Guided tour of Chefchaouen

» Posted by on Jun 30, 2015 in Guided tour of Chefchaouen

Guided tour of Chefchaouen

Guided tour of Chefchaouen

We disembark from the ferry at the Spanish protectorate of Ceuta, wine supply clinking in the overhead box. The Moroccan customs point is chaotic as usual but once through customs there is a pleasant stretch of coastline before the road begins to climb steadily through the cork oak and pine clad hillsides of the Rif Mountains. Our destination is Chefchaouen, one of the prettiest small towns in Morocco also nick named the blue town, the reason for which becomes clear when you visit the delightful Medina with its bright blue courtyards and buildings.
Black Kites swoop and hover in the azure sky as we pass many roadside stalls displaying colourful, beautifully crafted ceramics, Berber women selling their home-grown produce and the occasional youth offering Kif or Marijuana for which these mountains are famous and where in remote villages it grows in abundance. We stop for a refreshing mint tea by a beautiful lake before the final ascent. Chefchaouen appears in the distance sheltering under the second highest peak of the Rif range.
We are staying on the outskirts of town in an Auberge, a cluster of individual accommodations gathered around the main house set in charming gardens where vegetables and fruits are grown for the restaurant kitchens. The owner has anticipated our arrival and is waiting with his smiling staff to greet us with the obligatory mint tea. The rooms here are a delight of colourful hand woven rugs and throws, locally crafted wooden furniture and open fires for the cooler evenings.
We have gained two hours here so plenty of time to explore the Medina before dinner.
The town is coming alive after Siesta and as we enter the ancient walled Medina through one of the many arched gateways the atmosphere is one of lively trade, vibrant colour, haunting music, incense and spice scented air. Too many choices; shall we explore the spice market, admire the vast array of ceramics or stand entranced in the gold souk. We opt to dip into a carpet bazaar for a bit of lively barter and more mint tea, sugar on the side please. The choice is endless, each rug thrown is more intricate and luxurious than the last with prices comparing favourably with the larger more popular tourist towns of Tangier and Marrakech. A few great purchases are made from the vast selection of Lamps, kaftans, Berber jewellery and leather goods. I may need a trailer for the trip home. Everyone comments on how hassle free and pleasant the experience was as we head back to the Auberge for a dinner of steaming Bessara, a Berber speciality, cous cous piled high with home grown vegetables, and free range chicken- there are no other kind here- washed down with our own supply of Andalucian wines. The next day begins with a hearty breakfast on the terrace of freshly made pancakes, semolina and corn bread, local honey, cheeses, fig and quince preserves and eggs with roasted garlic, delicious, sorry, no bacon.

Guided tour of Chefchaouen
Suitably fortified we are headed into the mountains to Akchour and God’s Bridge. The road takes us through beautiful and diverse countryside passing small hamlets with Berber women tending their flocks and washing clothes in the river. A tranquil and frugal way of life unchanged for many centuries. Our mountain guide Mohamed is waiting at the entrance to a stunning gorge where we will leave the vehicle. This trek can only be done at certain times of the year when the river is not too high but is well worth getting your feet wet to explore this spectacular river gorge where one can cool off in clear turquoise blue mountain pools. The one hour trek has us crossing the river at various points with the odd rock scramble to reach God’s bridge, an amazing rock formation spanning the gorge, nature is amazing. We enjoy a well-earned picnic and refreshing dip in the mountain pool, wonderful.

The evening finds the intrepid shoppers back in the Medina as the haunting call to prayer resonates across the mountain. The ancient Kasbah, floodlit, a reminder of the areas warring past. Moulay Ali lbn Rachide founded this town in 1471 to launch attacks on the invading Portuguese then the Muslim and Jewish refugees from Andalucia expanded the town in 1494. The blue wash of the buildings was introduced by the Jewish population in favour of the Muslim green with quite stunning effect. This town has lost none of its historical charm and the main square is a hive of activity, the snail vendor is selling cups of hot cooked molluscs as the older men in their Riffian cloaks gather to play backgammon and smoke shisha pipes while girls in brightly coloured robes, heads covered, walk hand in hand with friends in western dress chatting on cell phones, the aroma of charcoal grilled kebab mingles with the scent of spices under a crescent moon.
A perfect setting for another superb meal at Casa Hassan of Bistiya, a pastry dish filled with lightly spiced chicken and vegetables dusted with cinnamon and fine sugar, sounds odd, tastes delicious. Sugar was once and is still currency in out of the way villages and a welcome gift when visiting.
Tomorrow we have an early start for the oldest Imperial city of Fez the cultural and artisan heart of Morocco.

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