Our Last Day In Chefchaouen

I was feeling quite a bit better this morning, so I was able to have some bread with jam for breakfast.  We took a look at our itinerary after breakfast, and started sharing some ideas about our travel south, through the Atlas Mountains, to the edges of the desert, which begins in about a week’s time.  We also started talking about possible places to stay in Marrakech, which is still several weeks away, but we do expect it to be quite crowded, and bookings to be a bit more difficult.  Tali sent out a few e-mails to places she spotted on the internet, and we’ll see what develops.  We’ve just decided on a small Dar for our stay in Fes, so we’re about as far ahead on our itinerary – a week or so – that we want to be on this trip, so we can still maintain some flexibility and spontaneity in response to how certain places we visit move us.  Tomorrow we will drive for most of the day to get to Meknes, where we will spend three or so days, and then on to Fes.  

After our morning’s planning discussion, we walked back to the Place Outa el Hammam, where we had spent part of the day yesterday.  Today we wanted to see the Kasbah, whose entrance is in the Place.  There were some interesting displays inside, including beautiful pottery, photos of very young Berber women in their wedding outfits, and a discussion of the Sufism, spirituality and healings that have long been a part of the culture of this region, the Rif Mountains.  Tali has just started to read a book written by a Sufi master, and she tells me that the core beliefs of that religion are almost exactly the same as what is taught in the Course in Miracles, which we both study.  

We walk over to the far east gate through the medina walls, where the cold mountain streams that provide the water supply of Chefchaouen are tapped.  Here there are village women washing their clothes, in a large series of cement washboards and tubs fed by the clean, pure river water.  We sit to watch them for a while, and we’re both soothed by their steady, even pace of work, and amazed at the time and attention they give to each piece of clothing they have.  They wash each item of clothing with scrub brushes and soap, several times for each pant leg first on the outside, then on the inside, then even in the pockets!  And then it goes into the rinse tub…and on to the next piece.  One woman there looks like a professional…the one that others bring their clothes to, and she washes and rinses them for a fee, because she never even pauses in her work, and she’s so meticulous in her scrubbing!  While other women and a few children there look as if they’re just doing their own clothes… How can our modern washing machines possibly clean as well as these women do? 

Afterwards, we take a circuitous route following the river around the medina, out to the nouvelle cite, and wind up revisiting the Place Outa el Hammam, this time to sit at an outdoor cafe.  On the way, we pass a small donkey who wears around his middle perhaps a dozen cases of Coke, Pepsi, Fanta, Orangina, you name it.  His job is to deliver the soda to the small stores all around the Place, which he does without complaints.  Each load seems to be enough for one or two stores, then his owner leads him back to where he can get reloaded, then off he goes again.  

After we’ve been sitting a while at an outdoor table at the cafe in the Place, we are approached several times…first an older gentleman asks us in Spanish if we are Spanish, then seems a bit lost for conversation when we tell him that no, we’re not…finally he asks if we can change a small handful of Euro coins that he has…and when we tell him that we don’t use Euros, he goes completely silent, and just stands there for a while, before shuffling off.  

Then a group of kids comes up and asks us if we will give them some money.  When we ask them why we should, they decide to pour some salt from the salt shaker onto the table to play with it.  They are a bit flustered when Tali, in a flash memory breakthrough from her childhood, remembers how to tell them “to cut it out,” and to “beat it,”  in Darija (an Arabic dialect).  They go and look for other tourists to harass.

Finally, another old man comes up to us, dressed in a fez, sweater and slacks that have to be at least as old as he is, and sporting huge sunglasses.  He’s got his violin with him, and he starts to sing and play an ancient tune.  He holds his violin vertically, like it’s a cello, but out to his side, not close to his body.  When he finishes the tune, he does a quick glissando with the strings (like a slide, up and down in tone), to let us know he’s done.  When Tali’s tip for his performance is half as much as he wants, we ask him to play another, and he obliges, but first he pulls up a chair, so he can play sitting down.  We thoroughly enjoy his performance, and at the end, another glissando, and another tip…and off he goes, out of the square, without approaching any of the other tourists to see if he can play for them.  

Any wonder why we love Chefchaouen?


About juleslandsman

I live, when not traveling, in Sweetwater, Colorado, located in between Vail and Aspen, and in Kohukohu, a small town on the Hokianga Harbour in New Zealand. I write travelogues, memoirs, and reflections when I'm not skiing, biking, or otherwise outdoors. I retired recently from a career in the financial services industry that spanned more than twenty-five years.
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