Goodbye South America, Hello Africa…. and after a quick overnight stop in Casablanca, our three week Moroccan adventure started when we jumped on a train and headed north to the blue city of Chefchaouen. At the other end, we discovered that the bus which was to take us the final 60km was not running that afternoon so we opted for the next best option, a ‘Grand Taxi’ (‘Grand’ meaning ‘larger than the Petit Taxi’, which was smaller than a shoebox, not ‘luxurious’). The driver introduced us to the national sport, bargaining, and we settled on a price for the ride. Given our severe language handicap (not speaking a word of Moroccan Arabic or French, and most locals not speaking a word of English and very few Spanish words) we were pleased when we realised that the 2 other passengers who arrived shortly after us paid the same amount! And then less pleased when we realised that we would have to wait until the taxi was full before we departed, and that a full taxi meant 6 passengers squashed into 4 seats! Later we were even less pleased discovered that we could have paid the driver for extra seats and had a much more comfortable ride. Lesson #1 in Morocco, it pays to pay an extra $5 and enjoy the ride!
We finally arrived in a gorgeous white and blue washed town high in the mountains. It was a charming, relaxing way to ease into Morocco and we spent our days wandering through the Medina and the surrounding hills.
It seems that nothing much has changed here for a long time (the picture below was a mural I spotted on a wall in the Medina)….
Our first Moroccan meal was delicious… olives and freshly baked bread, the freshest, sweetest orange juice, Moroccan (aka Israeli) salad, vegetable couscous and tagine, fresh fruit for dessert washed down with sweetened mint tea – after 3 months in South America our mouths salivated at the excitement of new flavours… little did we know that this was the standard meal and would be our lunch and dinner for most of the next three weeks! I have discovered that as much as I love fresh, healthy delicious food (who doesn’t!) variety is equally as important!
Up in the hills we met some budding local photographers who loved using our camera in exchange for showing us the way back to town! (The kids took turns taking the portraits, then became snappy happy and took photos of everything in sight!)
In the Medina we walked past all sorts of shops selling spices, bread, cheese, olives and the local fashion item, a djilaba (worn by both men and women) as well as carpets and ceramics for the tourists. And then one afternoon Boaz decided it was time for a close shave. A friendly local shopkeeper took Boaz to the hamam to sweat it all out (unfortunately I was not allowed to take photos inside, so all you get to see is the pile of wood that created the intense heat inside!). Lesson #2, as a tourist nothing comes for free and we had to dodge the shopkeepers request for us to visit his shop for the remainder of our stay!
Most afternoons we read, relaxed and enjoyed the views from the rooftop of our fabulous Riad.