Good morning Chefchaouen!
If I only knew, that day, when I woke up with the sun, what an amazing day will be…
Who couldn’t have guessed, it started just like any other ordinary day… wouldn’t! I open my eyes to a white and blue room, with hand painted blue furniture and wide blue wooden doors, long blue curtains and a small wrought iron window, nicely carved into the white rough wall. I jumped out of bed losing no second of a morning walk on the streets of Chefchaouen, as its blue shades were becoming brighter and its people were waking up to a beautiful sunny Sunday.
Without any trace of tourists in those morning hours, it felt empty and cosy. Had that rare laid back mood that only small towns have the bliss of having.
I had those streets all for me and I took lots of photos on my way, all the way up to Ras Elma. I was there again but for a different reason than the day before, when I ran to see the best view of the city called the Blue Pearl. This time all I needed was a fresh orange juice, from those oranges kept in buckets filled with cold water. I was the first customer and the owner barely noticed me as he was busy washing oranges by the small wooden table he called his living. A few local Berber women wearing those straw hats with colorful pom poms were arranging the merchandise, the carpets, on a stone wall. They were soon after open for business.
I found my breakfast too, three delicious hot round donuts bought from a local place where a woman was preparing the dough while her husband was frying each piece in a meter wide hot pan, filled with oil. I loved how she puts all three donuts on a blade of dry grass, making a knot before she handed it to me. That’s what I call bio and plastic free. I trusted the locals waiting in line in front and I’m glad I did and so had a perfect traditional local breakfast. I must have been a sight eating with my mouth full and oily hands, sitting against a blue wall, enjoying my breakfast and watching the people passing, since a Chinese woman wanted to take a photo with me. It took me a few minutes to understand what she actually wanted. Well, people…
I don’t know wether was the orange juice, the donuts, the sunny day or the blue streets, but I got a purple idea: I wanted to have photos of myself in Chefchaouen. Was too beautiful not to, though usually I prefer the photos without people, myself including. There was only one slight detail to fix: the photographer. I was there on a solo trip.
With a well prepared Spanish phrase, I went straight to Ahmed, my host.
– Yes, of course, I know the right person. My nephew is a professional photographer and YouTuber…
He smiled and then gave me a complicit look:
– But do you wanna pay?
I got over the initial surprise, since I was rather expecting a “Nop, sorry” answer and assure him I was willing to pay smth… While saying this I was just hoping that Spanish sentence won’t put me now in the situation of having to pay for the services of a professional photographer. I had no budget for that.
Ahmed passed me the phone, it was his cousin, the father of the photographer, who happily spoke French. All was arranged, we were waiting for the photographer to finish his school.
I felt relief, if he was that young, the cost must be decent.
One hour later I was following Ahmed on the streets on Chaouen. I didn’t understand where we were going. I thought all was canceled and he was going to help me take some shots.
We passed through a beautiful piazza with restaurants and terraces and we stopped in front of a house next to.
– My cousin lives here. Come, come.
I now understood where we were. Ahmed introduced me to his family, his cousin and his wife. A little girl was playing on a tablet, ignoring as, as all kids do.
Ahmed left soon but not before he assured me from the open door I was in perfect safety. I didn’t felt other way.
I started to talk to Saniya about her family, her three kids including Ilias, the one we were waiting for to help me with the photos, her studies at the university and how she learned English so well.
Ilias wasn’t coming…
She took me outside to see the terrace. What a view! The mountains and part of the city with its blue houses and the bluest sky above us. Her house was one of the oldest in Chaouen, she said. She took an orange out of the tree there and offered to me. I was so happy to finally have an orange straight out of the tree. It was so terribly vinegar-ish and seeing my face, Saniya brought me some honey on a plate. It was delicious, a little bitter and very dark, made from some flowers in the mountain area.
Ilias still not coming…
Saniya kept excusing herself for his late and tries to keep me entertained. She also calls people that might know where her son went after school instead of coming home, as usual. No answer…. Of course the conversation was great, she was lovely but it was almost the afternoon, my last day in Chaouen, outside was a perfect sunny day and I was indoor, waiting….
Saniya excuses herself for a few minutes and when she comes back she has her arms full of colorful clothes. I looked at her with surprise, not knowing what was her intention or if that had anything to do with me…
And then I saw there were Moroccan kaftans, the most beautiful I have seen, with handmade embroidery, made of silk or velvet.
I entered her game on the spot. I was dying to try those….
We went in a back room, behind two large curtains: all was red inside, big pillows against the walls, all covered in old wool carpets.
– See these? They are very old, more than 100 years old.
I try all the kaftans, one by one, each one is a piece of art and they fit perfectly. Some of those she wore at special occasions, like weddings in her family.
She even brings me some shoes which are the perfect match. Her daughter looks at us with big eyes as we came back in the first room, laughing. She totally forgets about her tablet and comes to look closer as Saniya is trying to arrange a pink light veil on my head.
– I never done it for someone else except myself, you know…
We were laughing and probably making a lot of noise. Her husband comes from outside and looks at us with the biggest surprise, seeing me wearing a long cream kaftan with golden embroidery from neck to waist and long wide leaves ending also in golden embroidery.
– You look like a Moroccan girl now, he sais.
Saniya takes me to see the rest of the house. It is huge, with three levels. Her husband had two moms as his father was married with two women.
– You need a big house for two wives, Saniya jokes about.
We reached the top level and as I entered the room I am stoned: an arch with two columns mark the entrance to the most beautiful room with red pillows and carpets and a broidery ceiling carved in the wall. It can’t be described in words:
I am blown away by this place and I tell her she lives in a palace not a house.
Soon after we hear Ilias arriving home.
He is so surprised to see someone looking so Moroccan.
We took plenty of photos wearing the kaftans and I felt like Sheherezade in a palace.
After I changed back my clothes and I promise Saniya I will be back to kiss her before leaving, when we finish taking the photos on the blue streets. And so we leave, Ilias and I, ready to have some photo fun time.
I found out that he is quite a YouTuber and Instagrammer too, with a serious number of followers and a lot of knowledge about editing videos and photos and all that’s related to social media. He wants to become a journalist and the more time I spent with him I was more and more convinced he will be a brilliant one. He is smart, well educated and with a beautiful character. And he took the best photos I could have ever dreamed I can have in Chefchaouen and helped me discover the most Instagrammable spots in that wonder blue city.
After two hours I had a new friend. We walked all the blue streets, through the bazar and among colourful shops, I bought, of course, my Chefchaouen bracelet (I buy bracelets not magnets) and a bottle of precious argan oil, the beauty miracle of Morocco. We stopped taking photos as I felt I had enough of that for three lives from now. We had a late lunch at one of the restaurants in the piazza, close to his house and we talked about religion, politics, extremists, islam and his future plans. He loves Morocco and plans never to leave it.
– Where else can I get food like this except here?
I couldn’t agree more, there’s nothing like the food from places we call home.
As evening was closer, I said goodbye to Ilias and his parents, insisting that he accepts some money from me as a big thanks for that day. I promised to come back one day to Chefchaouen to visit them. And I thank Saniya for that fantastic day.
I had a henna tattoo in the street and left happy for one last walk through Chaouen, still not sure I was really there or I was dreaming. Still not convinced those streets were really that blue. Too blue to be true!
A night delayed bus took me back that night to Tanger, the initial starting point of my Moroccan trip and the next day, an afternoon flight, back to Madrid. Tanger was nice, old, with friendly people and had its charm of city on the shores of The Med. But after that blue mirage… nothing could impress me much.
Before going back home I had one last stop, long time planned and almost missed because of Ryanair flight delay: Museo del Jamon, in central Madrid, in Sol.
I confess, I behaved as a true foodie and bought a plate of three types of jamon that big that I was ashamed with. But I regret nothing.
So this was Morocco and my beginning of March, this year. Actually a slice of Morocco but the yummiest for me. There’s more to see there and I have to go back.
Next trip: Asia, 2nd time there. Fingers crossed 🙂