While they were shopping in the Medina, men remarked on her daughter’s beauty and some went so far as to touch her. Yep! I already know what you’re thinking. That is SO not okay….and creepy AF.
So as a woman travelling in Morocco especially the bigger cities: Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh, you are not going to have the comfort zone that we take for granted in western society. However, it does not mean you should not go. Morocco is a beautiful country with much to offer the traveller looking for more of an edge. It’s just not a country where you can let your guard down as an oppressed sense still looms heavy.
My experience was wholly positive. I encountered only lovely people but I was also travelling Morocco lite this trip. Chefchaouen is a mountain village, not a city and our accommodations were not modest.
However, there are lovely riads to stay in throughout Morocco. Trains go between the major cities, and taxis are plentiful (negotiate a price). The road infrastructure is also very good, which makes car rental a viable option as well.
Expect to see more posts on Morocco as I venture deeper next time around.
Planning a trip to Chefchaoen? Find Ahmed Achtot on Facebook and book a tour!
Thanks for reading. x
5 thoughts on “Morocco (Lite), ChefChaouen – 50 Shades of Blue”
Beautiful place and pictures!
I love the Muskoka sweatshirt behind the food photo! Kate, your writing is melodic!
Nice article! I am Moroccan and I loved being in Chefchaouen. I put together an article about the Northern pearl as well as a complete guide to Hiking Akchour waterfalls which is only an hour away from Chefchaouen.