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In the alleys of Chefchaouen (May 2017).

If there is one reason why I wanted to visit Morocco so badly, it was for Chefchaouen. Sure, the major cities of Marrakesh and Fez were appealing to check out, but it was Chefchaouen, aka “the Blue Pearl of Morocco,” which made me fall in love with the country, so much that I wanted to see its blue-walled beauty for myself.

That said, my friend and I looked into going to Chefchaouen on our second day in Fez (more on it later). We had two options, one of which was to take a bus for 100 dirhams (10 euros) each or hire a private van service from our hostel for 1600 dirhams (160 euros, although it could be split among six people maximum). At first, we opted for the former, just because it was cheaper, but we soon found out that tickets for buses leaving the particular day that we wanted to go were sold out! Even though we’d tried to book a day in advance, it didn’t help- no tickets at all! Although we knew that Chefchaouen is a notable tourist destination, we didn’t realize just how popular it was. What a bummer…

My friend and I weren’t forgoing the trip, though; our hearts and minds were fully invested in going to Chefchaouen, no matter what it took and how much money we would have to pay. Even though it wasn’t our first choice, we settled for the private van service for 1600 dirhams. We also looked for other hostel goers who might be interested in going with us that day, so as to split the cost. Our hostel receptionist informed us that another girl who was coming in later that evening would be joining us, and my friend and I met another female traveler in our dorm room that afternoon who would be heading to Chefchaouen anyway, so that was already four of us total. It wasn’t until right before we left the next morning that two other girls joined us for the ride, so it perfectly worked out to six people maximum!

Admittedly, there was a bit of confusion splitting the cost among us, since my friend and I’d paid the hostel receptionist the day before with the amount of money for what would’ve been just three people, so it was a matter of the other travelers who came later to pay us directly their share of the journey. Lots of paper money and coins flew about in the process, but in the end, things got settled all right, and it worked out to be a pretty good deal for a day trip via private van.

Our driver picked us up at 7h30 from the hostel, and soon enough, we were off to Chefchaouen! It would be about a 3-1/2 to 4-hour drive, so we settled in, ate the breakfast our hostel packed for us, and chatted amiably with each other. Turned out, all of us passengers were women, mostly in our twenties and from the States, so we were able to bond fast (one even lightheartedly claiming the drive as a “girls’ road-trip”) and that helped to pass the time quickly as we sped along the highway towards the Blue City.

We arrived at Chefchaouen close to noon: we first stopped at the road side for a photo of the city from the distance, all decked out in blue against the backdrop of the looming Rif Mountains, before making our way into the center. Our driver dropped us off, and we were given the afternoon to explore on our own. Although we were famished, we decided first to explore the neighborhood and do “photo shoots” with the blue walls and alleys. All but me and my friend were dressed for said photo shoots, for the rest of the girls were decked out in dresses and heels for the occasion. It was fine, though, for my friend and I still got some nice photos with the blue backdrop, perfect for that Facebook profile picture!

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Chefchaouen in the distance.
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Stairs, walls, doors…all blue!
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Ladder and flower pots add a rustic touch.

Once we got a few photos in, the six of us finally got lunch at a small restaurant where, for 95 dirham (9,50 euros), one could get a full-on, three-course meal! Unheard of, especially in France where you’d be lucky to get it for less than double the price. Any case, I got a Moroccan soup followed by chicken couscous, later finishing off with a dessert that closely resembled a lemon bar, which are one of my favorite treats back in the States. Super full afterwards, to the point that I barely ate anything for dinner, but it was well-worth the price!

Sadly, we had to bid goodbye to two of the girls after lunch, since they were only passing through Chefchaouen to get to Tangier: the rest of us continued to explore more of the blue city in the afternoon, taking more photos and buying a few souvenirs along the way. Every corner offered something new, something blue (of course!). It was interesting that it wasn’t all just one shade of blue, either, but rather varying degrees such as periwinkle and cornflower blue, all of which reminded me of my 64-crayon collection from childhood (where I had something like 20 different kinds of blue).

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Inside someone’s home; you can pay 10 dirham to enter!
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Back alleys of Chefchaouen.

Towards the end of our stay, we said goodbye once again to another girl who had traveled with us, since she’d planned to stay overnight in Chefchaouen before returning to Fez. There were only three of us heading back that afternoon, so after we felt that we’d seen all that there was to see in town (Chefchaouen isn’t very big to begin with), we took our private van back to Fez around 16h00, arriving close to 20h00. Along with the other hostel goer, my friend and I got dinner in town (again, I didn’t eat much because of the heavy lunch) before returning to our hostel to rest for the night.

Although we spent perhaps no more than three hours in Chefchaouen (as much of the time was dedicated just to getting there), I believe it was worth it. Even better, the “Blue Pearl” didn’t disappoint; it was just like what I’d seen in the photos online, if not more beautiful! It was a delight making twists and turns throughout, with each alley, stairs, and door impressing us every time. Chefchaouen should be on everyone’s list of places to visit in Morocco, as it turned out to be a wonderful time.

Stay tuned for the next post, which will round up my travels in Morocco. Next up: Fez, Morocco!

 

— Rebecca

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