After roaming around the Kasbah of the Oadaias and inspecting nearly every inch of the fortress in Rabat, we climb into the car and head towards the Blue City of Chefchaouen.
We drive by groves of trees that have had their bark stripped to about 8 feet up. They are cork oaks, freshly harvested. The harvest does not harm the tree so it’s considered a renewable resource. We pass hothouses for bananas and strawberries. Flocks of sheep graze right along side the road while their shepherds stand nearby, almost always in traditional dress.
Burros start to outnumber cars. There are carts of oranges along the side of the road, nomadic fruit stands. We see 50-year old aqueducts running parallel to the roadway, delivering water to the fields. Prickly pear hedges give way to eucalyptus trees.
Nearing sunset, a pale blue and white landscape comes into view. It’s Chefchaouen, a mountain community that we would explore tomorrow.
We pull into a steep drive and check into the Al Khalifa Hotel, on a hill overlooking the city. The rooms are simple but efficient. The red painted furniture feels Himalayan, but the hotel manager assures me that the motifs are indeed Moroccan, painted by a local artist.
Tonight’s dinner is at the Lampe Magique Casa Aladin. We’re seated at a window table overlooking the Qasaba (a kasbah turned museum). Our table is covered with tea glasses and mezze, a precursor to the tagines that will arrive later. Mine is squid, delivered still boiling, but very delicious!
- Chefchaouen was built in 1471, into the side of the mountain as a stronghold against the Portuguese. There’s a Spanish mosque overlooking the city that I did not get to, and the reddish mud brick wall snaking up the mountain at the northern edge of town.
The next morning, I walk down the pale blue staircase towards the town square, immersed in a soundscape of rushing water, and the pastoral bleats of goats and sheep. There’s a waterfall near the Hotel Khalifa, and upstream are wooden washing sheds, where the townswomen do their laundry, and textile workers wash fleeces for wool processing. I pass a 16th century bake houses, where everyone brings their bread to bake since there are no ovens in kitchens here.
My first stop is The Qasaba, a 15th century kasbah built in the Andalusian style, complete with crenelated walls, a watch tower and a formal garden.
The interior of the tower affords the expected beautiful views of the city. I was impressed with the precision of the woodwork and brick flooring in this building.
A building across from the tower houses an Ethnographic Museum, although apparently I missed large sections of it of it. The photos below show the interiors of that building. Several settees showing traditional craft are boarded to Pinterest.
Back in the town square, my attention is caught by a loom. I buy one of the weaver’s striped shawls, and wander off, when I hear another shopkeeper shouting at me. “Where are you from? he asked.
“Seattle, USA,” I shout back. “Is that near Tacoma?” he responds…
His name is Abdamin, and invites me into his antique store. After we talk about his girlfriend in Tacoma and some other social banter, I start shopping. Here’s a pile of small silk prayer rugs like I was looking for in Istanbul. I buy one, and while he’s fetching me the glass of coffee that will seal the deal, I see an astrolabe in a corner cabinet. I had looked all over Florence and Istanbul for one of these…
Abdamin takes it out of the case for me, and I promptly dismantle it to see if it has all its parts. It does. And now it is mine …
Beyond Abdamin’s shop is a cobblestone alley filled with tailors hunched over their sewing machines in stalls that can’t be more than 6′ wide by 10′ deep, stuffed floor to ceiling with folded garments and stacks of fabric. I find my second clothing purchase for which the shopkeeper accepts the $200 dirham I have in my pocket, which is less than his asking price. It’s his first sale of the day.
I spend the next hour lost in a sea of mostly blue, but manage to arrive back at the hotel before anyone else does. Shortly after the noon hours, we depart for Fez.
- My original long-form journal includes historical notes and can be accessed at AugustPhoenixHats.com