This is a long post (which I hope you’ll enjoy!) and all the images will be put after the text.
The hotel was noisy, not from the guests but the staff, who were moving beds about and watching TV in the lobby (at high volume) until the early hours. At one point I thought about asking if they allowed their guests to sleep, but thought better of it. I eventually drifted off through fatigue and woke again early morning to more noise from the lobby.
Once I was up I went in search of some breakfast and was soon accosted by a local hotelier who beckoned me to have my breakfast at his tables, where I opted for an omelet, toast, coffee and orange juice. I enjoyed a bit of people watching as I waited for my breakfast to arrive and was soon tucking in. Once finished I handed over the only change I had, a 200 dirham (dh) note (approx £18) and watched as the boss man wandered away, presumably for change. And I sat there. I waited. I waited some more. He was busy serving other customers when I finally caught his eye, whereupon he came over. I asked for my change and he apologized profusely, then counted out 120 dh, whereupon I queried he was charging me 80 dh for the meager breakfast. Once again he apologized and counted out another 40 dh. So my breakfast cost me 40 dh, which is well above the going rate. Sad because he’s now lost my business as I won’t return there again.
I decided to walk back to the hotel and collect my camera, then do the ‘act like a tourist’ bit. No sooner had I stepped back out of the hotel when I was approached by a local asking me the usual questions ‘where are you from’ etc. and asking me to look inside his shop. I tried to explain that I’m on a bicycle and couldn’t carry a carpet, but he assured me he could ship it anywhere for me. I eventually persuaded him that I was homeless and made my escape.
Next I stopped to look at a clothing shop and was greeted warmly by the owner, who allowed me to wander around with no pressure at all. He spoke pretty good broken English and I explained that in order to conform to local custom, I would like a pair of white/cream cotton trousers to cover my shorts and bare legs. He quickly held up a pair that looked OK waist size, but were clearly too long. On pointing this out he told me he could get them adjusted to whatever I needed. I explained I’d have a look around first then pop back, whereupon he smiled and said when I return he will make us both tea and introduced himself as Abraham. I left the shop smiling and hoping I meet more Moroccan’s like Abraham.
I wandered around the Medina, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. It really is a feast for the senses and I was more than a little overwhelmed. Chefchaouen is called ‘the blue city’ and with good reason (the photographs below will explain all) as all manner of shades of blue are used to paint the town. It took me all day to work out the directions in the Medina, which is not really that big. I wandered around and around, finding different pathways through the steep alleys and eventually mapped it in my head. I could even remember where the different stalls were and had no problem sourcing bread and milk for my dinner.
Next up I went looking for a barber, as I was badly in need of a haircut. Upon hearing what sounded like shears I peeked inside what looked like someones front room, complete with tweeting (noisily) bird in cage. I was greeted with a warm smile and asked to sit down while the smile shaved bald a local. When it was my turn I signed short, but not bald please, which raised a laugh. Hair cut nicely, I inquired what I owed only to be waved away, he did not want payment. After insisting he accept I paid 30 dh and left a tip.
There is no doubt Chefchaouen is a lovely town, the first I’ve visited and taken time to explore in Morocco. But I have mixed feelings about my early experiences in this country. The overwhelming impression is that unless you are very aware and savvy (not easy when you’ve just arrived) many locals are looking for an opportunity to rip you off. This happened to me more than once, the most notable being when I bought cakes and then later postcards. What I’ve now been advised is to ask the price before buying anything and if in doubt, compare with another stall.
The touts are everywhere and I’ve had to be pretty harsh (but polite) and firm to get rid of them. Yet I’m optimistic about finding the good ones like Abraham and the smiling barber, to enjoy this wonderful country.
Anyway if you’ve read this far, thanks, here are the pictures!