Having awoken to mist-draped Rif mountains and the spices-and-sweet taste of Moroccan tea, i had pretty high expectations for our first full day in Morocco.
My expectations were met.
Chefchouen, the “blue city,” was like something painted in a fairytale: tumbled-up-together blue houses and windy closes running between them, all draped in varying shades of cobalt and azure. The town itself was situated high on a mountain, running thick with waterfalls and the sloping sounds of running rivers. Most magical of all, though: innumerable, friendly, pretty little cats. (My priorities were clearly in order!)
We began the day with a walking tour around the city. I was too swept up in the sea of sapphire engulfing us to keep up with the guide, so the most of what i learned was that the color was meant to keep away the flies and that the mountains around us were treacherous but exhilarating to climb. The air was crisp, like the paler blues underneath roofs and washed away by rains over the seasons. But still the whole place – in the grandest of clichés – smelled rich with spice like indigo or ultramarine.
I drank in the wonder of iron-wrought window frames in cerulean and smiled shyly at the people who lived behind them. After a while, the group of some 100 tourists (mostly obnoxious Americans) were making me feel like we had invaded someone’s private space. In a very real way, we had.
So i was grateful that, after an incredible lunch on the roof of the Casa Aladdin, Joan, Abby, and i could break away from the crowd and saunter along the streets. Every sign we saw was doubled in Arabic and Spanish, and every shopkeeper we met shifted with ease between English and French. They also often started in Spanish, murmuring to coworkers in Arabic. I felt my lack of interest in language-learning burn a little, shamed.
Besides acquiring cat-friends, i collected an incredible leather backpack and Chefchouen key-holder to hang by my door. I wanted the latter for the contours of the lock and reminder that such a place did exist outside of storybooks. (And i just have to say, i haven’t lost my bargaining abilities one ounce since Uganda. Not one ounce!)
Our rooftop lunch had afforded us tremendous views of the town, but even seeing the spread of it underneath and around us was just not enough to capture how wondrous it all was. Like the white Spanish pueblas we had seen on our train ride through Andalucía, the houses possessed this undeniably romantic quality that stood at sharp contrast with the unfriendly and commanding peaks of the mountains around us. Such color, such vivacity.
The flatmates and i stopped for a long conversation over (more) Moroccan tea that afternoon. Watching life go by around us and navigating purring cats underfoot assured me that Chefchouen was seriously a kind of paradise on earth. And maybe i only think that because my walks took me outside the windows – seeing only the blues from the outside, and not the in. But isn’t that why we take vacation, when we are able to?
All too soon we were piling back on the bus, swapping bargaining stories and drinking in the vistas outside our windows bound for Tétouan. It had been a trek through a tremendous tale, but i guess we always have to leave before the happily-ever-after gets colored by the reality descending from the rafters.
And for that day, i was content to let it be so.
current jam: “crooked arrows” rocky votolato.
best thing: my daddy is here!