Because we were so close to Morocco, we thought we should attempt to get over to visit and see at least some of this fascinating country. I was very keen to visit Chefchaouen, the blue city, as well as Fez and we would see what else was possible. A travel agent in Alhaurin de la Torre advertised a short excursion that almost matched our dates between sits, and we worked back and forth to try and sort an itinerary that worked for us. The best option was a 3-day tour from Tangier to Fez and back, but we would have to add on the Chefchaouen side tour ourselves.
We researched our options and decided to travel over to Morocco before the tour to do our own thing first, meeting the tour group at the ferry terminal in Tangier two days later to continue on with them. We stayed overnight in Tarifa so we could catch our 10am ferry. This was always a bit fraught, as we knew ferries were subject to the weather conditions and Tarifa can get very windy, but all went to plan and the one hour sailing was pleasant, much less rocky than some of the Cook Strait crossings we’ve experienced, but there were still some green looking people lurking in the bathrooms.
Tangier Taxi provided a pick up from the ferry terminal to take us to Chefchaouen, via a brief stopover in Tetouan on our way. Our driver met us and took us on our ride – giving a bit of information about Tangier as we departed. We discovered that Dacia and Renault manufacture cars here and this is a growing source of income and jobs for this area. Driving around this small part of Morocco gave us pause for thought about the amount of rubbish just dumped on the side of the road and the plastic bags caught on the bushes everywhere. There seemed to be no care for the environment in the small towns or in the countryside. Packs of dogs roamed freely and we saw many many stray cats too.
We were dropped at Tetouan medina with instructions to meet back in an hour for the next part of our journey. The medina was busy with narrow lanes buzzing with shops and stalls, people getting their market goods from bread and fruits to live chickens. We love how these tiny stalls all seem busy, even though you have a street of similar items for sale. We did purchase a slab of bread and some fruit to see us through to lunchtime as we had at least another hour to reach Chefchaouen.
Our taxi driver was using his phone a lot, which always alarms us, as the roads were windy and narrow beyond Tetouan. Several phone calls made him upset (a woman we suspect) and eventually he slammed his phone down on the seat and drove like an angry man, which alarmed us even more. Eventually, he calmed somewhat and we made it to our destination in one piece, thankful to leave that experience behind.
We were greeted and taken to our lovely riad, Dar Sababa, in Chefchaouen, offered mint tea to refresh ourselves before being taken to our room. We loved the idea of staying in what was once a family home – they had taken care to keep the character as well as providing a peaceful haven for our stay here. Once settled, we headed out to explore this lovely “Blue Pearl” the old town of Chefchaouen. I had seen pictures of this town, but being there was better than I expected. It was really blue in many different shades and a lot of homes had taken special care in the pot-plants and decorations on display. Handcrafts were on display and you could hear the shuttles of the weavers behind some of the doors. The town was very full of tourists of all nationalities, including the ubiquitous selfie stick brigade. The cobbled streets made for treacherous walking and some of the “Insta-ready” shoes and dresses seemed rather ridiculously dangerous and inappropriate. Its a minor bugbear of mine that so many Instagram photos are about looking beautiful in the location, rather than the location itself.
We loved being able to wander and explore at leisure, up and down the narrow alleyways filled with day to day life, children coming home from school, parents catching up with each other, and all the men (usually only men) sitting in the outdoor cafes. We enjoyed a lovely dinner that night of an authentic tagine. So delicious and so cheap! We found the food in Morocco tasty and simple and very well priced – our tagines cost us 85 dirhams (about NZ$13 each) for a very substantial and tasty dinner.
Next morning, we woke to rain, which was disappointing, but we enjoyed a relaxed breakfast in the riad – they looked after us well, before getting our wet weather gear on the wander the streets and see the town come to life again before the tourist hordes descended on it again.
We were to be picked up by our next taxi driver after lunch and taken straight back to Tangier. This was a straightforward ride, but still with speakerphone calls this time so we had to listen to (but not understand) the conversation…
Another lovely riad awaited us here in the Tangier Medina. We loved sitting on the roof terrace sipping our mint tea overlooking the rooftops and out to the port. Once again, it was fun wandering through the old town, discovering little shops and alleyways, somewhere to enjoy dinner and just the bustle of life here. Someone asked me if we felt safe in Morocco, and I have to say we never wondered if we shouldn’t be somewhere. We had no issues with being pestered in any way and never felt threatened.
Now we headed to the ferry terminal to meet the rest of our tour…we hope! Part two coming soon.