Chefchauoen

I can see why travellers get stuck in Chefchauoen. It’s a small haven of tranquility in an otherwise chaotic country. Chefchauoen is a tiny blue oasis, nestled in the Rif mountain range, and after only two days there, I already felt at ease in the city.
Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to in Morocco has raved about Chef.
“I meant to only stay for one night, but I’ve been here for a week”: a phrase I heard more often than not as I met backpackers in the windy alleys of the Medina.
Almost all the streets and buildings in Chefchauoen are painted blue. The Jewish people that settled here wanted to reflect the blue colour of the sky, believing it would bring them closer to God. However, I’ve heard many wild theories as to why the town was blue, among them, “to keep the mosquitoes away” and “so they could film the Smurf movie”. But whatever the reason, it sure makes for a photogenic hill town.
Although picturesque, I’d be kidding myself if I said that was the main draw for backpackers. Chefchauoen, apart from being beautiful, also happens to have a massive quantity of easily available Kif (marijuana). It is equal parts beauty, relaxation and accessible marijuana that causes backpackers to venture into the Rif mountains.
I spent my time in Chefchauoen getting lost in the Medina, hiking the surrounding hills for some great panoramic views, and eating as much Tagine as possible.
The locals in Chefchauoen were lovely. Everyone was willing to point you in the right direction, offer shelter from the rain, and suggest the best things to taste in a restaurant. On my last evening I stopped in at a recommended restaurant called Bab Ssour. A Moroccan woman from Rabat invited me to sit with her. I had told her I was new in Morocco but so far had loved everything about it, primarily the food. She was so excited to hear about my trip, and my love of the local cuisine, that she asked if she could choose my dinner for the evening. Excited to try something new, I eagerly accepted.
Before I knew it I had the most delicious plates in front of me. The waiter said she had made the perfect choices! I was served some warm bread, a blended bean soup and a grilled meat with salsa for a main course. It was all incredible!
It took me ages to eat everything. I even shared my meal with a woman from the Netherlands who stared enviously at my bean soup.
When the meal was over the waiter said he wanted to bring me some special tea from Chefchauoen.
“It is a very special tea in my city, please, can I bring you some?”
The mint tea here is out of this world. Apart from being a little too sweet at some places, I’ve usually had some with every meal here. Trying a special Chefchauoen tea sounded perfect. Also, it would have been rude for me to refuse the tea from him.
So my waiter brought out the tea, along with the owner of the restaurant Saeed.
Saeed was so proud of his restaurant and so happy to hear I was enjoying my time in Morocco. He poured the tea for me, talked about my plans in Morocco, and then he carried on meeting the rest of the guests in the restaurant.
The tea was amazing. Slightly minty, but with a hint of eucalyptus as well.
“What tea is this?” I asked my waiter.
“Oh very very special. From the plants that grow in the hills here. Very relaxing tea! Very very good!”
And he was right, I was completely relaxed and ready for bed by the time I left the place…
Only retrospectively did I stop and consider what kind of local plant might be found in a very, very special tea in the marijuana capital of Morocco. Could have been eucalyptus, but then again, maybe not. Either way, it tasted incredible! If I’d had the time, I would have joined the others and stayed in Chefchauoen for weeks, but it was time for me to move onward… Next stop: the capital city of Rabat.

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