The Blue City, Chefchaouen, Morocco
If you ask me to paint you a picture of the a city colored blue, I would only think of Chefchaouen and give that to you. The most vibrant and the palest shades of blue.
Who would have thought that I’d get to see it, actually?
One of the places that I haven’t even heard of until about a few minutes after I’ve talked with Teresa, a solo traveler who I met at the bus stop in Sevilla as we were waiting for the next one to the airport. Apparently, we were taking the same flight to Marrakesh. Her plan was to go there, do the Sahara desert tour, visit Fes, and later on, Chefchaouen.
All but Marrakesh, I haven’t really put a lot of thought into. I thought I’d figure it out once I get there.
Finding my way in Casablanca and Marrakesh, another friend, Michelle, told me to visit it too. A place she wanted to see but unfortunately, haven’t had enough time.
It then became one of those “I might go to this place, then after, that place. I don’t know yet.” Because, in all honesty, I didn’t know.
Almost everyone I’ve made friends with has been there or is going there.
I wondered, “what was so special about it?”
The view as we drove to Chefchaouen
As days gradually rolled by in Morocco, I was surprised to explore far more than what I’ve thought I’d see.
One day, I found myself waking up early to take that 6-hour bus ride to a city named Chefchaouen. A name I could barely pronounce properly the first few times I’ve heard of it.
There was no excuse for me to forget its name then, even if I was just about to go there.
Chefchaouen, The Blue City
Stories say that the whole city was painted blue to ward off mosquitoes. Others say that it was brought by the Jews who took refuge from Hitler. It was a symbol of the sky and the heaven, apparently.
A city so blue, it uplifts the bluest feelings you might have had.
A city so quaint, that even if you get lost in the tiny streets, you’d still somehow find your way.
A place so peaceful, that you’d truly feel at home… Even if you’re in the middle of the medina’s square.
A place so pretty, that even from afar, the magic of the cloudy sunset did not fail to show up.
I couldn’t believe I wanted to leave before the sun had set. Truthfully, I was afraid to lose my footing on our way back, once night had started to fall.
I just couldn’t believe that I got discouraged by the clouds and the height of the Rif mountain. And then I remembered Jon telling me that, sometimes, the clouds make it more beautiful.
That day, the clouds did. It really was beautiful. Magical, even.
And with the arrival of dusk, it also introduced us to new people, new discoveries… new goals to achieve.
Somewhere between the bus ride, we made a new friend in Nellie and two Malaysian boys learning Arabic in Morocco. We would later see the arrival of dusk together as we waited at the Spanish Mosque on a top of a hill.
Then, I would discover a pilgrimage known as the Camino (de Santiago) by a Korean guy we met there. A guy whose walk got interrupted temporarily because of the abrupt visit from someone important to him.
I just know. One day, I will do the Camino de Santiago.
Chefchaouen. Somehow, it has an image of serenity that hints its playfulness with the silent knowledge of hashish and its farms somewhere around.
I would’ve gone to see it, had I known where to go.
While Nellie and I were waiting for Jon, a local approached me if I wanted to see the field. I said no in spite of. I just knew no one else was up for it.
Its potency is yet to be equaled though, at least in my experience. Not that I have had many.
It was my first time to try it (3rd if you count the weed), this time with the pipe. With Al, a Russian from Seattle who is quite familiar with it. It was his, actually. The one he got at lunch (though I believe he still has some left from Tangier).
I didn’t feel it at first and thought it wasn’t really working. And then on my 4th puff, the one which I took really slow and ended abruptly, my throat itched. I choked. I coughed. And it got bad.
At the hostel terrace, I stared at the sky. Hoping. Praying. Waiting for time to pass. I forced myself to look at my watch and it was around 4:26 pm. And I hoped again. Prayed. Waited. I even made a promise that I would never do it again.
It felt like forever. I checked my watch, it was only 4:27 pm.
The one you see at the movies? The one really high they couldn’t even move?
I threw up 3 times. At past 8, I had the confidence to go down 4 flights of stairs. Searched for a store to buy water, only to end up eating dinner with the gang and having the avocado shake. Until finally, I slept.
Perhaps, somewhere behind the mountains are the
grass hash fields. Perhaps…
Chefchaouen. Even at its busiest, it isn’t really crazy at all.
After the prayer time
The market is just the same as every place in the rest of the world. It just looks more colorful.
Chefchaouen is a city that you could probably explore in just half a day.
But to truly feel its essence, one must give it a chance.
If and when you do, you would really want more.
I spent a few days there walking around the same streets, going to the same shops, eating the same meals and being acquainted with the locals.
Its familiarity made me show my new friends around, as if I truly belonged. And there are some shops that I couldn’t help but go back to. Even if it meant going back there twice or thrice in the same day.
This one below is just love.
The presence of the gazillion cats had even made me comfortable.
Sometime at lunch, in the middle of our meal, the cat jumped behind me and decided to sleep on my chair. The seat beside me and the one beside my friend were both vacant. So were a lot of chairs around!
Maybe the cat wanted some warmth. And that’s why it wanted me.
Varying shades of blue among houses and doors. Local shops and handicrafts. Small alleys. Cats and more cats. Tagine. Mint tea. The bluest sky. Terrace after terrace after terrace.
The blue city, and yet, I didn’t feel blue.
It is a place that painted me hundreds of pictures. All of which made it rather difficult to gather words. This time, a thousand or even a million would probably seem not enough.
In the days that I’d spent there, people have come and gone. And when it was time for me to say goodbye, I almost couldn’t.
As I think about it, I can’t help but still get amazed on how one place unfolded after another. On how I got myself to see Chefchaouen. On how it got to be a part of me. On how I got to be a part of it.
I wanted to stay, even just a few days more. But I couldn’t. I just hope that one day, I could come back to its vividness once more.
Chefchaouen, a city that I fell in love with to the point that I almost didn’t want to leave.