We arrived Thursday afternoon to Chefchaouen, the Blue City of Morocco, and began our trip with an amazing lunch at Saaed's organic restaurant. Once the restaurant owner started bringing out food, he wouldn’t stop. In no time, the table was full of salads and olives and bread and vegetables- and this was before we even got our tagines!
After lunch, with full bellies, we took a tour of the city. We learned from our guide that the blue walls traditionally signified a dead end in the path, but today, many riads and cafes have disregarded this rule because they know how popular the painted walls are for tourists.
We were led to several of the former babs, or entrances, to the old city. I’m always amazed by Moroccan cities because you can see exactly how the city grew by looking at where the ancient doors and walls are. Finally, we took a hike up to the Spanish mosque to watch the sunset and listen to the sunset call to prayer. It was a wonderful way to end our first day in the Blue City.
On Friday, we began our day with a hike to Akchour, a beautiful waterfall about an hour Northeast of Chefchaouen. The hike wasn’t too hard, and we took plenty of stops to cool off, drink fresh juice that was made at cafes along the way, and to play with the dog that followed us for most of the hike. After two hours, we arrived at the waterfall, and even though we were warned it would be cold, we did swim in the water. And boy, was it cold! I’m sure we looked crazy screaming and running into the freezing water, but it was refreshing after a long hike. Since we live in a city, it was also nice to go out into nature for a bit and take in the beautiful mountain scenery for a short while.
On Saturday, we had time to explore Chefchaouen. Towards the beginning of our program, I had heard from our Moroccan friends about an amazing soap shop in the city, so I knew that I had to stop there. I can see why they recommended it; there were soaps of every color and scent, along with essential oils and other beauty products you might not need, but would definitely want to have! It was almost sensory overload, but you really couldn’t go wrong with whatever you purchased. The owner was also always willing to give you a deal or throw in a free bar of soap for making a purchase. I highly recommend stopping by to pick up some gifts for family and friends back home.
In the afternoon, we crossed the border to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. This experience was unique because had the chance to cross a land border into a place that was Spain, but not quite Spain. We explored the city with a Moroccan guide and visited the old fort as well as a famous statue depicting Hercules creating the Strait of Gibraltar. One thing we were surprised to learn is that our Darija skills really couldn’t help us because we were in a place where Spanish was primarily spoken. I’ll never forget the look on our waiter’s face as we tried to order our food while slipping in and out of Darija, English, and poor Spanish. He finally told us that he didn’t understand Arabic, which was unexpected given our Arabic skills.
On our final day, we went to the village of Bellota for lunch at a farm co-op. We ate a delicious lunch, and immediately after we were able to tour the farm right outside the guest house where everything we just ate was grown. After our tour, we walked to a honey co-op in the village. I couldn’t resist buying two jars of Orange Blossom honey, one for me to bring back to the states, and one for my Moroccan host family. It was then time to return to Rabat, but it was a sweet end to a very fun trip.