After living my whole life in the states and being in Europe this past year (I’m not complaining!), it was oddly wonderful to find myself in a city where I completely blended in. Well, not completely. My skinny jeans, leather jacket and newsboy cap helped me stand out enough for people to know I wasn’t from Chef; but, not enough for them to be convinced I wasn’t from some other part of Morocco.
In response to my confused gazes upon being approached in Arabic, I would promptly be asked — well, more like told — you are Moroccan. “No, no. Pakistani,” I’d reply with a smile. And then, “you look like us!” The response, with an even bigger and somewhat amused smile. However it may sound, it wasn’t so bad being surrounded by people I looked like.
I’ve gotten ahead of myself though. Before I could blend in with the people of Chef, I had to actually get there. We took a taxi from our hostel in Tangier all the way to Chef, along with a new friend we had made who was traveling solo. This taxi ride was actually one of my highlights in Morocco! Our driver was such a delight, telling us about the sights we passed and all of the different artists behind the Arabic music we were listening to in the car.
Most of our conversation was in Spanish, which was the norm everywhere we went actually. People living in Morocco speak Arabic, French, Spanish and English – in that order. I think I actually got more Spanish practice that weekend in Morocco than I’ve been getting living in Madrid!
We also passed some amazing views on our drive. I wish I had pictures to share with you, but as I tend to get car sick I refrained and just took in the beauty for myself.
Once we arrived in Chefchaouen we dropped off our bags quickly, anxious to begin exploring the winding side streets. If you’ve seen pictures of Chefchaouen, you know that a lot of its charm lies in its walls. All of the walls, and even some tree trunks, are splashed with a vibrant blue.
I have come across two possible explanations for the blue-rinsed buildings. One is that the color blue wards off mosquitoes. If this is true, I will be sporting blue all summer long! The second, is that all of the blue is actually a tradition adopted from the Jewish population which lived in the area. Apparently, they used blue dye in their clothing as a constant reminder of the blue sky and, as such, God. Whichever is the true reason behind the blue (perhaps both?), the rich color makes for some hearty inspiration and a general sense of peace.
As we only had one day to explore, all we did all day was meander through the streets to our hearts’ content. We popped into various shops, practiced bargaining, and failed to lose ourselves in the streets of tiny Chef. Of course, we stopped to eat. Unfortunately, the best thing we ate all day were some French Fries for dinner…Luckily the atmosphere was so nice, I believe it made up for our culinary failures.