morocco: the blue-washed chefchaouen

Susan and I started our “free day” in the blue-washed Chefchaouen, originally known as Chaouen (“peaks”). It was once isolated and xenophobic; Christians were threatened with death if they entered. Occupied by Spanish troops in 1920, it remained so until independence in 1956. The pale blue wash introduced in the 1930s was supposedly to keep mosquitoes away. Previously windows and doors were painted in traditional Moroccan green. In 1975, the town was renamed Chefchaouen, or “look at the peaks.”

We walked around the red-walled kasbah, built in 1471. The kasbah is a heavily restored walled fortress with a lovely garden.  Moulay Ali Ben Rachid built the fort in Chefchaouen as a defense against the Portuguese who had seized control of Tangier, Asilah, and other port towns. The town expanded with the arrival of Muslim and Jewish refugees from Granada in 1494.

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kasbah in Chefchaouen

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kasbah in Chefchaouen

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kasbah in Chefchaouen

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me at the kasbah

We climbed up to the ramparts to gather in a view of Old Chefchaouen, including the plaza and the kasbah, as well as the surrounding countryside.

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view of the countryside from the kasbah

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view of Chefchaouen from the kasbah

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view of Chefchaouen and the Rif Mountains from the kasbah

The kasbah houses a small Ethnography Museum which we briefly walked through.

Leaving the kasbah, we wandered past the Grand Mosque (Jamaa Kbeer), built by Moulay Mohamed, the son of Moulay Rachid, in 1560.  Its unusual octagonal minaret, with its three tiers of blind arches wrapping around the tower, was built in the 18th century, inspired by the Torre de Oro in Seville.

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Grand Mosque (Jamaa Kbeer)

We wandered through the lanes of the town, dipping into the enticing shops.  I found a pair of turquoise cotton striped pants that were lightweight.

While we waited for a tailor to hem my pants, we had coffee at a small outdoor cafe in the cobblestoned Plaza Uta el-Hammam and watched the square as it filled with people.

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Plaza Uta el-Hammam

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Plaza Uta el-Hammam

The buildings of the medina were a fresh blinding blue or white, with terra-cotta tiled roofs adding a taste of Andalucia.  Apparently the medina was recently repaired with Spanish funding. We wandered all around the town, looking at the goods for sale.  I bought a small journal, a scarf, a pair of pink dangly earrings, a small canvas painting of blue steps with flower pots. Other goods included colorful paintings, leather goods, scarves, clothing, shoes, slippers, ceramics, Berber jackets, rugs, woven goods and tajines.

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Chefchaouen

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slippers for sale

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A photographer was taking photos of a Chinese couple decked out in wedding attire in all the charming spots.  I found so many charming scenes, although the morning shadows made the light challenging. Chinese tourists were in abundance.

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Expo d’Art

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Chefchaouen

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Chefchaouen

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Chefchaouen

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Chefchaouen

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Chefchaouen

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Chefchaouen

We had a glimpse of the Spanish Mosque, where we would climb later in the afternoon.

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Spanish Mosque

We continued our wanderings through the town and the ancient medina.  We ran into Father Anthony having soup and mint tea in a hole-in-the-wall cafe.  A true art lover, he had bought a boatload of goods that he said were excellent quality. Anthony is a 76-year-old bodybuilding Catholic priest who showed us last evening how he travels with a kind of mess kit that includes a chalice and other communion accoutrements. He carries two small bottles of airplane-sized wine that he will stretch out over a month of travels.  He told me he was praying for my loved one and said he hoped I’d pray for him too even if I wasn’t religious.

We left Anthony and wandered some more until we stopped for lunch at a cafe on the plaza.  I had an omelette and an avocado salad with a vegetable-rice mixture, accompanied with “gas” water.

The medina here was one of the cleanest I have ever encountered in my travels.

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Chefchaouen’s medina

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Chefchaouen’s medina

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Chefchaouen’s medina

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Chefchaouen’s medina

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tailor shop in Chefchaouen’s medina

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dyes

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Chefchaouen’s medina

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Chefchaouen’s medina

We returned to our hotel to drop some of our purchases.  The Hotel Madrid had an old world lobby with red and white cushions on benches and stools and round painted tables.

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lobby of Hotel Madrid

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Chefchaouen

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Chefchaouen

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dyes in Chefchaouen

In the afternoon, we climbed a mountainside path to the so-called Spanish Mosque on a hilltop to the west of the medina. We walked by the Ras el-Ma waterfall where women in djellabas were wading and scrubbing their laundry.

The Spanish Mosque was built by the Spanish for the local population in the 1920s but was never used. From the path and the hilltop, we had great views of the blue town.

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views of Chefchaouen from the path to the Spanish Mosque

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views of Chefchaouen from the path to the Spanish Mosque

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Spanish Mosque

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little goat on the mountainside

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views of Chefchaouen from the path to the Spanish Mosque

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Spanish Mosque

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views of Chefchaouen from the path to the Spanish Mosque

As we entered the town again, I was captivated by oranges bobbing in water-filled plastic tubs.  The water continuously flowed from a hose into and out of the tub, creating a mini-waterfall.

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Chefchaouen

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Chefchaouen

We stopped at another cafe to use wi-fi. I had an orange juice with strawberries and Susan had a mint tea.

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Grand Mosque (Jamaa Kbeer)

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Hotel Madrid

Susan and I went to dinner at Casa Hassan.  We sat next to a cozy fire crackling in a large cone-shaped fireplace.  We shared a Moroccan soup of chick peas, vermicelli, lentils, and a bit of ground beef.  We also had a vegetable pastilla (vegetable mix in phyllo) with rice and raisins. We shared a lemon tart for dessert, all for 65 dirhams (~ $7) each.  It was delicious and the atmosphere was lovely.

It was very hard to read in bed with just an overhead light, but I read The Forgiven as long as I could before falling asleep.  The next day we would leave early to go to Fez, with a stop at the Roman ruins of Volubilis.

*Steps: 16,490, or 6.99 miles*

*Wednesday, April 10, 2019*

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On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Sáo Bartholomeu de Messines.