Chefchaouen, Morocco

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I didn’t make it to the Blue City the first time I was in Morocco – it was a ten hour bus ride from Marrakesh and the weather forecast was dismal, so it hardly seemed worth the journey. But people wouldn’t shut up about how great Chefchaouen was, so I decided I had better just hop over from Spain while I had the chance. I’m so glad I did – it felt wonderful to return to Morocco. The first time I went there, I was scared – this time, I was ready.

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Well, “hopping over” to Morocco from Spain was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. It’s possible to get $20 flights if you book well in advance, but I’m not the type to plan anything ahead of time, so I could only afford the ferry. It took me 18 hours from door to door. First, I took an overnight bus from Madrid to Algeciras, then a ferry to Tangier Med, then a shared taxi to Tangier city, then a four hour bus ride through the Rif Mountains to Chefchaouen. It was an incredibly exhausting journey, but it sure was more of an adventure than a regular flight.

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Incredible food at Beldi Bab Ssour – the best restaurant in town

Chefchaouen was just as pretty as everyone said it was. It was also very quiet and serene. I didn’t get harassed once – I mean, I’m not saying I like being harassed, but to be honest it felt really strange to actually be left alone for once in this country.

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The thing about Chefchaouen is that there really isn’t much to say about it – everything is blue, the mountains are gorgeous, the hash is top-shelf (and dirt cheap), and there are lots of aesthetically pleasing cats snoozing in alleyways and frolicking through gardens. It’s a nice place to be. But it’s very, very touristy, and it gets boring quickly.

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A lot of places in Morocco are incredibly dependent on tourism, and it feels a bit off-putting to be a part of it. I often felt like just another white tourist with a nice camera, and I questioned why I was really there. I think I can say I actually wasn’t just there to take pretty pictures – I was there to meet people and experience things with them. That tends to be really easy to do when you’re traveling by yourself in Morocco – you don’t have the safety net of your friends to keep you from connecting with other people. I had a lot of cool experiences – I went hiking up to the mountain hash farms with two German guys, spent a whole day speaking Spanish with a Peruvian guy and an Argentinian girl, played “Never Have I Ever” with the Moroccan hostel manager (a VERY weird time), and laughed about driving into rivers with an English girl who had run away to live in the Sinai Desert for eight months.

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I also tried to buy a SIM card from a Moroccan lady on the street while I was waiting for my bus to Fez. She didn’t have any SIM cards left, but she insisted on accompanying me to the town center to buy one, so we got in a taxi together. It was so lovely of her to go with me, even though we did not speak the same language at all. After I sorted out my phone, we had to run back to the bus stop together – I almost missed the bus – and we tried to have a conversation, but she only spoke Arabic and a few words of French. The most complex thing I managed to tell her was “Chefchaouen… Small! Fez… Big!” Even with the language barrier, we laughed a lot and she gave me a big warm hug when we said goodbye, and told me to please come back again. Those heartwarming moments with random strangers are my favorite thing about Morocco – I just love that country so much.

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The Blue City was beautiful, and I’m extremely glad I went in April instead of January, because the weather was perfect. But three days was enough for me. I was ready to move on to more energy and excitement after this quiet mountain town. I’d recommend doing the opposite of what I did – go to Chefchaouen after you visit Fez or Marrakesh. It will be such breath of fresh air and tranquility, and it might not seem so boring!

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