Tangier & Chefchaouen

No rest for the weary! This past weekend I rented a car with four others and we set out on Friday afternoon to visit the northern cities of Tangier and Chefchaouen. Last week was a little nerve-racking because I had three quizzes, but they were fairly straightforward and I had little homework over the weekend save history reading, which I was able to do in the five hour drive to Tangier. We arrived around dinnertime and headed to the old medina to buy classic Moroccan sandwiches. These are some of my favorite meals I’ve eaten so far. They start with a footlong baguette and add onions, tomatoes, and shredded carrots. Next goes a fresh olive tapenade, followed by kefta, which is ground and grilled beef with spices and herbs. It’s all topped with more spices, ketchup and mayo, and the pièce de résistance: double-fried French fries (although they NEVER call them French fries here) stuffed on top of everything. This whole meal usually runs about 15 dirhams, or just under $2. The thing I loved most of all about Tangier was that I was able to speak Spanish with nearly everyone! Spanish influence here was strong, with some signs written in that language, and Spanish-themed restaurants and clubs dotting the streets.

On Saturday we drove about 20 minutes north of the city to the Hercules Cave, which looks like an image of Africa reflected backwards, as pictured above. The water was beautiful, although cold, and we took some time simply lounging on the beach in the sun. Afterwards we visited Cap Spartel, the point where you can see Spain and the mixing of the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It was cloudy in the straight, and so we could only barely make out the Spanish mainland, but it was fascinating to see how close the two vastly different continents lie. Tangier could have been a great city, but we didn’t really spend enough time there for me to know for sure. From what I saw, it was a large metropolis like Casablanca or Agadir. Nice weather, nice beaches, but not a whole lot else. I’m still curious to discover what more the city has to offer.

On Saturday night the five of us drove to Chefchaouen, only about two hours from Tangiers. Though it was a short drive, we experienced a stark change in landscape. Tangier is a sunny, coastal city. Chefchaouen is located on the side of a mountain ridge that lines a beautiful valley. Luckily for us, the weather was beautiful; only a few cumulus clouds floating between the city and the blue sunny sky. In Chefchaouen, Spanish was actually the first language spoken to us by shopkeepers. We did see a few large groups of Spanish-speaking tourists and ate a tajine and couscous dinner next to three Spanish gentlemen. It was such an amazing feeling to actually be able to communicate with the locals in a language other than English. Apparently, many of them learn Spanish as a second language before French. We had one Moroccan student with us, and he admitted that the Arabic spoken in Chefchaouen was so deeply influenced by Spanish that it was extremely hard for him to understand.

In Chefchaouen we did a bit of exploring and shopping, but the highlight was our hike to a tiny mosque on the other side of the valley facing the city. From there we could make out the entire town and outlying farmland, and see down the valley for miles. Chefchaouen is a blue-themed city, with many of the buildings painted in various shades. Exploring the tiny streets was an adventure in itself because we’d see a different shade of blue on practically every door. I could easily spend an entire weekend there, so I’ll definitely be returning before long.

This week is going to be relatively calm. I don’t have any exams, although band practices are starting up in earnest. Our first basketball game is this Thursday against a team from the nearby city of Meknes, so that’s going to be the highlight. This weekend I am travelling with a friend’s history class to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, but other than that, I’ll just be catching up on sleep and planning my next trip. Thanks for reading!

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