Friday, October 3, 2008

Chefchouen



Day 1 After the long journey in Achmeds midnight taxi, we slept for about 5 hours. We came down to the town square, full of market stalls and cafes. I'll just write brief detail now as Im about to go for hammam, turkish bath;
We found a wonderful guide called Mohhamed who has taken us all over the old medina on the first day, showing us the bakeries and weavers and flour mills. Chefchouen has little market stalls lining the main thoroughfare which broadens out to a central square. The temperature was in the mid twenties, with a constant light breeze. We walked all through the back streets with Mohammed, there are no cars in Chefchouen, when the taxi's come up the mountain they all have to stop in the parking lot outside Hotel Parador, and from there, you walk everywhere. We followed the stream to the very top where it springs from the mountain. All the women were there washing their clothes and household linen. I don't think there is a washing machine in the whole of Chefchouen. We were standing on a bridge overlooking the river gorge and the washing place and Mohammed said it was ok to take photos. A man standing next to a woman, who was doing the washing glared and glared at us - he looked like a real fundamentalist. We were a good 100m away and photographing the gorge & the view, but it was clear he wasn't happy! When we went past the same spot two days later, there were cars up on the bridge everywhere, and traffic cops guiding their parking. We realised they had all brought their cars up to wash them.

The medina is a walled city, with only one road into it, the washing area is outside the wall. Mohammed took us back down through all the different quarters of the medina, it dates back pre 13th C, and is Berber territory. It has gone through all the various influxes of other Arabs, Spanish, Jews, and French and Mohammed insisted that it is very integrated and no-one has a problem with anyone else.
Day 2 Then on the second day Mohammed took us trekking in the mountains. We went outside the medina and through parts of the new town, where he proudly showed us the new school and new apartment blocks. The roads are terrible, and there is dust and litter everywhere. They don't seem to clean up building sites properly, just shove all the rubble into the vacant block next door or into the gutter. There are goat herds & sheep flocks everywhere with children and young men guarding them.
It is rough hard and dry country, with sparse vegetation and stony soil. There were little fenced off plots everywhere. Figs, Olives, Almonds and tiny vegetable plots, the usual dryland crops. It is hard to imagine anything growing on the steep dry screes, but they eke a living out of it. The main crop is still marijuana, and as the harvest is now finished, the young men have nothing to do all day, except hang out together smoking hash. We had a funny lunch stop at a `cafe' on the side of a mountain, in a village called Al Kalaar. There was one young man there who was stoned and trying out his smattering of Spanish and French on us. I thought it was hilarious, but Gill and Cath weren't so amused. We walked on up and across the mountain face with stunning views all around. As we crossed the side of the mountain, we came into pine forest plantation, a nice change after all the stones.

In the evening we ate at Casa Hassan Restaurant - the menu consists of Harira, (Moroccan soup), Moroccan salad (tomatoes and onions), Chicken tagine,Beef tagine, Cous cous, omlette, a couple of vegetable dishes and fruit salad or lemon tart for desert. The tagines are available with either vegetables, or sweetened (prunes and almonds). We found this was the standard menu at all the local eateries. Coffe is milk coffee everywhere, brewed in a saucepan like the Indian chai.
Day 3 Today we visited an artists house, where Gill considered buying a stunning painting of the town. We follwed this with a short trek up to the top of the water stream again, then on up to the ruins of an old Spanish chapel. Great views of the medina again. Tonight we are going up to a large Western hotel for dinner and a glass of wine, something not readily available here;

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