Four wheel drive adventure in the Sahara Desert, Mauritania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Chinguetti, Mauritania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Back to Morocco on January 31st.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The blue city of Chefchaouen

First order of business yesterday was to get a Moroccan SIM card. There are three different providers here. Maroc Telecom apparently has the best coverage, including into Western Sahara. But I've read that Inwi has an unlimited plan available. 

We walked down into the more modern part of town. We went to the Inwi store first. It was supposed to open at 10am, but it was five after and there was nobody around. A little ways down the street, we found the main outlet of the Maroc Telecom store and went in there.

The lady behind the counter spoke some English, far better than our very basic French. So we managed to communicate fine. She said that the SIM card costs 20 dirhams (but comes with a 20 dirham credit) and that you buy blocks of data at 5GB each for 50 dirham. So I asked for the card, plus 20 GB of data. So the total would cost 220 dirham ($29 CAD, $21.50 USD). Not dirt cheap, but not bad. This should get us through until we leave for Mauritania a week from Friday.

She needed my passport to register the SIM card. When I handed it over, she got all excited "oh, you're from Canada. I have a sister in Canada!" she said. Turns out her sister lives in Montreal.

A little complicated to get the SIM up and working in the phone. Many countries, you just pop it in, and it works right away. But others, you have to go through a series of activation procedures. Glad I did this in a main outlet, and not just a reseller.

We have to walk down a bunch of steps to reach the main part of town from the campground.

The more modern part of Chefchaouen.
Notice the blue tinge to almost everything/

Typical local architecture on this unfinished building.

Lots of little alleyways.

It's fairly obvious why this is called "the blue city". Most buildings are painted a variety of shades of blue and/or white. There are some stories online about why this is, but nobody seems to know. I read one story that says it was in the early 1970's that a municipal directive went out encouraging people to do so to promote tourism, which if that's the case it definitely worked! 



The newer part of Chefchaouen.

More blue.

The central plaza, with a Christian church.

99% of people in Morocco are Muslim. This church was built during the Spanish occupation around 1912, and although it is not used it is maintained by local authorities.

Me, with a very blue mural!

Even many of the headstones in the local cemetery are blue.


There are stray dogs and cats everywhere.
Many of the dogs wear ear tags, as in Turkiye.

We walked up to the old part of town to the walled medina and souk.

The city drinking water comes from this underground river.

More blue!

It's really pretty though.

Berber rugs for sale.

Hello dog!

Another dog, having a snooze.


The pictures don't show it, but there were actually quite a few people around. We heard languages from around the world, including British and North American English. And even a couple of groups of Asian tourists.

Many of the buildings in the medina date back to the 15th century.

Pretty door.

The old souk area is very touristy though, and many of the shops simply sell tourist trinkets. Chefchaouen is a big enough place that it must have it's own souk (marketplace) area where the locals shop nowadays. So when one young shop owner spoke to us in very good American English, we had a conversation. It turned out he had lived in the United States for quite a while. 

He told us that the original medina had been populated by locals, but as the area became more of a tourist attraction (and particularly in the last 20 years) most of the residences were turned into hotels and guest houses and short term rentals and the locals now live on the outskirts and in the newer part of town. So to get the "non tourist" souk experience, you need to go down there.

So we hope to go down there today, although today is a national holiday in Morocco so there may not be much going on.

Pretty fountain.

Another pretty place.

And another.

In the small plaza.

See the guy in the hooded long coat sitting on the bench? He was smoking a big joint. Chefchaouen is the heart of the marijuana growing area in Morocco. And they say that the Rif mountain area near the town produces the best hashish in the world. 

Technically, it's illegal in Morocco, but local authorities turn a blind eye because so many people are involved in the industry. And many tourists come here specifically for that product. In fact, just as we were wandering around the medina, we were asked two or three different times if we wanted to buy any. Apparently it's very cheap.

More than half of the world supply of hashish comes from Morocco, and estimates say that the industry employs about 800,000 people in the countryside. Many families have their own small plantations.


Looking back at the town as we walked up the stairs back to the campground.

We had some lunch and relaxed for a while, then went for a walk up the paved road that leads higher up the mountain. We weren't going for any reason... just to get some aerobic exercise.

What I didn't know is that it led right past the town dump. Pretty nasty actually, and seeing the people picking through the trash trying to make a living wasn't very nice. I didn't take any photos. Good reminder to stay in school, kids!

But further on, we got some nice views...

The outskirts of Chefchaouen.


Lots of hiking in this area!


So we come up to a guy at a laneway. His English isn't very good, probably about as good as our French! But somehow we manage to have a conversation, and he invites us to his property which is apparently just five minutes down the road where we can smoke some of his product, and tour his plantation. We honestly have no interest, but he keeps insisting that it will be cheap. We turned him down and continued on our walk. Everybody is very friendly though. Maybe it's because they're all stoned...lol.

Ruth, enjoying the view.

Notice the clear blue sky!

It was a gorgeous day. The rain that we had during our last day or two in Spain had hit this area as well which is why Max was so muddy and dirty yesterday. But that weather system has passed, and the forecast for the future is blue sky and sunshine. It's still not super warm, but we're fine with that. It's great hiking weather, and we are heading out to some more viewpoints today. We've decided to stay at this parking lot campground another night.

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Big price drop on all Nerf Gun Toy Sets. Kids love this stuff!

And in Canada...

1 comment:

  1. How charming! I am a big fan of blue and find it much more interesting than the all-white cities. Love the narrow alleyways and "secret" passages. It's interesting that cannabis is both illegal and ubiquitous there.

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