It’s hard to say day one because our first day was actually a night, landing in Malaga, Spain in the evening and travelling to our hotel at the border of Gibraltar. There’s nothing special to write a whole post about, so I’ll merge it with the next one.
But first things first – the dreamy Morocco…
I really wanted to travel somewhere different from Europe but never had the courage or it just wasn’t the right time to do it. When our son was born the moment went far away since I didn’t want to travel with him somewhere so distant and he was too little (or maybe I just couldn’t bare to be away from him) to leave him with my mother and father.
This year we decided that there never will be a perfect moment and we have to seize the opportunity. We had a little push from a friend, who was in Morocco last year, so we made a decision – this April, when my mother, who is a teacher has a vacation, we will do it.
Didn’t have the nerves to travel by ourselves and found a travel agency with the perfect dates for us. So, the 02. April came and there we went.
We had a normal flight to Malaga by Bulgaria Air with quite an old plane, taking 3 hours and a half and serving okay sandwiches, but awful chocolate as dessert, where our group gathered and traveled further to our hotel – Ohtels Campo de Gibraltar , where we had really late dinner and spent the night. The view was splendid and we had desire to walk around the beach, but were too tired. The hotel is nice, tidy and clean, it was a pleasure to stay there.
The next morning we had to get up really early, we were supposed to leave the hotel at 7 AM. The breakfast was rather nice – continental, typical for hotels and by 7 o’clock we were at the bus. As you can imagine, with a group of more than 40 people, punctuality is something of a mirage, but I won’t get into details about all the issues we had through the journey. We knew that there would be some and had packed a big amount of patience with us.
So after some time we arrived at the Tarifa port where we had to take our ferry to Tangier and Morocco. The price for a return ticket varies from 47 to 71 euro. The journey takes around one hour, part of which is standing in the ferry waiting for everyone to get on board. So, if you have a ticket for the one at 8 AM, you’ll leave, at best, around 8.40 – 9 AM 🙂 When we set foot in Morocco we understood that time is a variable indeed.
To enter Morocco you need a stamp in your passport, put by police officers. Usually this happens at the border, after you leave the ferry. But, in our case, there was a huge renovation and expanding at the Tangier port so we had to do it on board.
When you arrive in Tangier you have to wait in a big queue to show this stamp and then safely enter Moroccan land. Here’s the temporary customs :
Maybe at around 11.30 AM we were already in the bus, ready to start our Moroccan adventure. The first stop was Chefchaouen, a dream for me, but first few words about Morocco in general.
It is a country located in the Maghreb region of North West Africa (the countries in the north part of the continet) with an area of 710,850 km2 . Its capital is Rabat, the largest city Casablanca. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
Since the foundation of the first Moroccan state by Idris I in 788 AD, the country has been ruled by a series of independent dynasties, reaching its zenith under the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties, spanning parts of Iberia and northwestern Africa. The Marinid and Saadi dynasties continued the struggle against foreign domination, allowing Morocco to remain the only northwest African country to avoid Ottoman occupation. In 1912, Morocco was divided into French and Spanish protectorates, with an international zone in Tangier. It regained its independence in 1956, and has since remained comparatively stable and prosperous by regional standards.
The trip to Chefchaouen took around 2 hours and on the way we saw how beautiful and green this part of the country is. I expected a lot more sandy and desert like landscape, but was surprised.
We passed a small village and it’s market …
… and finally arrived at the Blue city. Founded in 1471 by Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Rached El Alami, Chefchaouen served as a Moorish fortress for exiles from Spain. Over the centuries, the city grew and welcomed Jews and Christian converts alike. Chefchaouen’s powder-blue buildings mirror the cloudless Moroccan sky, but religious rather than stylistic reasons are behind the design choice. Jewish teachings suggest that by dyeing thread with tekhelel (an ancient natural dye) and weaving it into prayer shawls, people would be reminded of God’s power. The memory of this tradition lives on in the regularly repainted blue buildings.
Nowadays Chefchaouen is a rich cultural tapestry of Berber tribespeople, Muslims and Jews, along with descendants of the Moorish exiles from Spain who lived there in the 1400s. Berber tribespeople can be seen wearing distinctive cotton clothing paired with woven hats, which are decorated with brightly coloured threads.
Our bus left us at a square, where the buildings were modern and nothing like the million photos I’ve seen. The blue houses are at the Old town, where the best way to explore it to just wander around the labyrinth of narrow streets and endless stairs.
We had a important job to do here-buy a Moroccan Sim card, the roaming prices were awful and if you are like us that’s the best solution for internet and calls. We used it only for internet so I can’t really recommend any telecom . We got one from Inwi, 50 dirhams (5 euro) for the SIM and 30 dirhams for a vouchers for 2 GB internet. It was more than enough. The tricky part is that you have to let the person, who sells the cards to make everything because it was an operation of endless calls ans SMS until we were good to go 🙂 Nevertheless, we were happy with what we got and recommend the place. Here’s the tricky part… The store is a little room, stifled between a butchery (another room) and a leather store,located on the side of a square near an old fortress. There is only one girl sitting on a desk and a headphone sign adverting the business. There is no name or brand, they sell cards for all of the operators, so I’ll just put a map with the square’s location.
After this hard job we rewarded ourselves with the beauty of this town. There are no landmarks to visit here, you just have to wander and feel the magnificence…
If you are very keen for museums there is the Kasbah, a heavily restored walled fortress that now contains a lovely garden, a small ethnographic museum, and an even smaller art gallery. The ethnographic museum contains some fascinating views of old Chefchaouen, including the plaza and the kasbah; the gallery promotes the work of local artists. The views from the kasbah tower over the medina are a delight. The entry costs 10 dirhams.
As you can see the views were breathtaking and beyond words. Our eyes got full, but our bellies started to roar. We had to find something to eat quickly. The time in Morocco is something you can bent as you like, so if you decide to eat at a restaurant be patient. Everything happens reaaaaaaaally slow 🙂 So our choice was a shawarma establishment two rooms away from the sim card store.
As you can imagine the hygiene levels in Morocco are rather different that the ones we are used to in Europe. Our most important task, when ordering food outside of hotels, was to be made in front of us and to be cooked at high degrees. Apparently this was successful one since we had no health problems.
Our time in Chefchaouen ended but we had a long journey in front of us – to Fes. Again we saw wonderful green landscapes, reminding me how confused I was about the nature of Morocco.
Now I am saying goodbye and I’m starting to prepare the next story – Fes .