This morning Anne and I were first to breakfast -so early in fact that it wasn’t ready! We used the time to share a few photos. Our breakfast was much simpler this morning though we had fresh squeezed orange juice and the traditional crumpet like crepe with labna and honey. The pancake had a smooth side and a holey/bubbly top. They are very light and plain and can be rolled up with labna and honey. There was much discussion about the honey which I thought was something else. It was an orange colour and very thin unlike honey. This is Anne and Ridouane our guide for the whole trip. He told us his sister-in-law died after child birth just before the tour started and his brother cannot look after his children so he and his wife have taken them into their home. Now he has three children. It is what you do because there is no alternative for them. His brother is not strong.
We met our local guide at 9.00 am for a walking tour of this famous blue village. Abdullah was a charming and informative young man. He was passionate about his home town. He explained that Chefchaouen was established in 1471 by Berbers expelled from Andalusian Spain. This spot was geographically central to the three largest towns in the Moroccan kingdom as well as on a trade route for the caravans across North Africa. Many Jewish artisans also came to the town when they were expelled from Spain and they always painted their houses blue. The colour is also used to deter mosquitos apparently!
The winding alleys (almost entirely car free) are often painted completely in blue or shades of blue so they seem to glow like sunlight through water. It was quiet because the shops open later and stay open later at night. We came across a bakery and we went inside to see. I thought it was abandoned because of the timber outside but it was for the bread oven. The baker was very happy to show us his small place and insisted we knead some rolls of dough. Mary used to make bread so she was pretty expert but mine wasn’t so round. Every area has its own baker and small mosque within the city.
Wandering the town was like going back in time. The market was setting up and so we could see the produce. No large stalls but just very small individuals like our farmers markets. They might only have two fat chickens to sell or several bunches of herbs, mint being very popular. It is all organic and local. I wondered how the other shops fared selling more touristy things because not many people seemed to be buying. We bought some post cards and Irene had looked at some from one shop and then went to another but came back. The young man put up his prices and said it was because she hadn’t bought from him in the first place. He said it with a smile, no malice just as if it was expected!
We saw lots of bags of coloured powder which apparently is used for paint. Every spring there is a competition between the areas within the walled city (the old town) when they paint and decorate the walls with murals and flowers.
Many of the doorways were very low. Even I had to bend down to enter. This was to ensure respect to the owner because people were bowing to enter!
After a much needed coffee at a cafe overlooking the river we split up and went our on separate ways. Anne and I followed the alleys and ended up outside the old town. It seemed like we were stepping out of a time warp. We returned to visit the Casbah which had a prison as well as a tower from which we could see the whole town , old and new and the mosque on the hill that we would be visiting at sunset that evening.
In the tower where some information boards one of which had information about the princess who was the commander of the ships in the Mediterranean. We were impressed. Abdullah had been at great pains to impress us that Morocco is a very moderate if conservative Muslim country. Tolerance is encouraged. The women are mostly covered from head to foot but faces are exposed and they work and drive and have educations. Younger women wore more modern clothing but nearly all cover their hair and are very modest.
Ridouane told us he met his wife through Facebook while they were studying and they conversed for three months then met and fell in love. They courted for four years then he asked her father if he could marry her. The parents did not know about how they met or that they were seeing each other. They had kept that quiet. She is a graduate in economics.
That evening we met Abdullah again and made the trek up to the Mosque on the hill to watch the sunset along with a couple of hundred other people only to be disappointed because it was cloudy and the sunset was obscured. We returned to dinner and solved the ‘honey’ mystery at breakfast. It isn’t honey at all but coloured sugar syrup. Honey is very expensive! The Moroccans have a sweet tooth and there are lots of people without teeth.