I’m going to start off by warning you that I’m about to wax poetic about Chefchaouen throughout this entire post. But it’s not hyperbole – it’s all real.
Our journey to this small, mountain town was quite the adventure. We took an overnight train from Marrakech to Tangier, which, after the AC kicked in, was really nice. The compartment was small with just enough room for the four twin beds, two stacked on either side, one on top of the other. But we were given fresh sheets and pillows and after a bit of reading, we were lulled to sleep by the swaying of the train as we made our way north. The train departed at 8:45pm and arrived in Tangier at around 7:45am. From there, we planned to take a bus to Chefchaouen, but after some expert haggling on Jess’s part, we were able to negotiate a ride in a taxi.
What we didn’t count on was sharing our taxi, Whilst still at the station, we threw our packs in the trunk and waited, though we weren’t sure for what. Soon enough, in jumped a man… oooookaaaaay. Then another. When the third joined in Jess and I opted to squeeze in the front seat together (me in the center with half of my ass on the console and the other half on the seat). We started out this way, driving towards the cloud-covered mountains in the distance, but when the driver pulled over to pick up a FOURTH man we could’t contain our laughter. It was a bit infectious because eventually all six of us were giggling and snickering. The seventh man – the driver – did not seem amused.
“Is this normal?” we asked the youngest man.
“In Morocco, yes. This is the Moroccan way.”
Well that settles that. So we embraced the novelty of the situation, despite our backsides which were VERY numb after riding like that for over two hours.
Upon arriving we realized that we had not looked up directions to our hostel, Dar Dadicilef. Perhaps we’re a little too comfortable in our “we’ll figure it out” lifestyle. But fortunately a smartly dressed man from the backseat offered to point us in the right direction.
Here’s something that surprised me about Chefchaouen and the surrounding areas (although it probably shouldn’t): In addition to Arabic, nearly everyone speaks Spanish. In Marrakech it was French, which had me floundering. But here I can at least ask some basic questions and understand a bit of what they were saying. As luck would have it, the handsome man in the backseat spoke Spanish.
Having arrived from the big city of marrakech we were a bit standoffish with the people of Chefchaouen at first. As we started to wander through the streets in search of our accommodations, a few people offered to help by escorting us to our hostel. In Marrakech, if someone offers to help you (and they will), they will ask/expect you to pay them, even though they will INSIST there is no charge at first. We weren’t able to shake a man who offered to show us the way, but when we arrived, instead of demanding money, he said “And here we are – enjoy!” and walked on his way. Another man asked me where I was from. When I somewhat reluctantly told him I was from the US he said, “You’re very welcome here!” And strode on. Perhaps the difference from the big city to a small town.
When we arrived at our hostel, there was a bit of confusion since we had changed our reservation dates. The twin room we had booked was not yet available, but the double room with ensuite was and we could stay there at no extra charge for the night.
“Would this be alright,” asked the young manager, Abdul.
“Yeah. I think that might be ok.” 😉
I cannot rave about this hostel enough, which is much less like a hostel and more like the most adorable bed and breakfast you’ve ever seen. Like the town (which is referred to as the “Blue City” because nearly every door, wall, and step is painted the loveliest shades of blue) the hostel is washed in light periwinkle with accents of bright, vibrant turquoise. In the center on the main floor is a small sitting area, where you can usually find Abdul, ready to answer any question you have or recommend a favorite place to eat. He is the kindest, most soft-spoken man you’ve ever met and when he’s not waiting on you hand-and-foot, he’s usually studying Spanish (he’s 22 and working on his degree). If you look up from the center of the main floor, you’ll see the second floor balcony and above that the sky, as the building is open air.
There’s are two more small sitting areas on the main floor: a cozy corner room with a fireplace, and, on the other side of the main area, a small table with low stools.
Outside the back door is the garden which is PERFECT. It’s bursting with green plants, and a tree with yellow blossoms. On the stone patio is a large rectangular table where people gather to eat, read, relax and smoke hash. Yes. Hash. Although the town is completely dry of alcohol, it oozes a laid back hippie vibe that attracts – you guessed it – hippies. It’s not uncommon to see the old and young alike rollin a spliff on the streets or in a restaurant.
In the back of the garden is a table for two, laid with a red striped cloth and two blue and white striped cushins on each chair. This is where I had breakfast the first morning, which was served to me ON A SILVER TRAY by Abdul. It was so perfect and I felt so lucky I could have cried. Ok, so I cried a little. Whatever.
The town is so safe and serene that you feel perfectly comfortable strolling around by yourself, even at night. It’s easy to get lost in the medina of the town, but that’s part of the fun as each turn revels an absolutely picture-perfect setting and small shops selling colorful rugs, scarfs, wood carvings, shoes, bags and other trinkets.
There are many delicious restaurants and some with breathtaking views of the town and mountains that surround it. The mountains make for some great hiking – in particular we’ve heard of a trail to a waterfall that we plan to do tomorrow.
Surely this place is too good to be true. I feel a bit like kobe beef. They massage you into complete relaxation, whisper sweet nothings in your ear, fatten you with the most delicious, indulgent things and then lead you, calm, fat and happy to slaughter. Even if that’s the case, I will die a very satisfied woman.
Update: my BFF, Laura, feels the above paragraph is too dark. Family and overly-worried friends: NO ONE IS GOING TO KILL ME. #nochill