Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Moroccans on Holiday Head For The Hills

With the combination of holidays and hot weather, thousands of Moroccans are choosing to journey to the mountains or to the beach. The View from Fez made the trip to Chefchaouen to check out the huge influx of holidaymakers
The crowds at Ras El Ma in Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen, situated in the Rif Mountains is high enough to have a cooler climate, but was still hot enough for hundreds to spend each day playing in or beside Ras El Ma - the local river, famed for its crystal clear and icy water.

The other favourite spot for visitors is the town square Uta Al-Hammam, with its restaurants, cafes and Kasbah museum and garden.

Uta Al-Hammam at sunset

While a majority of the visitors are Moroccan, Chefchaouen is also popular with foreign tourists, particularly the Spanish. As they soon discover, the town is ridiculously photogenic. Surrounded by the Rif mountains, a cluster of white-washed buildings march up the hillside between two peaks. This is an ideal place to hang out for a couple of days when traveling between Fes and Tangier.

The medina's narrow streets are a vision in various shades of blue. A carryover from when it was a primarily a Jewish quarter, dried pigments are available in the shops, and decorative doors and walls are painted in hues that range from indigo to powder blue and turquoise. Residents are clearly proud of their lovely neighborhood, as this quite possibly the cleanest medina in Morocco.

Today the medina has a large Berber population, easily identifiable by their unique clothing, the men in woolen earth-tone djellabas and women in colorful straw hats and red and white striped skirts.

Besides its charming medina, Chefchaouen is known for its marijuana, or, as it's locally called, kif production. There are plenty of cannabis fields in the hills just outside of town, and while smoking marijuana is illegal though widely tolerated, purchasing it is not recommended.

You can walk right from the old town, past the riverbank where residents are doing laundry, into the Rif Mountains. For a pleasant day hike, head up the graded path past cannabis fields, grazing sheep, and panoramic views of Chefchaouen to the tiny village of El Kalaa.

Chefchaouen - a photogenic jewel of a town

Photographs: Suzanna Clarke

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