Morocco – Tanger to Chefchaouen!Posted: November 29, 2011
Our first views of Morocco from the Spanish port town of Tarifa, were dark and foreboding. On the 45 minute ferry ride, it’s difficult not to think about the 4000 or so Africans who die each year trying to swim across the Detroit de Gibraltar to enter Spain illegally.
Driving off the ferry into the customs area, I feel some trepidation, and excitement. Its been a long time since I have been in a 3rd world country, and with Africa, I do not know what to expect. I imagine a moving feast of colourful, aromatic mayhem; goats up trees, dark eyed mysterious men, markets to get lost in full of mounds of spice!
I have discovered it is all that, and a whole lot more.
Starting a camel tour many kilometres south east of Tangier in 8 days requires us to move quite quickly and we have mapped a route, east to Chefchaouen, then south to Zagora via Fes. We bundle ourselves together, settle back, and hang on for dear life. Antonio does a brilliant job of negotiating the city traffic where “push in” and “toot” seems to be par for the course. It does not matter if you are a bicycle, a truck or any other form of contraption in between. And there are plenty of those. The journey is amazing.
The first thing to notice is the amount of people on the roads. Some extremely industrious, others just walking or waiting. In lieu of owning cars, locals here remember they have feet! People watching is an exotic activity and I long to huddle somewhere and observe, unobserved. Men wear pointy caped long to the ground “hoodies ” and I wonder what they represent. (I later learn they are only a comfy coat for cool weather!) Women are invariably dressed in a range of vibrant colors, including head coverings of course. Young men steer mixed herds of sheep, goat and cattle; children flash wide, warm smiles and one young boy runs up to the car pointing at and asking for the bright orange persimmon Tony has ripening on the dash. There are people everywhere. People and donkeys!
Driving between cities is a photographers dream and there must have been 20 times I wished we could have made a quick stop, safely, to capture a sight. The landscape can turn dramatic at a moments notice, red and golds and beige in stark contrast to the array of primary colors saturating the city markets.
We gather our Arab legs in the small village of Chefchaouen, based at the campground a 5 minute walk from the Medina. Lonely planet describes it as one of the loveliest Medinas in Maroc, exotic enough to delight and small enough to not get entirely lost. It’s true and a couple of days within the entwined, bright blue streets is a wonderful introduction to colours and smells of Morocco.
Incredibly we meet Aussies. Two young sisters on holiday who grew up 10 minutes from where we live and Melanie. Living in Morocco for 6 years she is married to a Berber boy, Mohammed, has a son Zac, two shops and is creating what will become a wonderful Riad. She is a source of Morocco information and I ply her with questions. Things are different here. It’s not frightening. Just daunting. Like playing a game and everyone knows the rules but you!