The hotel here in Chefchaouen is straight from an Arabian nights fairytale.
We woke to a beautifully cool morning and went down to a plentiful Moroccan breakfast. The 5am call to prayer made it an early start for the light sleepers amongst us! Whilst waiting to depart we wandered the peaceful gardens of the hotel – I could have sat all day amongst the peaceful tranquility. Everywhere one looked there was a tableau of traditional features and colours.
The charm of our magical walk up through the cobbled alleyways of the medina (Old Town) the previous night was replaced by the harsh reality of abandoned markets, foraging cats and occasional locals on our way back down. But that very emptiness revealed new wonders. Chefchaouen, or the Blue Pearl, is distinctive for its whitewashed and powder-blue painted buildings. We were constantly enchanted by the varying hues of blues amongst winding alleys, twisting staircases and old stone buildings.
Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 in a bid to halt the southern expansion of the Spanish and Portugal and the medina was walled to protect the inhabitants.
Outside of the medina the city sprawls across neighbouring hills and valleys.
The expansive Roman site of Volubilis is most impressive with the design of its original buildings clearly discernible from the ruins. The Basilica still has a number of intact columns and there is plentiful evidence of original mosaics in many of the ruins. Historical restoration projects have helped retain such an important historical site.
The last place we were taken to was obviously a building with lots of rooms off to the sides. Does this hint at what it once was??!!
Then it was onto the bus for our onward journey along Morocco’s northern coastline, through the steeply rising Rif mountains towards Meknes, the youngest of Morocco’s 4 Imperial Cities, founded in the 10th Century by the Berbers in a bid to ward off invading Arabs. Individual Moroccan rulers select their country’s capital city when they come to power, and Meknes was once chosen, way back in the 17th Century, thereby becoming an Imperial City. As Morocco’s 5th largest city, it is known as the city of minarets – the tall, angular towers common to all mosques – which dominate the medina. Magnificent entrances characterise the perimeter of the ancient walls while citrus tree lined roads provide a lovely green backdrop to their sandstone colour.
We all sat down to a lavish lunch – food here is abundant and cheap.
Then it was back on the bus and on to Fes. Fes is a city that represents the Middle Ages in Morocco, with numerous historic buildings and a chequered history of restoration. Sited along the traditional trade routes from the Sahara to the Mediterranean as well as that from Algeria to the Islamic heartland in Morocco, it is perceived as the spiritual capital of the country, with its inhabitants being deeply religious.
We are here for 5 days so I will share more with you later.
Til next time….